Dress sense

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"HI EVERYBODY. I'm Thierry Mugler's first virtual-reality fashion model ... Look at my body - isn't it fab?" Meet the French designer's first digitally engineered fantasy woman. She walks (on a virtual catwalk), she talks (with a voice like Marilyn Monroe), her skin is like platinum, and her dress changes from white to zebra-print in a nano-second.

In Thierry Mugler's eyes, she is perfect. She doesn't complain when she has a tenth coat of nail varnish applied, her eyelashes brushed with mascara for the hundredth time, or is crippled by high heels. Her legs are longer than Nadja Auerman's, her bottom perter than Naomi Campbell's, her breasts more gravity-defying than Eva Herzigova's, and there's not so much as a ripple of fat as she walks. She is quite a woman. What's more, she is totally dependent on men, who sit in front of computer screens adjusting her every gesture with their "motion capture" system, translating the movements of a real model into a series of dots on a monitor. "Hey boys, can you make me dance?" she asks flirtatiously. "You're so cool. You did it!" she giggles, as her body goes into a series of cardiovascular jolts. My, aren't those boys clever? She can even do back flips - always an important achievement for a career woman.

Mugler's dream girl was built by the American software company Kinetix for the first computer-animated, virtual-reality fashion show. Her head and body were sculpted in Spain; her catwalk sashay perfected in England; her dress designed in Paris. According to Kinetix, the birth of its digital woman sounds the death knell for both supermodels and the fashion show as we know it. If so, it would sound the death knell of fashion too. Nothing - and certainly not a sterile, inhuman computer alien on a screen, however "fab" her body - can replace the atmosphere and excitement of a fashion show. Mugler shows are a prime example. In two weeks' time, he will show his haute couture collection on the catwalk in Paris and, as always, it will be a theatrical extravaganza. The models will still be superhumanly beautiful, all tiny waists and long legs. But at least they will be real: not just walking and talking, but breathing too. The designer says he is excited by the possibilities of the computer catwalk. However, as far as he is concerned, the traditional fashion show will remain. A good thing too: it's bad enough for women having to squeeze into clothes made with Naomi or Kate in mind. But the idea of designers having free rein to invent their ideal superwoman would be too scary for words. Give me a good game of Tomb Raider any day: Lara Croft might be a male fantasy, but she'd know how to put Thierry Mugler in his place. She'd shoot him. !