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Kevin Arpino

Rootstein's model maker



Tall, dark and animated, Kevin Arpino, creative director for Adel Rootstein, appears more intense than he is. Once he opens his mouth, it's apparent this London-based mannequin designer doesn't miss many opportunities to laugh.

Sixteen years ago, the London-born Arpino shifted away from display to learn the craft of mannequin design at the elbow of Adel Rootstein. For the past 12 years his charge has been the image and design of all of Rootstein's collections. Although Arpino is the sole designer of what have been called “the Mercedes Benz's of Mannequins”–used by biggies like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's–he credits the collaborative efforts of a “great team of sculptors,” which includes 38-year Rootstein veteran John Taylor.

Like Hugh Hefner, Arpino has surrounded himself with scads of beautiful girls. And much like Hef, his latest girl, “Bubbles” (below) is, well … a bit young for him.

Were you having a little fun with the whole “Lolita” thing?

Quite a bit of fun, really. Designers and especially the media are obsessed with youth. Models are getting younger and younger, so we wondered, “How far can we go without being too obscene?” But it is fun and should be looked at this way.

How did the line come to be?

It actually started as an experimental figure that John Taylor was working on. We were playing with this young thing — like a little girl dressing up in mum's clothes — and it emerged as this Lolita-cum-Manga (a Japanese comic book character).

I think the best designs are the ones that evolve. It takes so long to create a collection and make it fresh after working on it for up to 16 months; you have to inject a new idea even if it's something as simple as a wig or makeup.

And Rootstein uses the likeness of popular fashion models and celebrities?

For years, Rootstein has been renowned for its realistic mannequins. Adel's original idea was to use the faces that were promoting fashion in the magazines and on the runway shows, and immortalize them in the shop windows. She used models, but also actors and even people off the street. Probably the most famous likeness was “Twiggy” in the 60s, which put Adel Rootstein on the map.

But there've been so many … just to name a few there've been Joanna Lumley, Yasmin Le Bon, Karen Mulder, Ute Lemper, Marie Helvin, Saffron Burrows and more recently, Jodie Kidd.

Which celebrity would make a perfect mannequin?

Catherine Zeta Jones.

And who should we never see a likeness of?

Roseanne or me.

What is it about you that surprises people the most?

I have tremendous energy and am not afraid to teach people things I know. Also, I only wear black and white, which surprises people for some unknown reason.

What were you like as a child?

My mother always said I used to dress up a lot and play with dolls, not that I can remember (I'm glad to say). Perhaps that had something to do with shaping my career; I'm very lucky to spend my days now dressing up big dolls and getting paid for it.

Do you talk to your mannequins?

Sometimes, but only when we're alone.

Do they talk back?

They say: “Will you please stop picking me up by my crotch?”



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