Body cul­ture

Thor­oughly mod­ern man­nequins

Wallpaper - - March - laro­

‘We are us­ing anti-shock plas­tic that is 100 per cent re­cy­clable’

and hair­brush to the din of Ital­ian pop mu­sic; else­where, hot liq­uid rub­ber is poured into steel moulds to form legs and arms. ‘A man­nequin is a body, so over time it changes a lit­tle bit, and make-up, too. But what has re­ally changed is how man­nequins are be­ing used,’ Gigi says. ‘Ev­ery­thing is much more neu­tral to­day. Ar­chi­tects are also more in­volved. Brands are open­ing in many coun­tries and ev­ery­thing in­evitably be­gins to look the same wher­ever you go.’ The power of the brand has cre­ated a cul­ture of bland.

In 1996, Gigi’s son Mattia joined the firm as CEO and in­sti­gated a quiet rev­o­lu­tion match­ing mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing with an ar­ti­sanal fin­ish – ev­ery­thing is still touched by hu­man hand. Mattia is as me­thod­i­cal as his fa­ther is mad­cap. ‘You need to have a pas­sion, but we are al­ways work­ing on how to show our­selves in dif­fer­ent ways,’ he says. He has made the pro­duc­tion cy­cle more sus­tain­able, too. ‘Un­til 2000, we were mak­ing the moulds through foundry cast, the same way you would cast bronze, but this cre­ated so much pol­lu­tion that we had to find a new way.’ To­day, pro­to­types are first sculpted by hand in plas­ticine and then 3D-scanned. A bank of milling ma­chines then uses this data to cre­ate the alu­minium moulds into which molten plas­tic is tipped. A La Rosa man­nequin can cost any­thing be­tween €700 and €1,200. Han­dled with care, it will last for up to ten years.

At present, La Rosa has around 800 items in its cat­a­logue, in­clud­ing a new patented sys­tem that al­lows for a fig­ure to be fixed in five dif­fer­ent po­si­tions at the push of a but­ton. The ar­chive in­cludes be­spoke cre­ations for Gianni Ver­sace, Gior­gio Ar­mani, Valentino, Ni­co­las Gh­esquière and Al­ber El­baz. Set up­right in the cor­ner of Gigi’s chaotic of­fice is a 6ft form made up of linen-cov­ered ovals and tri­an­gles rem­i­nis­cent of a sculp­ture by Brân­cuși. Tastes may be flat-lin­ing, but cre­at­ing dis­play man­nequins in a world full of dig­i­tal avatars has given Gigi a new fron­tier to cross. ‘In the 1960s, we in­tro­duced blow­moulded plas­tic, which was much more mod­ern. To­day, we’re us­ing anti-shock plas­tic that is 100 per cent re­cy­clable. We had to ad­just our sys­tems, but now we can re­mould and re­cast ev­ery­thing we make – we can keep re­mak­ing and re­mak­ing,’ he says. ‘In­no­va­tion is ex­pen­sive. But it can­not stop.’

a Ro­bot man­nequin de­signed by La Rosa for out­er­wear brand Mon­cler in 2016

Crafts­men hold a piece of very hot plas­tic that has just been ex­truded, ready to be de­posited in a mould A true face-cast head made for the 2008 Euroshop re­tail trade fair

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