I was eagerly scrolling through Instagram (which has, incidentally, become my favorite social media platform - please join and follow me, it's so much fun!) and came across a familiar image from one of the many vintage ephemera accounts I follow.
(image from instagram.com)
I knew it was makeup-related, but couldn't recall which company had used something that looked just like this lingerie mannequin. Was it Too-Faced? The Balm? Nope. I racked my brain but just couldn't place it. It wasn't until I started packing for a weekend at my parents' house that it dawned on me.
Aha! I believe I found the original source for Benefit's Luscious Lana, especially given that Benefit refers to her as a lingerie model. In an alternate version of the makeup bag she has the rose up by her head, but not in the original green bag. I'm guessing Benefit used a reproduction mannequin of the Flexees one since her face is a little different. Naturally this serindipitous find got me interested in trying to track down other vintage mannequins to see whether they figured into Benefit's packaging and advertising, and I found another lingerie mannequin that appeared on many of Benefit's old catalogs. Apparently both this model and the one used for Lana were mannequins meant to be displayed on a store counter top, so they're pretty small - not life-size or anything, which makes them cute rather than creepy. Both also appear to be from the 1940s or so.
As with Lana the face on this one is ever so slightly different.
(image from ebay.com)
While the features on this mannequin aren't as strikingly similar to the previous two, she still may have served as inspiration for Benefit's Beautiful Bermuda Betty, who appeared in various catalogs and a bag. The downward-looking pose, hairstyle and smoky eye with thin arched brows look alike, although not identical.
(image from ebay.com)
I dug a little more but still couldn't find any original sources for Gabbi Glickman, who is probably Benefit's 2nd best known mannequin mascot. I did unearth a pair of mannequin heads that are identical, but there was no information provided about them.
The one I was most interested in finding though was the mannequin used for Simone, the dark-haired beauty sporting a lavish gold dress who is probably Benefit's most recognized mascot. Full-sized Simones reside in Benefit's headquarters in both San Francisco and Canada, and she appeared as the cover girl for most of the aforementioned catalogs.
(image from sfgate.com)
I did find a mannequin that looked just like Simone, but I had no idea what company it was for or approximately when it was made. This was displayed at a Chanel event but I don't think it was an official Chanel advertising piece.
(image from pinterest.com)
It also doesn't look like a regular vintage mannequin but rather a reproduction. Looking at both this and Benefit's other mannequins in their offices, I'm wondering if they're using a mix of authentic vintage pieces and reproductions.
(image from refinery29.com)
For example, the third mannequin from the right definitely resembles this reproduction...
(image from crunkleton.com)
...while the blonde right in the middle is a dead ringer for this vintage 1940s jewelry mannequin.
(image from ebay.com)
Why does Benefit rely so heavily on mannequins for their marketing? One reason is that in their early days, the company couldn't afford to pay real spokespeople and models, so the mannequins served as a stand-in (this was also the reason Stila used illustrations). Second, Benefit founders and Jean and Jane Ford always had an affinity for vintage fashion and beauty items.* In a 2011 interview, Jean explained: "Over the years, Jane and I have collected vintage pieces for inspiration...we have vintage mannequins, compacts, posters, handbags and lots of old magazines. There is something very romantic about the past. For our packaging, we use both modern and old-fashioned images and styles to create fun products that women will want to carry in their bags or display on their vanity." Indeed, using retro designs in a modern way has proved to be a dynamite strategy for the company. I don't really see it as nostalgia for the past, per se, but rather an appreciation for the overall style and occasionally more kitschy aspects of selling femininity, such as those countertop display lingerie mannequins. Sometimes I look at old makeup ads and burst out laughing - to modern eyes, the cheesiness and over-the-top tone are genuinely funny. Benefit seizes the opportunity to celebrate the sillier side of vintage beauty and fashion and infused it into their entire brand.
What do you think?