Mannequins are now an integral part of branding and visual merchandising.
By Amit Sethiya
Mannequins — those life-like divinities that depict what your wear — trigger purchases and make for happy shoppers. Displays have to attract, engage and motivate the customer on merely a visual appeal. In effect, we buy with our senses. We need to see, we want to touch; and when that is all pleasing, it effects in a buy.
Mannequins were earlier made from papier-mâché, then from thick wax to appear more life-like, and are now mainly made from fibreglass and plastic to reflect human features and durability. These life-like pieces have undergone a vast change in form and function and, today, are an important part of visual merchandising.
Mannequins are now a business decision and their impact on marketing is high. In this vast competitive garment industry, showing off clothes results in a purchase. As we progressed in terms of retail experience and product portfolio, these mannequins also started changing, becoming closer to what consumers are. Now, they are far more real (in terms of size, shape, skin colour, etc), have expressions (laughing), stand in a group (depicting social interaction), and, at times, represent motion, taking the visual to the usage level. For instance, Nike and Adidas have their mannequins in running postures.
Mannequins are no longer mere expressionless figures at a sari store used as sale props. Today, they serve specific purposes — there are under-the-foot rods for displaying shoes and trousers; busts for wigs, hats and jewellery; and hands and palms for jewellery and gloves. Mannequins now come with specific faces and abstract faces, in different skin tones, with a head full of hair and without. One also sees potbellied, regular, full-size or plus-size mannequins. Brands are now going the extra mile to craft the attitude of their mannequins to reflect what they want their customers to feel.
Zara mannequins are comparatively snooty/snobbish vis-à-vis other brands. While lingerie customers have the aspiration to have leaner bodies, denim customers are in awe of muscular frames. Hackett London, a formal menswear retailer, prides itself on the quality of its bespoke suits. And to prove how meticulously every single detail of its menswear is crafted, the brand cleverly shows little figurines diligently tailoring one of the suits.
Menswear retailer Berluti understands the human desire to transcend their current selves. By displaying an outfit with a Batman shadow, it conveys to potential customers that wearing the brand’s clothes will enable customers to channel their inner Batman. Lingerie brand Empreinte uses holographic mannequins to create the perfect collection display for its customers.
Visual merchandising has now become more about the reflection of our times, values and aspirations. It offers an easy opportunity for the brand to create a narrative by clearly stating who they are, what they have to say, and how. This has become imperative with the advent of e-commerce, because, now more than ever, the physical store has to be looked at as a place to sell more than just merchandise. Modern consumers, especially the millennial generation, crave experiences.
As an integral part of visual merchandising, brands are now using mannequins that are dynamic in terms of body movements and shape adjustments, based on the customer’s body profile for better judgment, guiding visitors in the store as per their specific requirements, etc. Apart from mannequins, other visual merchandising elements, too, are no more static, which aid in making visual stories more compelling. Digital projections are now used globally by fashion and beauty brands to create life-like mannequins and surroundings, based on their collection.
The author is chief marketing officer, Syska Group