During economic downturns you see fewer mannequins in store windows and window displays become more sparse. I read this article in the RetailDesignDiva blog a few years ago, but it is still relevant today. 

Romancing The Mannequin

Everyone in visual merchandising knows that a well-dressed mannequin can help sell merchandise and that using the right mannequin can help establish and communicate a brand’s image. There is no better way to educate customers on fashion trends and how to put looks together in the store. Unfortunately, mannequin use tends to be cyclical: most stores buy and use more mannequins when business is good and cut back on mannequin purchases in economic downturns. In lean times, damaged mannequins don’t get repaired; they sit in the back room gathering dust. Fewer mannequins appear on the sales floor.

Over the years, realistic mannequins have given way to abstracts (which save costs and labor), and now visual merchandisers have endless options of styles and finishes. Savvy upscale stores work with mannequin firms to custom design their own, making their brands even more unique.

The current trend in mannequins is to cluster groups of mannequins tightly together. This can be seen in stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and also in the Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch. Such groups may include six, eight or more figures in one location, in various poses. They work very effectively to communicate a targeted and consistent fashion message with a lot of impact.

For those who might benefit from a reminder of the superb job mannequins can do, Vera Wang’s current promotion might be a wake-up call. Working with Goldsmith, the firm that fabricated the Mode Collection mannequins, Vera Wang has used full-body, abstract mannequins to romance its newest fashions, exhibiting them in photos used in advertising that appears in fashion magazines and even on the sides of New York City buses. Check out the Vera Wang Web site for a big dose of inspiration.

Thanks Vera Wang (and Goldsmith) for reminding us how captivating mannequins can be.

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