Professional Jeweler Archive: Mannequins With Good Resumes

February 2001


Mannequins With Good Résumés

Pygmalion plays a role in retail stores

It may be time for you to reconsider those disembodied cardboard fingers you’ve used for years to display rings and things. As the science of visual merchandising becomes more sophisticated, it’s only a matter of time before someone documents a relationship between sales and the “character” suggested by the faux digits on which jewelry is presented.

Already, apparel retailers have turned mannequins into creations so realistic that, when customers bump into one, their first reaction might be to apologize. Now designer Ralph Pucci’s Brownstone Collection of eight realistic mannequins – five women, three men – has taken the trend a step further.

Pucci, who has previously produced lifelike renditions of models Christy Turlington and Beverly Peel for exhibits at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, has endowed his latest creations with biographies. They are:

Leander, a Wall Street broker.
Latetia, a publisher.
Julia, a publicist.
Cecile, a fashion editor.
Helen, an aspiring actress.
Martin, an Internet entrepreneur.
Hamilton, a business executive.
Caroline, a gallery owner.

Most of the characters are in their 20s and 30s, though Hamilton’s and Caroline’s silver hair suggests a couple of about 60. (“I love the … older couple,” says Pucci. “Unfortunately, they’re often overlooked in retail.”)

The collection’s appeal is purposely urban and urbane, attempting to depict tenants one might encounter in an upscale New York brownstone apartment building.

“These people are high-profile,” Pucci told Display & Design Ideas magazine. “That is the kind of image we are trying to set.”

The figures, designed by artist Robert Clyde Anderson, feature chiseled facial features and long, elegant necks. Once each form was perfected, the mannequin was handpainted to create its unique facial features and hairstyle. Even subtle highlights were meticulously painted into the mannequins’ hair.

The mannequins cost $1,100 each, or about $10,000 for the entire collection. Not surprisingly, stores with an upscale clientele are the primary buyers. Still, no retailer should underestimate the power of a mannequin, says Pucci. “You have to have a good mannequin to sell the merchandise,” he says. “It sets the mood of the store and helps define its identity. It is something that people can grab onto.”

Founded in the 1950s, Pucci’s company originally specialized in mannequin repair. In 1976, it began to manufacture its own line, making a name for itself producing lifestyle and athletic poses it then painted red or black.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications