Ask any retailer and they’ll tell you: clothes sell better on mannequins. But with stores struggling to lure customers away from ASOS and Amazon, the shop dummy is finding it hard to keep up. Bulky, fragile and back-breakingly heavy, this nineteenth century technology is ripe for disruption.
Mannequino, the world’s first flat-pack dummy, aims to do just that. The creation of husband-and-wife design team Arash Kaynama and Kelly Sant, Mannequino is made from sheets of plastic that fasten together using a patented snap-lock system. The self-assembly dummies weigh less than half a kilo and pack down so small that 1,500 of them take up only one cubic metre of space.
For retailers, Mannequino offers an extra degree of control. ‘They can post the dummies out and change windows across Europe overnight,’ says Sant. ‘You’re not buying some mannequins locally in Milan and some in Paris.’ Because each part of the dummy can be removed to be replaced or repaired, Mannequino is easy to maintain, while also saving on waste.
Kaynama and Sant, who met while studying at the Royal College of Art, are designers by trade. They have worked with lots of companies, but Mannequino is their first entrepreneurial venture. The pair received seed funding from the Royal College of Art’s incubation programme, InnovationRCA, and further support and mentoring from design incubation programme ARCC Innovations.
‘Obviously at the beginning we have to do everything ourselves,’ says Kaynama. ‘It’s stressful and completely nuts. But it’s an amazing learning experience, as long as you’re open to learning.’
Mannequino launched in October 2012 at Paris Fashion Week. Since then Kaynama and Sant have refined their product, adding internal lighting which glows softly through the clear plastic sheets. Yet while a number of well-known brands have taken the dummy on trial, including Muji, Adidas, Puma, Ben Sherman, Thomas Pink and River Island, Mannequino is still waiting for its first break-out sale.
For the designers turned entrepreneurs, the key to success is continuing to innovate – but in order to do that, they need sales. ‘It’s a hard leap,’ says Kaynama.
Whatever happens, he is happy to have taken the jump. ‘I have this life I’ve never dreamt of,’ he says. ‘I can’t believe it. It’s 400g of polymer.’