Recently, Swiss disability advocacy organization Pro Infirmis created a campaign to help raise awareness on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The organization picked five people to participate in the campaign.
1. Athlete Urs Kolly, who lost part of his right leg.
2. Miss Handicap 2010’s Jasmine Rechsteiner, who has kyphoscoliosis (deformation of the spine).
3. Actor Erwin Alijukić, who has brittle bone disease.
4. Radio host and film critic, Alex Oberholzer, who has polio.
5. Blogger Nadja Schmid, who has ongenital spinal muscular atrophy
In short, the video titled “Because who is perfect?”, showed a designer taking measurements of the five candidates and making mannequins that mirrored their bodies. The custom mannequins were dressed and displayed on the store front of Zurich’s main street, Bahnhofstrasse, which is known as the world’s most expensive retail strip. Then, the video filmed the surprised reactions of people passing by.
Heartwarming quotes like: “It is special to see yourself like this. When you usually can’t look at yourself in the mirror”, reminds me of Dove’s viral real beauty sketch campaign on self esteem. It’s also riding on the plus size and colour mannequin trend that’s been going around lately as well. It is a beautiful video and does the job of bringing awareness and representing a demographic that’s often excluded. However, as much as I do believe the good intentions behind this, I’ve noticed a few things that can be problematic.
1. The "Special Occasion" Mannequin
As far as representing a group of people, this shouldn't be a one time thing. They shouldn't be seen as the "special ocassion" mannequins that gets pulled out just for International Day of Persons with Disabilities. These people live like this their whole lives, which leads me to my second point...
2. It Doesn't Stop at Changing the Mannequin
Mannequins are seen as representations of ourselves when we shop, hence that's why they're there. But, how many times have you tried on something just to realize they don't fit you like how they fit on the mannequin? What I'm saying is, this is more than a representation issue.
3. Isolating A Demographic
Personally, I would've liked to see a mix of custom mannequins and the original mannequins together, all dressed up in the store front. I find it unneccesary to segregate the two because we do all exist together. What we want to do is integrate people with disabilities into our society, not isolate them.
4. Not-So-Hidden Advertisements
The glossy store sign Modissa was shot so many times, the campaign could've passed as a commercial which was what I literally thought before I read about the organization. Plus, this video suspiciously went viral during holiday shopping season...