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In part II of our report, we look at current challenges for manufacturers and distributors of high-quality mannequins and again let a number of renowned experts express their views.
Companies that produce or distribute mannequins are currently in a situation that is anything but easy. Quite apart from the massive impact of the Corona crisis on the retail trade, competition within the mannequin industry is constantly increasing. Customers are looking for high quality products at affordable prices and are increasingly looking for more sustainable solutions. Genesis Display CEO Andreas Gesswein knows how difficult it sometimes is to satisfy this demanding mix of customer needs: “Unfortunately, few customers are willing to pay higher costs for a more sustainable solution. We really have to face this problem again and again”. The experienced mannequin expert always tries to make one thing clear to his customers: “If a product can be offered at a reasonable price, that doesn’t mean that it costs less, but that someone else will pay the price. Fair quality is not too expensive, other suppliers are simply too cheap. Dumping prices are not possible without people and the environment suffering”.
During EuroShop 2020 in Düsseldorf, Genesis Display, for example, presented a completely plastic-free packaging for mannequins. “Unfortunately, the price for this packaging is ‘still’ somewhat higher than the price for packaging with plastic elements. Here too, the rule would apply: if everyone switched to plastic-free, we could achieve better prices,” Andreas Gesswein is certain.
High-quality mannequins for long-term use
IRW division manager Tristan Arbter has a similar view: “Our customers are confronted with the problem of procuring sustainable products at economic prices. It is therefore important for us to show our customers that ecological sustainability can also be economically sustainable […] Our mannequins are 100% recyclable and meet all requirements for a long service life.”
According to Guido and Andrea Bonaveri, the sons of company founder Romano Bonaveri, the biggest current challenge is indeed to maintain high standards in terms of quality, aesthetics and technical performance, while remaining economically competitive. “This implies a constant search for new materials suitable for the different moulding techniques which are chosen depending on the quantities. More and more, we are asked to produce bespoke products, usually in small quantities. It is important to be able to supply them in sustainable materials, but with cost-effective production techniques”. In addition, the brothers explain that the Covis-19 health emergency has seriously affected the fashion market, and that it is therefore even more important to be versatile, continuing to offer valuable products, made to last over time.
Thomas Wimmer, Managing Director Sales Marketing at Wissler Mannequins, also emphasises the importance of long-term use of mannequins: “The best environmental protection is to move away from disposable products. This is why Wissler has launched a restoration and rental programme, also in response to the challenges of the crisis. Used and worn products can be refurbished in our own workshop. In the rental programme we differentiate between long-term and short-term rental. An extensive pool of display mannequins of various positions offers our customers the possibility of temporary use without having to purchase them.”
According to Nico Bonami, price is still and will remain an important factor for many customers: “We want to invest in a better future and a better planet and that is why we offer our product at a competitive price. However, the founder and owner of Bonami Mannequins also explains that awareness of sustainability has increased once again, especially during the Corona crisis, and gives concrete figures: “88% of customers now say that the topic is very important to them, compared to 79% before Covid19. […] An increasing number of people are willing to change their consumer behaviour. We know that we have to take responsibility and that sustainability will become the new normal in the fashion industry.”
According to Holger Kressin, owner of the distribution company Ästhetik & Design the Mannequin House, it is “not yet possible to estimate the ultimate impact that Corona will have on the mannequin industry and the economy as a whole”. For the supplier of high-quality Italian mannequins, however, one thing is clear: “The challenges for the stationary trade remaining after the crisis will be to offer the customer a curated goods and shopping experience that cannot be obtained in this way on the internet, and this includes an individual, exciting presentation of the goods.”
The problem with “Greenwashing”
Holger Kressin is also concerned about the topic of “greenwashing”, which he believes is widespread throughout the fashion and VM industry. He warns: “What good is a supposedly ‘green’ basic material if the display mannequins are made by a subcontractor in the Philippines or Bangladesh, where neither the working conditions on site, nor waste disposal, medical care, transport and many other things can be evaluated or controlled. Here, unfortunately, people still turn a blind eye far too often and only focus on low prices. Made in Europe with truly sustainable products cannot be obtained at dumping prices”.
A problem that has also been recognised by Bonami Mannequins in the past: “We do not want to comment on the competitors, but unfortunately we do indeed see a lot of ‘greenwashing’ in our industry. I deeply regret this. We would like to see more companies follow our vision of a 100% recyclable mannequin,” says company owner Nico Bonami. According to Tristan Arbter of IRW, “greenwashing” is usually characterised by a superficial and intransparent sustainability strategy, which on closer inspection simply does not deserve the word “green”: “If you produce with fibreglass in Asia, you should use this term with caution.”
Anyway, it seems that Covid19 or the resulting measures have further intensified the competition within the mannequin market: “Sometimes desperate suppliers make statements that are not true in order to increase demand and remain competitive”, analyses Genesis Display CEO Andreas Gesswein and concludes: “Such cases are of course unfair if customers thereby go in the wrong direction in good faith. And it is also bitter for us, as we communicate the sensitive issue of sustainability in a transparent and authentic way. But there will probably always be free-riders, companies that jump on the sustainability bandwagon without really meeting the requirements.”
Article picture: Bonami Mannequins