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The New Nike Mannequins – A Step in the Right Direction

Earlier this month, Nike revealed their new plus-size and parasport mannequins in its London store.

Shop mannequins are often criticised for showing pale-skinned, Barbie-doll style bodies which are not representative of the bodies of the consumers they are selling to.

While Nike’s plus-size mannequin has received mixed reviews – many people have been praising Nike for their inclusive initiative while some commenters, such as Tanya Gold, argued in The Telegraph that the mannequin was ‘glorifying obesity’ and showed a model who ‘is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She cannot run. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.’ These comments were quickly combatted by positive body image campaigners who saw her views at fatphobic and size-ist. However, the parasport mannequin which shows the disabled mannequin styled in black Nike leggings that are customised to accommodate a running blade, has been met with an outpouring of appreciation and praise for Nike. Sportswear brands tend to exclusively feature able-bodied models so this is a fantastic breakthrough.

As the first disabled or parasport mannequin on a shop floor, this is, clearly, a huge step in the right direction for inclusivity and a positive move in normalising disability. After all, there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK who have an estimated spending power of £249 billion, yet this ‘purple pound’ represents the largest untapped consumer market.

It is odd and disappointing that more brands are not looking to include these consumers in their marketing and retail plans but Nike’s parasport model shows we are heading in the right direction. Hopefully more brands will come on board with similar initiatives soon. In fact, earlier this year a wedding dress shop in Portishead made headlines when the owner featured a mannequin in a wheelchair in a wedding dress in their shop window.

While individual shops and brands are making moves to factor the disabled community into their strategic plans by initiatives such as improving accessibility in stores, designing adaptive clothing and having disabled models in their fashion campaigns, we hope more and more brands take notice and start to make positive movements to allows us to become a truly inclusive society that caters for all people – whatever their ability and body type.