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VM Basics: how to avoid torturing the merchandise

It is perfectly acceptable to use merchandise in a VM display, but important not to ‘torture’ it.

For example, a shawl worn by a mannequin as a sarong, or even worse tied as a headdress might be described as ‘torture’ of the merchandise. That is, to use it in a way in which it would never be worn by even the bravest customer.

Hong Kong specialty retailer G.O.D. (Goods of Desire), successfully trod this narrow line. The brand, owned by UK-trained architects Douglas Young and Benjamin Lau, is known for its slightly-provocative merchandise and marketing. A T-shirt range bearing the legend ‘14K’ (the name of a Hong Kong triad group) was banned by the Hong Kong Government some years ago. The resulting publicity put G.O.D. on the map more effectively than any marketing campaign, so it is fitting that it creates edgy windows.

The super-simple, open-backed window features a framework of bronzed metal poles, and one mannequin wearing a simple, sleeveless pattern dress with a very full, circular hemline. The dress is raised at the back and held in a circle by clips attached to twine which, in turn, are tied to the metal poles. The effect is rather as a peacock displaying its tail feathers. Or perhaps rather like a full-skirted dress on a windy day.

The window evokes curiosity as customers wonder what the mannequin looks like from the back. Being almost invited to peek, the only way of doing so is to enter the store. I should add here that ‘sneaking a peek’ is a long-standing Hong Kong fascination. The 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards, deployed to Hong Kong from 1981 to 1984, generated endless curiosity among residents and the local press as to what they wore under their kilts.

Curiosity is satisfied inside the store. The mannequin’s modesty is protected not only by the footless stockings worn, but also by a cardigan tied around her waist. The classic Chinese chairs and side-table neatly prevent customers wandering in to the window, and create a back-drop for the display.

Mannequins always look more compelling when treated as the VM practitioner’s most fashionable friend. If your most fashionable friend wouldn’t wear an item of merchandise like this, then don’t display it that way. Perhaps better to suggest naughtiness by using the mannequin’s pose, not by torturing the merchandise? G.O.D. runs close to contravening this rule, but just scrapes by without offending anyone.

Key Points

• Don’t torture the merchandise, that is don’t dress the mannequins with merchandise in a way that the customer would not usually wear it.

• Keep displays suggestive (when showing lingerie, for example) rather than showing too much. The merchandise will look more compelling.

• Suggest naughtiness using the mannequin’s pose rather than the merchandise. Two mannequins posed up-close-and-personal will look sexier and the merchandise much better than a window of crotchless knickers, for example.

Images: Alvin Yeung of YMK Design