GLOBALIZATION BY MANNEQUINS

Beijing, 12 March 2013

My wife and I often lament the homogenizing effect globalization is having on our world. One of our common comments here in Beijing is: “Look at those young people. They dress just like our children!” [or children from the UK, or Italy, or the US, depending on the context]. We have an Ikea just up the road, which is thronged with young – and not so young – Chinese families buying the exact same things we were buying from our local Ikea in Vienna. And of course we can dine, if we wish to (which we sometimes do, I will admit), in that icon of globalization MacDonalds, which serves the same burger absolutely everywhere – it is so uniform that the Economist has created the Big Mac Index, which uses the cost of the Big Mac worldwide to check if currencies are at their right exchange level. And we can wash down our burger with a cappuccino in a Starbucks which looks and tastes exactly like a cappuccino in the Starbucks round the corner from our daughter’s place.

But for me the strangest aspect of globalization is … store mannequins. Often, when we are walking around in Beijing or anywhere else in China, I will come nose-to-nose with a store mannequin which is obviously European.

mannequin-beijing

Why on earth would Chinese women (I presume they are the ones who are targeted) be more inclined to buy clothes they see on a European mannequin than on a Chinese mannequin? (By the way, I have never seen a Chinese mannequin). I have to assume that the globalization of US movies, of TV shows, of magazines and so on give European women a greater glamour. Either that, or a Chinese company bought (or perhaps “borrowed”) the rights to a mannequin designed in the West somewhere and is turning them out by the millions.

I’m not the only one who has been struck by these European mannequins in China. Here are some photos taken by others which I found after a trawl through the internet.

mannequins-china-2

mannequins-china-3

mannequins-china-5

mannequins-china-1

And it’s not just in China that you find these European mannequins. Here’s one I stumbled across in Laos, rather worse for wear and covered in pseudo-ethnic bling.

laos 068

The internet threw up these photos from other Asian countries.

The Philippines:

mannequins-philippines-1

Malaysia:

mannequins-malaysia-1

India:

Mannequins-india-2

Even Iran!:

mannequins-iran-1

This presence is so strange that a quilt maker, Robin Schwalb, made this quilt about it (and got a prize for it, too!)

mannequins-china-quilt

Here’s what Mr. Schwalb has to say about his creation:

“That suit, that hair, that mole; you immediately recognize Chairman Mao. But who – or what – are those pouty women, with their Western features, retro hairdos, and dead-eyed stares? They’re store mannequins, manufactured in China for the Chinese market, never appearing solo, but always arrayed in chorus lines. Perhaps the discordantly comical images have a darker point – if you have that system of government, you get this kind of dehumanized citizen.” [1]

I will pass over the political comment, which is disputable. Let me tell you the strangest thing about all this. This “pouty woman” looks exactly like a colleague of mine in Vienna. It is so odd to suddenly see her staring at me out of a shop window in some corner of China. I have never dared tell her. I don’t think she would appreciate being compared to a store mannequin.

______________________________

[1] http://www.dairybarn.org/quilt/index.php?section=226&page=280

Mannequin-china-1: my photo
Mannequin-china-2: http://dianepernet.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c76e453ef0153927b5e38970b-550wi
Mannequin-china-3: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4024/4448484644_653a40a274_z.jpg?zz=1
Mannequin-china-4: http://www.dvafoto.com/wp-content/0011.jpg
Mannequin-china-5: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2243/2129603065_45eaf9420e_z.jpg?zz=1
Mannequin-laos: my photo
Mannequin-philippines: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-IqILwlOYkz4/TqYJjLcRMkI/AAAAAAAAERw/kdYvkh71BvM/s1600/retro_mannequin.jpg
Mannequin-malaysia: http://www.lemonicks.com/photos/Kuala%20Lumpur/P1000852.2.jpg
Mannequin-india: http://www.bminusc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Store-Mannequins1.png
Mannequin-iran: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a59ffcee970b-pi
Mannequin-china-quilt: http://www.dairybarn.org/upload_files/images/QN07-Schwalb.jpg

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Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

3 thoughts on “GLOBALIZATION BY MANNEQUINS”

  1. Western mannequins in China have always struck me as strange. Thinking back on it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “Chinese mannequin” either. Hmm. Food for thought.

    Like

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