On January 14, French mannequins’ manufacturer Window threw a party at its Parisian showroom for clients and press. Accompanied by the display of the company’s recently-launched Absolute Vintage and Absolute Tailor-Made collections, we met Window’s founder and chief executive Jean Marc Mesguich to talk about the changes that the industry has experienced in the last 30 years, technological advances in manufacturing, sustainable mannequins and the business goals set out to do in 2016. Interview by Lorenzo Molina

Window was founded in 1982; at a time where the internet was at a very young stage of development and brick-and-mortar fashion stores weren’t threatened by online commerce. In your opinion, what are the most remarkable transformations that the mannequin industry has experienced over the last 30 years?
The main change factor in the mannequin market is that 80% or more of all mannequin orders are for custom made product. Whereas brands took mannequins off the shelf to place in their stores back then, now the majority of customers wants a mannequin that is adapted to their brand identity. The mannequins now participate much more in the specific image and message of the brand. Production techniques have not changed in three years as no serious evolutions have been made in this field, however 3D has started to play a leading role in product development and prototyping and as we need to personalize the majority of our mannequins to brands’ needs. 3D has become the ideal solution to cope with this demand. The advance in 3D technology hasn't created the change in demand but helps us to better reply to the demand.

Absolute Tailor Made collection by Window Mannequins
Absolute Tailor Made collection by Window Mannequins

Apart from 3D technology, are there any new technologies expected to become a game-changer in mannequin manufacturing in the near future?
Computer technology. Intelligent mannequins will play a key role in the future, helping brands to better understand their customers and adapt to their behavior. We have advanced greatly in this field and will soon have product available for sale. This will be a growing concern for the marketing departments of fashion houses and will help sculpt the windows of the future.

What are intelligent mannequins capable of exactly?
The intelligent mannequin is one that actually analyzes the publics’ reaction and gets a feedback. It tells the stores what they (observers) are looking at, what stores should be placing in a certain area –it just tells how they have to do their windows. Intelligent mannequins help the marketing teams to put together an outfit which is going to sell more products by knowing more people’s interest.

How are they going to do it? Do they have a camera inserted?
The mannequins got a camera on their eyes. Up until now, some people have done this technology, but they’ve actually put cameras in the windows. Obviously that means people know there’s a camera and they react differently. We’re concealing it into a mannequin so that people are not really aware of it.

Absolute Vintage collection by Window Mannequins
Absolute Vintage collection by Window Mannequins
Tonight you are introducing the Absolute Vintage and Absolute Tailor Made collections, which present mannequins with a vintage look. At the same time, the Window portfolio also includes the Emotion range, where figures are equipped with video screens. What are your clients currently demanding more –the vintage-inspired aesthetics or technology-infused mannequins?
Frankly, at the moment the ‘in thing’ is retro. It’s a little early for the future to be very present in the stores. This has something to do with the fact that the past conjures up more positive values than the future. It reassures the public. Tradition is a sign of quality. As the future is yet to come, the values that it portrays are uncertain. We have however just produced robotic mannequins for a luxury brand worldwide.

In regard of your clients –To which international fashion groups is Window currently supplying its products?
We are a privileged supplier to many of the world’s leading brands in all categories of the fashion market and to major department stores in every country. We cannot disclose the names of all of our customers as many prefer to keep a low profile on their suppliers’ identity, but we can cite a number of them such as H&M, Benetton, Marks & Spencer, Forever 21, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Emotion collection by Window Mannequins
Emotion collection by Window Mannequins

Sustainability has become the most frequent word throughout the fashion industry. Window launched a new ecological mannequin, which you describe as ‘the world's most ecological mannequin to date’. How is it manufactured and with which materials?
Our first solution to this growing concern was launched at Euroshop 2013. This solution follows the same production method as our standabsolute Vintage collectiord mannequins but quite simply replaces fiberglass by natural fibers coming from fast growing plants mixed with natural resins. However, at the moment an ecological mannequin using renewable natural sources costs considerably more than a standard mannequin and therefore at present a green conscience needs to be met with a green wallet and that is another issue.

What are the most successful markets for your company right now?
With the international spread of brands and the move towards shopping centers as opposed to city centers, there are less and less small and medium size brands. Therefore by deduction our interests have turned towards the large chains.

Absolute Vintage collection by Window Mannequins
Absolute Vintage collection by Window Mannequins

What are the business expansion goals that Window aims to achieve this year?
We have already expanded our business through our existing client base as we have now launched Window Art, which is our new design and production service for custom made objects for our customers’ windows and internal displays. It is a logical development between us and our clients to be able to help them beyond designing their mannequins and it is after all the major activity since the company started. We will continue to develop this side of our service and of course endeavor to seduce new brands with this complementarity that we can offer. With our design and prototyping center in France we can offer brands a real advantage in the development of their mannequins or window projects.