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VM Basics: Heads up!

The mannequin has pride of place in Visual Merchandising (VM) because, as humans, we are programmed to notice human-shaped items, but that said, the mannequin does not need to be a literal representation of our idealized selves.

Transforming a mannequin with an outsize head, or even just a mask, attracts customers’ attention by making them look twice at the unexpected result. There is a good example of the transformation that heads offer in the current Coach ‘Wild Things’ themed windows.

The giant horse’s head on the male mannequin is topical: it is the Chinese year of the Horse until next year. The folded glossy plastic in strong, attention-grabbing complimentary-colours of purple and yellow commands our attention, as does the giant scale of the heads.

A variation on purple and yellow for the female mannequin, using magenta and yellow for a bird’s head, appears a little softer, more feminine.

A rabbit’s head combines purple, magenta, and yellow together. The masks are large enough to be worn and look great in the marketing campaign on the Coach web site.

Still with giant heads, Harvey Nichols’ store in Pacific Place in Hong Kong created a wonderful window a while ago with giant teddy-bear heads. The appeal here lies in the giant, furry teddy-bear illusion of the masks, which reminds me of the charming short story of the teddy bear manservant in ‘Teddy Bear stories for Grown-ups,’ edited by Catherine Taylor. A twist on the idea of anthropomorphisation, the slightly too-perfect beauty embodied by the mannequin, becomes much more approachable when transformed by a mask.

Selfridges created a far more subtle but still effective display using Venetian-carnival style, mirror-ball masks on the menswear floor, adjacent to their wonderful, moving mirror-ball-filled atrium last Christmas.

The mannequins were covered in black fabric, and the masks added a touch of unexpected glamour to the group display, echoed by the giant silver balls at the mannequins’ feet.

Remember Uniqlo’s interesting hats of last summer, made in the same shiny fabric as the mannequins? Their slightly-puffy surfaces created by the head-ties and the twisted fabric that held them on, echoed the quilted, down-jackets that they were helping to promote. Ted Baker did something similar with deers’ antlers a while ago too.

To conclude, masks are probably the most effective means of changing a mannequin’s appearance, apart from just adding a hat. Masks ‘ring the changes’ for a mannequin’s appearance, and allow the mannequin to be visually linked to the store marketing and VM theme.

 

Key points

•  Mask heads can transform a regular mannequin and, with care, be used for the marketing video.

•  A mask allows the mannequin to be directly linked to the store decoration theme.

• As with all memorable VM, make it brief, otherwise customers will remember the mask, not the merchandise.