Perfecting form

service sector
Store mannequins inspire the imagination and help
generate sales – whether beautifully styled, full-size
models or functional, headless clothes hangers.
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Left Mei & Picchi’s Auckland showroom.
Right Runway mannequins by Purfex
setting the fashion stage alight.
Opposite US DK Displays Schlappi
mannequin is available in approximately
40 different poses and many colours and
finishes. This particular mannequin
featured in an Italian Vogue advertisement.
nce upon a time in
London’s swinging sixties,
there lived a woman who
was going to change the
world of visual merchandising forever. Her name was Adel
Rootstein and her approach to creating
mannequins was nothing short of
revolutionary: instead of using bland
old body torsos she modelled her
mannequins after real life icons. The
late British mannequin designer is
considered responsible for premium
designs that are sold worldwide.
With the huge success of her Twiggy
mannequins, she expanded overseas,
opened a New York office and a factory
in Brooklyn – where, incidentally, all the
Rootstein mannequins are still produced today. Rootstein passed away
in 1992 but her spirit remains present,
not only in the Rootstein Company
but for a lot of mannequin producers
around the world.
One of Rootstein’s admirers is Glen
Wilkin-Holland, director of Purfex, New
Zealand’s biggest manufacturer of
mannequins with a turnover of roughly
one million dollars. Visual merchandising
in New Zealand is estimated to be a $5
million business.
A visit to the Purfex factory is like a walk
into a beauty farm for mannequins. Two
outstanding female figures in wonderful baroque robes greet the visitor in
the entrance. Collectibles include
pictures, devotionals and antiques.
Lifelike mannequins – male, female and
children – with make-up (or tattoos) and
wigs, range from pale flesh to coloured
tones. Interspersing these are torsos,
heads and hands. A neo-classical and
renaissance collection of columns and
urns complete the picture.
Visual merchandising in
New Zealand is estimated to
be a $5 million business.
A staff of 10 to 15 is modelling,
moulding, creating, sculpturing and
constructing in the Purfex workshop.
“We roughly produce one mannequin
a day”, says Wilkin-Holland, and points
out that every product is uniquely
made in New Zealand. “For me, it is
really important to be based here to
provide a quality product”, he says.
This means he and his team have to be
quicker to compete with offshore/offthe-shelf mannequins. “We are often
more responsive and efficient for smaller
orders rather than large … but then,
New Zealand is a small country with
quite a well-developed eye for fashion
and trends,” he continues.
China, with its cheap labour costs,
has become a threat to Kiwi visual
merchandisers. “China is not competing
on an even playing field,” Wilkin-Holland
criticises. “They are not developing, but
more copying.” While mannequins from
Purform’s illuminated, headless torsos.
China are sold at around $135 for a child
figure, New Zealand companies have
to charge more than four times this.
China is not competing on
an even playing field.
“Our mannequins start at $550 and go
up to $12,000,” he says. Purfex has over
22 different ranges of mannequins in
production, not including forms, tailor
forms, plastics or any of their other
3,000 products. Its customers include
premium-label retailers such as
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service sector
Above Museum display form with moko – Perfex does custom work for museums throughout New Zealand.
Middle Mei & Picchi’s bendy kids mannequins.
Right Watch fashion fly! New to Purfex is its ‘float mannequin’ range.
Ballantynes, Max, Urban Angel,
Smith & Caughey and The Warehouse.
Purfex is a licensed producer for Danish
company Hindsgaul, one of the leading
players in the display mannequin
business worldwide. A Hindsgaul kid’s
figure, for example, costs 600 euros.
Ten per cent of Purfex production is
exported, mainly into the Pacific region
and Australia.
Purform is another pure New Zealand
visual merchandising company. Purform
has a connection with Purfex insofar as
Austin Purdy founded Purfex in 1938
and sold it in 1998 to Glen Wilkin-Holland
and Fraser Moreton. Austin’s grandson
Ben Purdy is the current director of
Purform. He has a pragmatic approach
towards mannequins: “They are for
selling clothes,” he says, “and should not
distract from the product they wear.”
Hence, most of the mannequins in his
Penrose factory are without heads.
Nevertheless, Purdy believes in mannequins as a unique tool. “Mannequins
and body forms are the most powerful
apparel selling tool available,” he says.
“They provide customers with great
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visual selection and retailers with
improved sales.” Purform describes its
mannequins as not only tough, but
stylish in their simplicity. The company
labels itself as very customer service
Purdy advises retailers should:
• Ethnic;
• Plus sizes or XXL;
“We do not want to just sell mannequins,”
Purdy says. “We want to help our
customers to sell.” A range of full and
half figures, as well as torsos, helps to
create a holistic merchandising picture
and a distinct stylised look throughout
the store.
• Retro;
• Country;
Ben Purdy has been around mannequins
pretty much all his life. His grandfather’s
mannequin factory was part of his
playground when growing up. After
studying marketing, Purdy decided
to go back into the family visual
merchandising business and added
a fresh approach to Purform. The
Penrose-based factory employs
a staff of six, with some of the work
contracted out. The company has
a turnover of $750,000 – 20 per cent
of the production is exported. One of
Purform’s well-known international
est-ager & young
• B
igures in a dynamic
• F
pecial displays for
• S
• Flower power; and
• Rock and pop.
Source: European Retail Institute
customers is Wal-Mart. Californianbased company Greneker, famous for
their mannequins with wildly creative
poses, is a licensed distributor of
Purform products in the US.
onsider mannequins’ display
• C
power, ease of use, durability and
value for money for the investment;
uy a mannequin judged on how it
• B
will look once dressed and in your
store, not what it looks like naked;
ote that headless mannequins
• N
attract a wider scope of customers,
without detracting from your
apparel; and
onsider implementation and usage
• C
within stores’ existing systems.
Mei+Picchi, another visual merchandise
player in New Zealand (with Australian
origins) runs a very up-market showroom in Auckland’s Newton Road.
It showcases a variety of fibreglass
mannequins and systems, beautifully
arranged in elegant black-and-white
surrounds with fleshy tones. Mannequins
with heads, hair and full make-up mix
and match with headless forms, torsos,
legs, arms and hands. Mei+Picchi is
connected with German-based Euro
Display, Italian modular fixturing
company ALU and Patina V in the US.
Above New to Mei & Picchi is a range of three fuller figured mannequins.
Right Purform’s headless mannequins are available in full length, full torso and hip-length torso.
Below These stunning Perfex mannequins display Charles Parsons Fabrics using its latest fabric range reminiscent of Sofia Coppala’s film
Marie Antoinette. Wigs/makeup and dress design by Klaus Meiswinkle; concept by leading merchandiser Ton Van Der Veer.
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service sector
Above Purform’s mannequins are easy to print.
Right Master at work. Klaus Meiswinkel, the in-house make-up and wig designer for Purfex, has had many years of theatrical wardrobe design experience.
Sales manager Stephen Johnson is
pragmatic when it comes to the
question of whether mannequins sell
better with or without heads: “There
are advantages and disadvantages in
both. For instance, mannequins with
heads require more attention and
maintainance, whereas headless ones
are easier to care for.”
Over the years, the material for mannequins has changed from wax to plaster
to fibreglass and plastics – such as
polyethylene. Modern mannequins
are fully recyclable and easy to handle.
“They don’t damage and you don’t
have to worry about breaking an arm
or a leg,” says Ben Purdy, who has
moved away from fibreglass to
rotationally moulded high density
plastic, resulting in greater durability.
“We recycle everything and try to
minimise our wastage,” says Purfex’s
Wilkin-Holland. He believes modern
materials are much less toxic than in the
past, which contributes to the sustainability of the business. On average,
a mannequin lasts at least 10 years.
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We recycle everything and
try to minimise our wastage
... modern materials are much
less toxic than in the past.
Fashion, music and lifestyle have their
effects on visual merchandising. Current
trends are coming from the leading
mannequin manufacturers in Europe,
says Belinda Sheldrick from Mei+Picchi
headquarters in Sydney. They can be
seen at trade fairs like the prestigious
Euroshop, where mannequin exhibitors
attract visitors with beautifully decorated stages and stands, comparable
to a fashion show.
According to Mei+Picchi’s Stephen
Johnson, ‘good quality mannequins’ are
on the rise. “We see larger groupings of
mannequins,” adds Sheldrick. Retailers
are more prepared to invest in a whole
visual merchandising programme, with
a focus on the entrance or window and
duplication in store.
“Retailers are better than they were,”
agrees Ben Purdy, “but there is still
a large market for them to explore.”
“Ethnic, craft and cultural connection
are trends in New Zealand,” observes
Wilkin-Holland, “bright colours and
psychedelic-looks are sought after”.
‘’It is all about recognising the latest
trends in time to use them accordingly
within the visual merchandising
industry,” says Andreas Gesswein,
managing director of Euro Display.
‘’What we need is flexibility as society
is influenced by so many different
trends at the same time.”
Trends in mannequins refer to changes
in society. For instance, increasing
numbers of older people don’t want
to see their fashion worn by ‘twenty
something’ figures. Therefore, Euro
Display has developed its first ‘bestager’ figures, stylised with accessories
such as spectacles.
Another group of figures represent the
substantial class of customers who are
not particularly slim. These product
lines are labelled ‘Plus size’ or XXL and
have become increasingly popular. More
portly display figures are currently
styled in an almost naturalistic manner.
The Vintage Range by Perfex
is made from the original
Purfex moulds and stands.
In the wake of globalisation there’s
a focus on skin colours and display
figures are available in various colours
– white, peachy, yellow and all kinds
of light and dark shades. At the last
Euroshop it became clear Eurasian
features constitute a trendy ideal
of beauty.
“We can represent the culture where
we come from very well,” says WilkinHolland, with skin colours ranging from
Polynesian tan to Maori brown.
By Doris Evans, a freelance retail writer based in
Auckland and regular contributor to NZRetail.