Connect with us

Mannequins and Forms



Any tour of the major visual merchandising trade shows around the world shows significant changes in the way mannequins are designed and made.

The traditional “silent salespeople,” with their fashion poses and haughty demeanors, are being joined by a new generation of mannequins that are pieces of art, experiments in engineering or progressions in technology.

The digital communications age that has commanded so many of our electronic devices has been incorporated into mannequins, too, with digital screens displaying brand messages, and even personalized messages being sent, via beacon technology, to shoppers.

Freelance visual merchandiser ChadMichael Morrisette of Los Angeles-based CM Squared Designs, used mannequins with digital screens instead of faces for a booth he created at the recent MAGIC Show in Las Vegas for AwesomenessTV, a YouTube teen network that also produces a line of licensed T-shirts and accessories.

“The booth had constant traffic, whereas everyone else at the show had similar mannequin showings,” he says.

There’s a growing use for mannequins outside the apparel world, too. Chicago consultant Amanda Wolfson created a visual program for the Best Buy store on Michigan Avenue to promote the recycling of used consumer electronics products by gluing old parts onto the mannequins. “The idea is using mannequins to surprise, delight and inform in unexpected ways,” she says.

For Project Windows, a summertime contest among Michigan Avenue retailers that was sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago, mannequins were used to promote the museum’s René Magritte exhibition. “Columbia College Chicago painted a window with blue skies and white clouds, and installed mannequins with the same pattern, so they seemed to be floating surreally in the window,” Wolfson said.

There have even been some mannequins, one specifically tabbed the “bionic spy,” that watch shoppers and track their movements. One of them features a camera embedded in one eye that feeds data into facial-recognition software and can log the age, gender and race of shoppers who wander by – a combination of market research and store security. (Bloomberg News reported that a European retailer with one of these mannequins in its windows found that a third of its visitors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting it to place Chinese-speaking staff by that entrance.)

But not all of today’s mannequins are multitasking. The basic mannequin – the statuesque, decades-old model of glamour, fit and face – is enjoying a renaissance, as well.

“There’s still nothing like a mannequin with a head to tell a fashion story,” says Sal Lenzo, director of visual presentation at New York luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman. “If you’re going to use the mannequin to tell your story, to express your point of view, heads and faces simply have more personality. And heads with faces gives you the opportunity for accessorizing with hats, sunglasses, makeup, jewelry and the like.”

Some of today’s mannequins are made with interchangeable facial features, so retailers can adjust for different campaigns and seasons, or local markets.

Hugo Boss AG (Metzingen, Germany), the European manufacturer of luxury men’s and women’s apparel, is making room for mannequin presentations in the windows and on the sales floors of its growing chain of North American stores.

According to Andrew Braun, director of store planning for Hugo Boss USA (New York), floor-to-ceiling vitrines will be part of every store window in the brand’s new, standardized North American store concept. Inside the stores, Braun says, room is being made for groupings of at least two mannequins in the front of the store, with other groupings elsewhere.

“We like the way mannequins show our clothes and also add to the store environment,” Braun says. “We favor molded, modern-looking mannequins.”

The current go-to style for today’s fashion window is a sleek-but-realistic molded mannequin with minimal or no facial features. In recent years, these featureless bodies have become ubiquitous in shop windows; they come in a rainbow of colors, but the current favored shade is glossy white.

Similar forms are seen not only in luxury venues, but also increasingly in fast-fashion emporiums like H&M and Topshop, which are installing mannequins in increasing amounts.

In fact, says Morrisette, “I see so many high-gloss … mannequins in the windows, they could be interchangeable. How does a shopper distinguish?”

One problem, the designer notes, is a proliferation of Asian knock-offs that look the same but lack the manufacturing quality and design subtleties. However, they’re so inexpensive that many retailers can mimic the presentations of the traditional fashion houses.

Lenzo agrees. “You see the same mannequin all over these days, from high-end to low-end. There are a lot of people out there who just copy,” he says, explaining that it’s a particularly dangerous trend at a time when retailers need to be expressing their own individual statements. “We compete with the Internet now, and everyone has their version of the same trends, so how do we make our stores different, express our own point of view?”

That’s what fashion mannequins have been doing for a hundred years.



Embracing Whole-Brained Thinking in the Design Journey

Strategy needs creative, and creative needs strategy—yep, having both is really the only way of unifying all disciplines with a common vernacular with an eye toward building a strong creative vision that is foundational to the processes. Hear from Bevan Bloemendaal, former VP, Global Environments & Creative Services at Timberland, how to connect the dots between disciplines, claiming and creating a clear differentiation for the brand and ensuring that any asset (experience, product, ad, store, office, home, video, game) is created with intention.

Promoted Headlines





Most Popular