The Robotic Mannequin To Transform The Retail Market
Some inventions initially seem absurd or unnecessary, but after a while we begin to wonder how we ever got by without them. The iDummy, a robotic mannequin invented by Professor Allan Chan in Hong Kong, could be one of these devices.
Chan, working at the Institute of Textiles and Clothing in Hong Kong Polytechnic University, became aware of a possible gap in the market when he noticed that his students were using mannequins donated by firms such as Marks and Spencer and Target. Due to shifting body sizes and consumer expectations, companies have to buy new mannequins every year or so.
At around £1200 ($1800) per mannequin, this exercise isn’t cheap. Sensing an opportunity, Chan sat down and invented the ‘iDummy’ – a robotic mannequin that can be programmed to morph to any size. Instead of one solid piece, the iDummy is comprised of lots of different segments, each with its own tiny motor, that can be repositioned when the mannequin is connected to a computer. Each segment can be moved independently – for example, to create the body form of a pregnant woman – or the mannequin can be remodelled as a whole.
Specific body types can be created: the hips can become broader and the shoulders narrower to create a typically female form and vice-versa for a more masculine body type. Chan outlines three different main uses for the iDummy. The first is with luxury fashion firms, who can design clothing in a range of sizes with ease. The second application is to check clothes for custom-fitting in tailors.
Lastly, and most obviously, is the use in retail outlets, where iDummies can exhibit clothing in a huge selection of shapes and sizes. The present version can go from UK size 6 to 16. The iDummy mannequin’s versatility means that it could help an executive search for a new suit one day, and the next day be re-purposed in the maternity wear section.
A Worthwhile Investment?
While the initial outlay for an iDummy is far greater than a traditional mannequin, at £11,000 for a whole-body model, savings are achieved over time. A smaller collection of iDummies can replace a much broader stock of mannequins, saving a lot of space. They can also be re-purposed easily, so retail outlets will no longer have to dispose of mannequins every couple of years as consumer attitudes towards body shapes change over time.
An additional benefit to the iDummy comes in the fact that stores are able to appeal to a broader range of clients, especially in the light of the criticism in recent years regarding size-zero models and specifically ‘skinny’ mannequins.
Inventors like Allan Chan are few and far between and are sought after by luxury brand head hunters due to the savings made possible for high-end fashion firms. If your luxury brand recruitment could benefit from the expertise of specialised luxury brand headhunters, don’t hesitate to get in touch.