I’m a fan of wax museums not because I can stand next to a likeness of Al Roker or David Beckham, but because I share a unique bond with the figures in that we all have glass eyes. These sculpted interpretations of icons are painstakingly modeled to incorporate the finest details and real-world physical differences unique to each individual.
But if we transition from the inside of a museum and wax figures to in-store marketing with mannequins, where does disability fit in?
Studies have shown that in-store purchase intent increases considerably for apparel and accessories placed on mannequins…which are often stylized in a way that strives for the most idealized self – fit, thin, young and what most people would consider perfect.
From the Dove Real Beauty campaign to the Cheerios’ commercial featuring a mixed race family we’re seeing more inclusion of real people, situations, diversity and disability in commercials and advertising, but does this growing inclusion movement within marketing translate to the in-store shopping experience and mannequins?
JC Penney recently unveiled how they are taking a step towards reflecting a broader diversity in their mannequin appearances. According to a recent NBC News article:
Shoppers in New York City are celebrating five unique mannequins in the store windows of JCPenney. The national retailer is showcasing the mannequins, including the model of a woman in a wheelchair, a man with dwarfism and a double leg amputee, which were specially designed for TODAY’s “Love Your Selfie” series.
The mannequins are modeled after:
- Dawna Callahan, who uses a wheelchair because of paralysis;
- Neil Duncan, a former Army paratrooper who lost parts of both legs in Afghanistan;
- Ricardo Gil, who has dwarfism;
- Desiree Hunter, a 6-1 1/2 basketball player;
- and Beth Ridgeway, a plus-size mother.
The Today Show and JC Penney were inspired by a video of mannequins modeled on people with disabilities that went viral last year. Pro Infirmis, a Swiss nonprofit dedicated to helping people with disabilities, created several real-world sculpted mannequins to reflect bodies of people with physical disabilities for “Because Who is Perfect? Get Closer”, a project to raise awareness of the lack of representation of people with disabilities in fashion and retail.
Could changing the appearance of mannequins change the way we feel about ourselves? YES. Marketers have an opportunity to embrace diversity and disability in the design of their mannequins to better promote greater awareness, inclusion and respect for broader customer segments.