Bikini models in H&M ads are four real heads all photoshopped onto the same CGI body

H&M has admitted that the bikini models in its ads are just real models' heads pasted onto a computer-generated "ideal" body. As Jezebel notes, "But man, isn't looking at the four identical bodies with different heads so uncanny?"

The bodies of most of the models H&M features on its website are computer-generated and "completely virtual," the company has admitted. H&M designs a body that can better display clothes made for humans than humans can, then "dresses" it by drawing on its clothes, and digitally pastes on the heads of real women in post-production.

H&M Puts Real Model Heads On Fake Bodies (via JWZ)


  1. I went past a store window the other day and there were women modeling outfits there too.
    I could not figure out how they managed to stand still for so long.  When I looked closer I discovered they were not real humans but some sort of plastic or metallic simulation!  All the bodies were identical, but in different poses.
    Uncanny!  Whatever will they think of next?

  2. “H&M designs a body that can better display clothes made for humans than humans can . . . ”  Designing clothes for humans, your doing it wrong.

  3. Most of the papers in the UK have been freaking out about this today, while it is a bit freaky to my mind fashion photos are so ‘shopped its really just the logical next step 

  4. I dated one of H&M’s shiny black mannequins for a while.  She excelled at standing completely still, and was paid well.  At about 10:30 every night, she’d revert to her natural black oil form and sleep in a vat over in the corner for a while.  At 2am or thereabouts, she’d take on another form — jagged and dangerous-looking — jump out the window, and run out into the night.  She never told me what she was doing during that time, but she’d always be back to work at the store in the morning.

      1. Do you happen to know which one?  (Don’t have cable/dish, but I can at least look up the premise/summary.)

      2. The first one of the newer version (2005) which I just watched last night. Why did I put it off for so long? 

  5. Don’t worry. ugly imperfect humans! As soon as those lazy guys in the lab finish their work, you too can have your face pasted onto an ideal body in post production.

    1. “Don’t worry. ugly imperfect humans! As soon as those lazy guys in the lab finish their work, you too can have your face pasted onto an ideal body in post production.”

      But that’s what they’re already doing.

  6. I am not shocked at all. Models have been digitally-remodeled (hah!) beyond human proportions for a while now. I had been wondering why they didn’t just make computer-generated people in the first place.

    1. In fact I think it’s more honest to just use a synthetic body. …Rather than manipulating photos of actual humans. They still can’t make convincing enough faces though. Everything, the economy, the goods we’re supposed to buy, the culture we immerse ourselves in is becoming more and more virtual. I wonder what this means for us in the long run…

  7. That’s an ideal body, is it? I polled the three straight men in my office right now. I’ll let you know their detailed critiques when they stop laughing.

    1. I’d guess polling is quite worthless in such cases. Most people will give the society’s expected answer. 

      Also, men do very seldom buy bikinis – those ads are directed at women.

    2. I’m not sure polling men about an ad directed at women would make much sense. The ideal woman these companies are going for is one held by women, not men.

    3. That’s an ideal body, is it? I polled the three straight men in my office right now.

      You define what’s ideal for women based on the sexual gaze of men? Are you a time-traveler from the 60s?

      1. Forget the 60’s-  the sexual gaze of men is still the definition of female beauty and worth.  For god’s sake, we’re still debating whether or not there’s such a thing as a female gaze. The OP wasn’t accidentally revealings some shocking remnant of misogyny. That’s our culture. It sucks, but pretending we’ve moved past it isn’t going to do anything but preserve the status quo.

        1. It sucks, but pretending we’ve moved past it isn’t going to do anything but preserve the status quo.

          I responded to a commenter who judged the female ‘ideal’ (a ridiculous concept in itself) by showing the picture to a bunch of men. I don’t think that commenter was doing much to change the status quo.

    4. I think they’re beautiful. That’s what actually makes this whole thing intriguing/disturbing, IMO.

  8. You can play the game for yourself if you go to H&M’s web site. A more sophisticated version of a paper doll cutout.
    Surprised they’d use it in preference to photography for adverts though.

    Their dressing room web app is actually a pretty cool use of flash. Has men and women, more than 4 heads, and is pretty fast at generating the picture.

  9. I know that it’s par for the course- advertising has been making things “better than real” for hundreds of years- but I have to wonder if stunts like that represent some sort of black hole of diminishing returns. I mean, they’ve essential come out and said to their customers “the reason it doesn’t look as good as it did online is because the swimsuit isn’t real.” Awkward moment? And there are certainly real people with that frame- and other frames that might more closely resemble other customers- do they really do themselves any favors by not introducing some real life variety?

    I wonder.

    1. No, the reason it doesn’t look good is because most buyers do not have a body like that *and* do not display it under tightly controlled conditions.

      Just look at all those bikini shots of celebrities when they are not intentionally posing (with makeup) for the camera. Why, they look just like normal swimsuits at the beach.  Even on most Brazilians. 

      1. I mean, sure, really good looking people look crazy good in the right hands, and the average H&M customer receives neither said attention nor belongs to a specifically selected class, all true. I’ve just been thinking more generally lately about human sexual and affinity responses, and how we measure those, and how technology can manipulate them, and wondering if the Uncanny Valley has a attractiveness counterpart, where the endless application of both first-run science and industry habit (Most of the people we shot average to this height, this weight, this color, this bust, this build- so make them all that way, youth equals attractive equals lean and smooth ergo photoshop every hair, mole, and even the natural folds of movement, etc.,) results in apathetic results because they undersell our affinity for detectable authenticity, variety, and detail.

  10. A step in the right direction, I think

    First, it surely must be a lot cheaper/quicker to do. Second, developing a fixed realistic-looking virtual model is not too far away from developing a flexible virtual model that could be adjusted real-time to one’s own dimensions.

    Clothes photography does not actually make a lot of practical sense.

  11. Is it really that different from The Mad Men days when all advertising artwork used illustrations rather than photos? Photos were followed by retouching, then airbrushing, and then photoshopping. Does anyone believe that any advertising photo (illustration) is real? We are talking advertising here, not news photos.

  12. they do a lot of this on their website too, and sometimes there are bugs which produce hilarious/nightmarish results:!/pointypixels/status/106905238925082625/photo/1

  13. Makes sense if you think about how many millions of girls developed their sense of “ideal body type” from Barbie dolls that were all cast from identical molds. They may change the color and the hairdo from time to time, but that’s about it.

    1. Well, ideal other than nipple-less boobs, frozen elbow joints, and feet forever trapped in releve. But hey, GI Joe sure seemed to be into it, so…

  14. “Admitted” implies guilt. How about using “acknowledged” instead? There’s nothing guilty about using CGI models, any more than using hand-drawn illustrations. The fact that somebody thought they were real is simply testament to the skill of the person who wrote the software.

  15. They should just get rid of the heads then have a resizeable CGI body. 

    How much do 3d printers cost? Just asking.

  16. makes perfect sense to me from a production perspective.  Models and photographers and stylists are expensive compared to an occasional CGI order.  Consistency is an advantage and look at all the time they save by only having photoshop one body.  It’s not great from the perspective of young models looking for work, but then again plenty of people seem to have a problem with using young fit women to model clothes to average people in the first place. 

  17. I can’t believe there hasn’t been a single photoshop joke about those telling pixels….

    Besides they need to eat some more.  You put an eye out on that hip bone and there goes the night.

    1. …they need to eat some more.

      I like to think that the bodies those heads were ‘shopped off of are lounging around in sweatpants on couches covered in potato chip crumbs.

  18. Julia Roberts did this in “Stepmom” (from 1998)  — she shot the models fawning over the catering guy, and then pasted the suit on top of him for the final image :) 

  19. They aren’t “completely virtual” or “computer-generated” in a 3d modeled sense. They’re more like elaborate composites. After a little firebugging on the dressing room page, I found the base template for the body. I’m not posting because it might be nsfw.

    However… the afro is a lie:,height%5B351%5D&sink=format%5Bpng%5D

    edit: it looks like the image isn’t working now, possibly because they stop hotlinking. Anyways, the base model looks like a naked mannequin and there are about 5 different foot positions. I presume these are for different shoe styles. They also have different hair styles, which may be used for different outfits.

    Here’s an example of the “special sauce” they use to position the the different pieces by defining anchors on the model:

  20. I really don’t see the problem. CG is so much cheaper than models and photographers, it makes perfect sense that they would do this. And they’re not alone. Have you all been asleep lately? Go to almost any clothing retailer online and you’ll see hundreds of images of models standing in exactly the same position. You thought they were just that good? It applies to mens clothing too. Go look for yourself.

    Who cares? Yes they’re promoting a certain body image, but if they weren’t using CG models they would use skinny teen models and promote exactly the same image. You’re upset because they’re computer generated and not real live anorexic girls? If you want to get angry, get angry about the image, not the mechanism of image creation. When they start depicting mannerist-style models with extra vertebrae and truly inhuman proportions, then you can start making a big deal about it being fake.

    Why is this even a story? People need to think for a moment before they get outraged.

    1. You’re upset because they’re computer generated and not real live anorexic girls?

      That is not why we’re upset.

      If you want to get angry, get angry about the image

      That is why we’re upset.

      When they start depicting mannerist-style models with extra vertebrae and truly inhuman proportions, then you can start making a big deal about it being fake.

      Thank you for offering your permission, but it is not necessary.

      1. I call bullshit. If you’re so upset about the image and not the mechanism then where was this story last week when every single fashion website on earth used a skinny model (real or otherwise)? The only time we see these stories here is when technology is involved in the creation of the image.

        This is technology that makes perfect sense. People say they are upset because of the shape of the girls, but the models were that shape before they were virtual and no one here said anything about it. It wasn’t news on boingboing until AFTER it was technology-related. It’s never news on boingboing unless photoshop or 3d modeling is involved. 

        People are upset because they feel like they’ve been lied to and fake models are just icing on the cake. News flash, some women look like this. Some women look like this without trying to (my girlfriend is skinny in spite of the fact that she eats more than I do due to a thyroid condition. She struggles to gain weight and really appreciates how much people like you stereotype any woman whose body type isn’t “curvy” enough). I think it’s interesting how people on one side of this issue always vilify the superficiality they say is promoted by images of skinny girls while ignoring their own superficial judgements of those same girls.

        And why hasn’t anyone complained about the male models yet? The fake men who have perfectly flat abs, perfect skin and just the right amount of muscle definition which is inexplicably visible even through a sweater?

    2. I really don’t see the problem.

      Once upon a time, clothing catalogs had drawings of people wearing the clothing. Then somebody thought that people might want to see a photograph of a real person wearing the real clothing, so catalogs switched to photos. Then they started fucking around with the photos so that they’re now drawings pretending to be photos. The problem is that it’s a lie.

      1. So? All advertising is a lie. You really think the burger you buy is going to look like the one in the ad, or the CGI car zooming around the mountain road depicts reality?

  21. I think this is great technology, but it just needs to be used differently.  I suggest that they have a number of different body types on the website.  You select the one that (you imagine) fits you the best.  Then take a picture of your face, and then you can go through the site, seeing how the clothes might look on your idealized version of yourself!

    1. It would substantially increase the amount of work needed to shoot and produce the images needed, but it’d be a good feature. I do notice they didn’t even bother with a Japanese model on their Japanese site though.
      I think Boingboing missed the point in the story though. It’s not bad photoshop or lazy advertising it’s a well implemented application for viewing clothes.

  22. This is a good thing. Now young women do not have to have near-impossible proportions to become bikini models. They just have to have pretty faces.

  23. Reminds me of the “plan your holiday” scene from Total Recall, where Arnie gets to dial-a-heroine.  Definitely uncanny.

  24. Most retailers of bathing suits make a point of indicating which types of suits work best for each kind of body type.  Putting different bathing suits on one body is retrograde marketing.

  25. Baudrillard was a photographer and I’m pasting his head on my post.

    These ads are just clumsy. The uncanny-ness in these images will become historical. Digital artists of the future will be asked “Can you make it look more uncanny? Like the advertising of the early 21st century.”

  26. So they use computer bodies to hide the mistakes of the clothes.  I doubt they would fit my perfect body then !!!!

  27. I wrote about this on my blog at

    Other people have already pointed out that H&M use to produce these photos, so accusations that this is about saving money or getting a perfect body for display are wrong. It’s about using the virtual dressing room to create outfits.

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