Stacie White has theories about mannequins. Mannequins, she says, should be subtle: a vehicle to display cut and fit and a representation of a store’s ideals. A good mannequin has a come-hither quality, silently luring the right shopper into the store.
But recently mannequins have started talking to consumers—literally. Old Navy, a longtime client of mannequin-maker Fusion Specialties, where White is creative director, has rolled out a marketing campaign starring a bevy of plastic beauties known as the Super Modelquins. Old Navy stores across the country now have Super Modelquins thanks to the mannequin mastery of Fusion, which designed the Modelquin bodies (Old Navy designed the heads) and manufactured both the bodies and heads for floor displays. White says it’s about time mannequins get some respect. She’s known for years that there’s more to these fashionable figures than meets the eye.
Custom fit: “In creating mannequins, my job is to figure out who the store’s demographic is,” White said. “What is the ideal body for their brand? And what market are they trying to appeal to? Are they girls? Or are they 45-year-old women? And then I try to understand the psychology of the shopper. How are those clothes going to help her feel her best and who does she aspire
Size matters: Fusion rarely makes size-2 mannequins—because most women can’t relate. “We want consumers to walk by and say, ‘I like that outfit, and you know what, I could look like her or him. It may take some work, but I could look like her.’”
Since December, Fusion has pumped out 13,000 Modelquins for more than a thousand Old Navy stores.
Is making mannequins an art or a science? “There is the art of making something beautiful but there is also science and psychology to take a body and make that body speak to the demographic that it needs to speak to. If you walk by a store and you look at the mannequins, they should say to you, ‘Yeah, that’s the store that I should be shopping in.’”
Fusion’s clients—ranging from Gap to bebe to Guess—get very specific about what type of mannequin they want…very specific. White says there are lengthy conversations about everything from bulges to cup size.
In the Navy: “To have our mannequins in the spotlight has been a lot of fun. It’s also been exciting to see one of our clients use the mannequins to their fullest.”
Fusion can make one mannequin out of their “e-flex” plastic in 18 minutes, much faster than typical fiberglass mannequins.
Cultural reference: “I think most people have never thought about someone designing mannequins,” White said. “Their references are usually the Elaine mannequin on Seinfeld or Mannequin the movie. And they want to know if it’s creepy when you get locked in the back room. Yes, I have gotten locked in the back and I guess it’s a little creepy. But you become desensitized very quickly around here.”
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