Mannequins Modeled After People with Disabilities –

Changing Contexts and Transforming Experiences 

Just two days ago, I said that I couldn’t wait until designers recognized that people with disabilities wore their clothes and made sure their clothes complimented all kinds of bodies. Well, someone must have heard me because today we have progress! Small progress, but progress nonetheless.

 In addition to Giving Tuesday, December 3rd is also the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. For the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pro Infirmis, a disability organization, created a mannequins modeled after people with disabilities that will be used in store windows. The project is called Because Who is Perfect? The video above shows the process of creating the mannequins, the reactions the models had seeing mannequins in their image, and the reactions of people as they walk past the mannequins on display.

There is a whole lot going on this video. A whole lot. And, I have so many thoughts swirling around my head, but two thoughts are clear.

There are so many moments in this video that reference back to dark, stigmatizing experiences in the lives of disabled people, including my own, but because this project drastically shifts the context of these experiences  they become transformed into something generative, validating, and positive.

The process of taking detailed measurements of bodies made me think of fittings for casts, braces, and other corrective devices. And, historically how these measurements were used to determine the extent of someone’s impairment in a kind of anthropometry and in order to justify their need for treatments and therapies. The measurements in this video are not received with fear of a cold brace that corrects a perceived defect but with eager anticipation for the creation of an object that embraces and appreciates disability. 

The store window made me think of freak shows and medical theaters, forums for gawking, staring, and objectifying disabled people. Again, within the store front window, the history of disabled people being stared at gets transformed. Store front windows are sites that arouse admiration, desire, and aspirations for the future. When you look at a store window display, you are meant to be able to see yourself wearing the outfits or wish you could see yourself in that outfit.

Although the stage has changed, the puzzled reactions of onlookers is similar to what people with disabilities have experienced for an incredibly long time, but, perhaps this project puts us a few steps closer towards shifting those reactions.


HEYNIEK Mannequins handmade for Modebelofte

My name is Niek Pulles, graduated in 2009 at Design Academy Eindhoven / Man and Identity.

Blurring boundaries between product design and fashion while investigating the interacts between body and material is the core of my work.

Childhood inspiration, archetypes, primitive forms with a hands on technique describes my creative signature. If you would have to give it a name I would prefer researcher and visual designer always with an unorthodox approach towards new processes.


Thanks to Saucer Kommand


Pro Infirmis “Because who is perfect?”

People with disabilities respond to seeing their bodies represented as mannequins.