* service sector * Perfecting form Store mannequins inspire the imagination and help generate sales – whether beautifully styled, full-size models or functional, headless clothes hangers. 16 I S S U E 6 5 7 N Z R E TA I L 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 I S S U E 6 5 7 N Z R E TA I L 17 * 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 18 I S S U E 6 5 7 N Z R E TA I L 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 orientated. Purdy advises retailers should: European Trends • 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; FAMILY BUSINESS • 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 seniors; igures in a dynamic • F pose; pecial displays for • S accessories; • 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. I S S U E 6 5 7 N Z R E TA I L 19 * 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.” BETTER MATERIALS 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. 20 I S S U E 6 5 7 N Z R E TA I L 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.” TRENDS “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.
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