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Rethinking Mannequins with Ralph Pucci

September 2016 - Northeastern University

Northeastern University Northeastern University Northeastern University Northeastern University

After forty years of creating a brand name synonymous with quality, design, and fine art, Ralph Pucci AS’76, came back to Northeastern’s campus to discuss his latest exhibition in Gallery 360. Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin is a thirty-year retrospective of one of the most innovative figures in the retail sector of the fashion industry. The exhibition focuses on the varied mannequin forms that emerged from Pucci’s studio in the past forty years. Collaborating with various artists, designers, and fashion models to create his mannequins, they each created a unique style and character to add to Pucci’s creative journey.

Since taking on his family business, Pucci’s Mannequin Repairs, after his time at Northeastern, Pucci has been captivated with mannequins beyond their day-to-day function in a retail commercial setting. Pucci designs mannequins that everyone sees in shop windows, but he is not afraid to push “the culture envelope.” Throughout his experience in design, his mannequins reflect cultural trends from the athletic and strong themes in the late 1970s, to the more muted and simple mannequins of the present which reflect the cost- and value-efficient mindset of retail.

“Fashioning Bodies: The Art, Business and Politics of Mannequins,” was an afternoon symposium exploring the cultural, artistic, and social implications that mannequins can have as artists, scholars, students, and professors in the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) gathered together to discuss these topics. A presentation from the curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston led the audience through a history of mannequins. Then, panels jointly occupied by CAMD and CSSH professors exhibited different viewpoints of the significance of mannequins. From the Italian Renaissance and architecture to theatrical costume design, each perspective offered distinct reasoning as to why mannequins are such cultural influences.

Finally, the symposium ended with a one-on-one interview with Ralph Pucci and School of Journalism Chair Jonathan Kaufman. The audience discovered how Pucci went from graduating Northeastern with a degree in journalism to his family business in mannequin repairs, and to finally becoming a design icon. Combining his business tact, artistic vision, and cultural message, Pucci was able to create Ralph Pucci International, a derivative of his family’s business. While designing high-end mannequins, Pucci is also now one of the world’s leading furniture and lighting designers, and recently received the Markopoulus Award, the highest honor in the visual merchandising industry.

That evening, a closing ceremony was held in Gallery 360. Guests were able to get up close and personal with the mannequins of Pucci’s design and creation. Pucci’s sculptor, who works to form Pucci’s designs, also created art as he live-sculpted Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun.

Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin is on exhibit until October 23rd in Northeastern’s Gallery 360.

Photography

Photos of Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin in Gallery 360.

CAMD and CSSH professors give short talks about the history of mannequins, and what they represent.

School of Journalism Chair Jonathan Kaufman interviews Ralph Pucci.