Mannequins hit by discrimination -- and loss of face

(AFP) -

As blue-eyed blondes increasingly hog the catwalks, discrimination is also at work in the weird and wonderful world of the fashion mannequin.

"Black mannequins don't sell," said Marc Lacroix, a manager at one of the world's leading producers, Paris-based Cofrad which also owns Los Angeles firm Patina-V, a maker of ethnically diverse fashion mannequins.

"Black and Asian models have been doing fine for a long time in the US, and we have customers in Britain. But in France, Germany and Austria, forget it!" he said.

"The Anglo-Saxon world it seems is more open-minded than the old continent."

Mannequins come in all shapes, colours and sizes but always come apart -- just like jointed artists' models made of a head, body, legs and arms.

"We only sell headless limbless bodies to Saudi customers," he said. "Couture clients too often like them headless as they want potential buyers to focus first on the clothes."

"Asian customers," Lacroix added, "which often represent big global labels, prefer European-looking mannequins as they have a more universal appeal."

Mannequins, nowadays generally made in environmentally unfriendly fibre-glass, are relatively new in historical terms -- as are the top models they more than often mirror.

Initially a tool for a tailor or seamstress, dummies made of cane surfaced in the 18th century before being made of wire and later cardboard. But it was only in the 20th century that couture came up with the idea of using mannequins rather than live models to display clothes to wealthy women at private showings.

Their widespread use in shops and shop-windows followed in the 1950s and 1960s, when couture and ready-to-wear labels multiplied, and big-name top models such as Twiggy emerged.

-- Mannequins multiply sales fourfold --


"Mannequins are very important," said Helene Lafourcade, who heads visual merchandising for French department store giant Galeries Lafayette. It uses 15,000 mannequins across its network, including 5,000 alone in its big central Paris stores near the Garnier Opera house.

"They're not just objects you stand up in the store. They're static salespeople," said Lafourcade, who reckons mannequins multiply sales fourfold.

Mannequins are crafted by sculptors in a process every bit inspired by a catwalk show.

A manufacturer calls a modelling agency, organises a casting session and commissions the male or female model chosen to pose for a photographer. The sculptor uses the pictures to make a cast.

With an average life-span of three to four years, mannequins can cost anywhere from 150 euros to 1,500 euros (218 to 2,180 dollars) for the cream of the crop.

In the 1990s, said Franck Banchet, artistic manager for Paris department store Printemps, the trend was for hyper-realistic dummies.

"The Rolls Royce of the mannequins then were by Adel Rootstein in London, who used professional make-up artists and hairdressers to work on them."

When minimalism became the design statement of the day, mannequins too became streamlined, "their faces just an oval shape with a line for a nose and a line for a mouth," he said. "Top of the pops was a mannequin by Swiss firm Schlappi".

Couture king Yves Saint-Laurent's taste for such stylised faceless mannequins, often lacquered in white or black or gold, turned the tables on the trade.

"Most people nowadays use the cheaper stylised faceless mannequins," said Banchet.

In Paris to launch his new collection of mannequins called Madame, New York's Ralph Pucci said "you have to create mannequins that are relevant to the times."

"Mannequins are about change, about art, about sculpture," said Pucci, who has worked with avant-garde artists such as Andree Putman, Ruben Toledo, Kenny Scharf and Stephen Sprouse.

"As for body shapes, every time we try different sizes, it fails. It's not relevant. A mannequin has to have personality and has to sell the clothes."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most