She’s got a 24-inch waist and a 39-inch ass, not exactly your typical fashion-model measurements. But, damn, can she wear a pair of jeans, with curves so tight you want to reach out and grab a handful. Over the last few years her career has taken off, and you can find her modeling in many of D.C.’s hippest clothing stores. The only trouble is that she has no arms or head.
She is a mannequin, or—to use the technical term for a mannequin without a detailed face—a form. What sets this particular form apart from most others is that she has a little extra junk in the trunk. “They make the clothes look good. They make you be like, ‘I want those jeans,’” says Ronald Williams, the manager of Last Stop in Iverson Mall. “The guys come in and say, ‘That mannequin is phat as I don’t know what,’” and the women say, ‘That mannequin’s phatter than me.’”
Originally from Brazil, this style of mannequin has been a boon to at least one local business—Fixtures Plus of Brentwood, Md. Fixtures Plus has been in business for over 15 years, selling mostly glass display cases, racks, and other merchandising staples. However, over the past two years, the self-advertised “Cheapest Guys in Town” have found a lucrative business selling ass. “The local market calls them J.Lo’s,” says Fixtures Plus owner Mark Avissar, about the Brazilian beauties he sells. “They are just butt, legs, and tits—that’s it.”
Fixtures Plus is an easy place to miss, a small storefront in an industrial area, separated from the main drag of Rhode Island Avenue by an old, worn parking lot. Nothing unusual here at all, except for the group of naked people looking out from the second-floor window under a handmade sign: “Mannequins.”
In his upstairs showroom, Avissar has all sorts of mannequins: children, adults, black, white, male, female, thin, heavyset—even one with the face of a dog on a human body. He says that people often visit his shop attempting to buy mannequins to dress up and put in their passenger seats so they can drive in HOV lanes at rush hour.
But all of these mannequins are standing still in sales compared with the J.Lo. In 2003, a customer alerted Avissar to the Brazilian-style form, and he quickly found a supplier. Adel Hitana, the manager of Fixtures Plus, knew they had a hit on their hands the first time he saw the Brazilian because, he says, “everyone is looking for bigger, especially in the butt area.”
Since he first purchased the forms, Avissar says sales of them have tripled, with business peaking just before the holidays and especially “before women’s days,” such as Valentine’s Day. In a good month, he can sell as many as 50 J.Lo’s. Although Avissar won’t reveal exactly how much money his store has made off the form, he will say that “it’s good business.”
Avissar has several rows of these ladies lined up in a back room. They come in two styles, a half-body that retails for $60 and a full body for $100. This makes the form a cheap piece of ass compared with a standard mannequin (usually size 4, with a 33- to 35-inch posterior), which ranges from $160 to more than $300. One reason is that the Brazilian-style form is made of plastic while her less full-figured sisters are made of fiberglass. “The fiberglass models are stronger,” notes Hitana, but for most customers, “price is the main thing.”
But aesthetics are also driving the trend. Reflected in that shiny plastic behind is a change in the way America thinks of beautiful women. Alon Avissar, the son of the owner, who also works in the business, says, a big butt is now considered “more attractive than it was.” The Brazilian’s sales success corresponds to the dramatic increase in the popularity of low-rise jeans, as well as such big-booty-shaking stars as Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé.
According to Hitana, the company sells mostly to small boutiques and chains, such as Last Stop, Barefeet, and Body Basics. National chains, such as the Gap and Banana Republic, prefer the smaller-booty model. When asked if he thought they might use a J.Lo, with its 39-inch posterior, Andrew Corson, the men’s merchant at a Gap in downtown D.C., says, “Oh my! I don’t think our clothes would fit that.”
There’s also a cultural component attached to the big-butt model: Many of Fixtures Plus’s customers who are fans of the ass serve black and Latino shoppers. “We deal with black women—they don’t look like [regular] mannequins,” says Hameed, aka “Milk,” owner of ADIDAC (All Day I Dream About Clothes) in Forestville, Md. His J.Lo’s have earned him the admiration of his customers. “[People say], ‘Your mannequin is phat as a muthafucka,’” he says.
Lorenzo Greenbey, who owns Everything Apparel in District Heights, Md., is at Fixtures Plus looking for shelving. “Hey, you have the mannequins?” says Greenbey, while making a single scooping motion—the universal sign for big ass. Spotting the forms, he says, “They show your jeans off nice.” Greenbey should know—he has seven of them on display in the showcase window of his shop. “It stops people on the street,” he says.CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery.