These New Mannequins Are Challenging Gender Identity

Photo: Patrick McMullan.
If you're a musician or actor, you might be able to say you've made it when there's a wax sculpture of you gathering dust and tourist fingerprints in a Madame Tussauds. The fashion equivalent would be mannequin company Rootstein crafting a dummy in your likeness. In which case, Phillipe Blond (of the glam-to-the-max design duo The Blonds) has surpassed that notion of “making it,” landing squarely in icon territory: He's had not one, but two mannequins — one male and one female — created to represent him.

Blond joins the illustrious ranks of Twiggy, Agyness Deyn, Pat Cleveland, and Joan Collins, an achievement that's been a long time coming — the relationship between Rootstein and The Blonds stretches back over a decade. They began working on the dual mannequins more than a year ago, so even though they launched when conversations surrounding gender identity abound, it's not fair to say the brands are piggybacking on a current "trend" toward acceptance.

"It was sort of like fate that it landed at this time," David Blond, the duo's other half, tells us, "when there's so many things going on for LGBT rights...and kids who don't even accept that they have a gender. That's sort of the direction we're going with this project. And we hope, in some small way, that we can help the movement."
Photo: Patrick McMullan.
It all started when The Blonds met creative director Kevin Arpino at a Rootstein event. As David explains, "Kevin looked at Phillipe and was like, 'Darling, that's how it's done.' That sort of sparked everything... Since Phillipe is the face of our brand and everything we do with The Blonds, his personal style basically inspires everything. Doing the male and female mannequins just seemed to encompass all facets of his personal style."

Phillipe refers to what he does as “drag” and also as not; he wears clothing that is typically considered “masculine” or “feminine” whenever he pleases. And while everyone else is busy categorizing everyone and everything to fit into certain roles, Phillipe and David don't believe in labels. “In all honesty, [drag] is a label, and David and I have never been about labels,” mused Phillipe. “But that's what everyone seems to call a boy who dresses in women's clothes. So, if that's the label, if that's the name for it... [But] I don't feel like I need to be like, 'Oh my god, I'm going to do drag today,' or 'I'm a drag queen.'" He just simply is: sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine. And now there's a mannequin version of each of his equally chiseled and glamorous alter egos.

Photo: Patrick McMullan.
In an industry fraught with a disconcerting lack of diversity, the Phillipe mannequins represent a stylish step toward inclusivity. And it's no surprise the change is coming from this particular pair: With season after season of crystal-covered catsuits and gowns that would drive any magpie insane, The Blonds continue to break boundaries. “It's like there are no limits,” said David. “And I don't feel like anyone should feel that they have them. And I don't think they should be judged for expressing themselves. In the world of The Blonds, that's how it is — and that's how it should be, all the time, everywhere.”

With the final word on these we've-made-it mannequins, and personal style in general, David adds: "There's no need to label it; there's no need to justify it. It just is what it is. And you should be able to wear whatever the fuck you want."