Outtakes

Michael Southgate, managing director of Adel Rootstein, on the making of mannequins
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Before the Sixties, mannequins were elongated and ultra-thin, but that was the attitude of Paris fashion, and Paris fashion ruled the world. But all of a sudden, the American retail merchants started buying these extraordinary English clothes - kaftans, hot pants and mini-skirts. About a year after that, the English decided they would go and buy some, too. There was a completely new concept of what women should look like, and freedom of choice over what they wore. But on the elongated, ultra- thin mannequins in Harrods' and Liberty's windows, these revolutionary shapes looked ridiculous. So they came to Adel Rootstein, who was a prop maker in the theatre, and said: 'Can you make us a mannequin that's got something to do with what's going on today?'

The only real difference in the first ones she made were that they were more realistically proportioned. Then, after a year or two, we decided that we should be making mannequins modelled after the people who represented this new look. So we picked on the models of the day, such as Jean Shrimpton and Patti Boyd, pop figures such as Sandie Shaw - and a little, willowy girl called Twiggy.

What we do today is decide on the type of mannequin we want - according to the type of merchandise it is going to be dressed in - and then find a girl from one of the agencies who is exactly what we want. After that, we only look for girls of similar type.

The girls come in and pose for a sculptor, and it takes three weeks, because they can only maintain the necessary pose for four hours a day. It's all done by eye; the models never have moulds taken of their bodies. From the clay sculpture a plaster cast is made, and, from that, we make a plaster figure. That's then sanded down, and made to look very beautiful. We then make a fibreglass mould, to start producing fibreglass mannequins.

We try to put in as much detail as we can, such as nipples, collarbone and backbone - everything that shows but the privates, really. But the mannequins have to be very stylised - sharpened up round the nostrils, under the chin and at the hands - otherwise they just don't look right. If you were to take a cast of the hand of an 18-year-old model, it would look like the hand of a 60-year-old. And they're usually from size 8 to 10, because those are the clothes sizes that are most displayed in stores; we do sometimes make larger mannequins, though that's a sensitive area. And we do variations based on age and ethnic origin.

They're then sprayed in flesh tones and have make-up put on by hand. But how exactly a mannequin will end up looking depends on which store window she's going into. She might be a very county lady for somewhere like Burberry's or Aquascutum, but more trendy and modern for, say, Miss Selfridge."

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