He's No Dummy

Interior Design Magazine April 2004

He's No Dummy

a'Furniture impresario Ralph Pucci makes mannequins as style-setting as the clothing they wear.'

They may have perfect hair and features. In the majority of instances though, mannequins have been commercial wallflowers. All that shoppers ever noticed was the clothes. At least until Ralph Pucci came along.

Bartolucci for Interior Design, April 2004

Mannequins, he thought should possess personality and even set trends. In 1976, inspired by the upcoming summer Olympics in Montreal, he introduced his first mannequin collection: well toned fibreglass figures in swimming, diving and running poses. Never before had mannequins been designed specifically for casual wear. Pucci's models were turning heads.Next came mannequins that resembled ancient sculpture, in white, gray, or black instead of flesh tones with painted features. Department stores used multiples to make architectural statements. Pucci was fomenting a revolution.

'Mannequins are expressive of the times,' he says. To ensure the currency of the designs, he started to collaborate with illustrators such as Ruben Toledo. Once the illustrator has drawn up a character, Michael Everet, Ralph Pucci International's sculptor, transforms that two-dimensional image into three dimensions, using water-based clay on metal armature.

Everet and his collaborator may exaggerate the legs, a nose, or another characteristic during the course of the work - getting a figure right can take anywhere from three to six weeks.

Everet then throws plaster over the clay sculpture to make a mold from which a fibreglass figure is cast. If it meets the approval of Pucci and the illustrator, the result will serve as a master mannequin. Carefully sanded to perfect form, its covered in fibreglass to make a mold for a series of 100 to 10,000. If the mannequins require painted features, heads will pass through the workroom of Pucci's 'make-up' artist, who goes soley by the name of Mr.Scott.

Pucci and Kenny Scharf recently gave form to the artist's Universal cartoon characters. Displayed in a window at Saks Fifth Avenue, the silver-painted teardrop-headed creations caught the eye of a television producer. They're now slated for their own TV show-the latest models to embark on an acting career.

By Marisa Bartolucci

For Interior Design April 2004