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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ralph Pucci: Art of the Mannequin

How often do you think about the mannequin? Ralph Pucci is an accomplished product designer who frequently collaborates with the top fashion designers like Diane Von Furstenburg, Ruben Toledo, Christy Turlington, Anna Sui...

Is a mannequin just a big doll where you hang clothes on like a coat hanger? Or is a mannequin the embodiment of our perceptions of the ideal body in our time period, changing cultural trends, our Pygmalion? This current exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC examined the work of Ralph Pucci who elevated the work of creating a mannequin into an art form.

Most retail store forms are ordered from the same catalog across the continent. They don't reflect the time period or personality of the brand they are being used for to sell clothing. The Anna Sui mannequins have wide eyed doll heads that echo the vintage collectibles she gathered from flea markets and decorate her store. Kenny Scharf's "swirly" mannequins a reflection of recurring characters in his paintings. Supermodel Christy Turlington's seated mannequin was molded after her own face in great detail to capture a naturalistic vibe to complement her yoga brand. A collaboration with Ruben Toledo resulted in a stylish plus-sized mannequin to serve the growing strength of full figured fashion trendsetters.

The creative process included modelling the shapes from clay, then casting a fibre-glass finished product. Pucci began using this craft as a design and art medium after inheriting his parent's mannequin business in the 1970s.

There were mannequins that barely even represented the human form. There were mannequins that were in dramatic motion poses, even a handstand. No one said a mannequin should only stand stiffly. Is it about making a tool to display a commercial product? Or is a mannequin a method of giving a visual soul to a commercial product? This was a fashion museum exhibit equivalent of "The Emperor Has No Clothes". Just like great style lets one look beyond the clothes to see the person, this retrospective forces you to see the creative work underneath the fashion.

The Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin exhibit runs until August 30th, 2015.

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