Perfect figures, sensual curves and the refinement of good taste is how Siegel & Stockman see Women. This company, created in the 19th century, still sculpts and moulds busts and tailor's dummies using the same gestures. They are displayed in Haute Couture Houses and in shop-windows all over the World.
When the sales girl in a clothes' shop asks you your size, you answer, without thinking, a triumphant size 10, a model's size. It is a common question and so is the answer. It is rather like a note in music. They have a name and you do not wonder if they always had one. Yet, if we owe dare, me to Gudio d'Arezzo, we can thank Fredric Stockman for having categorized us into size 8, 10, 12 or more, in 1887.
More than a century ago, Fredric Stockman was the first to think that it should be possibly to standardize the shapes of the human body. That is how the sizes in cloths, that we know today, came into being. At a tie when only the rich had their tailors and dress-makers, he was a precursor in believing in the burgeoning democratization of cloths and, together with his associate and designer, Siegel, he started to manufacture busts and dummies to be used in the ready-to-wear trade and by couturiers.
Caroline Mondon, the managing director of the Siegel et Stock company, which is the world number one on this market with 70% of its turnover coming from abroad, explains. At Siegel & Stockman, exporting is an old tradition. “We intervene in such a restricted market that it has always been essential for us to export. At the moment, we cater for two kinds of market. The first concerns the so-called developing countries where we work for sewing workshops and schools, in Africa and in Pakistan. The second is aimed at fashion designers and shop-Windows in the so-called rich countries”. Thus the famous “Stockman's” can be seen in Haute Couture windows and workshops all over the world, but the refinement goes further than that. It is not ordinary standard bust. Each country and each customer receives dummies made-to-measure. “The vital statistics of a Japanese woman are completely different from an American one and so we adapt to each morphology and, in general, to the development in women's bodies. For that purpose, we work with big fashion houses such as Jean-Paul Gautier, Dior and Saint-Laurent and we enlarge the bust or slim down the waist and hips of our dummies according to fashion trends. Two sculptures work for us and shape the bust”.
Every year, more than 5,000 busts intended for haute couture and 100,000 tailor's dummies leave the workshops in Gennevilliers to be used in show windows all over the world. “The market has grown considerably and small shops have been replaced by chain stores such as Gap. So we have to modify our sales strategy. We now have a subsidiary in the United States and we are about to invest in Japan and in Great Britain, two big markets”. At Siegel & Stockman, without displaying frenzied, unconscious optimism, people feel confident and sure of their know-how. “Our strength lies in our being able to manufacture different products, with different shapes of figures, or with wooden or metal feet, according to the wishes of the customers and to make moulds corresponding exactly to their demands. For two years, in addition to haute couture busts made of papier-mâché covered in cotton. We have created a resin model which is faster to manufacture, thereby increasing our production capacity.” The company does not, however, work with the emphasis on speed to the detriment of quality, which characterizes consumer society obsessed with profitability. In its workshops, sixty-five people work using the same gestures as in the 19th century. The tradition of craftsman ship is maintained. Everything is done by hand, from the molding to the dressing and all the components are perfectly chosen and adapted to the various models. There is, however, another important argument, which serves Siegel and Stockman rather well and that is the legendary French elegance. “It is undeniable that this is a major marketing asset. The Italians are reputed for being talented designers. The Germans play on the sturdiness of their products and, as for us, we rely on the image of distinguished chic, in the style of Catherine Deneuve. It is one of our assets and we would be wrong not to take advantage of it! ”