Store hopes topless mannequin will raise cancer awareness

Bare Essentials shop owners want to bring the issue of breast cancer further out into the open.

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DUBAI // A few years ago, Cheryl Mason and Jan Curtis would not have dreamt of leaving the mannequins at their swimwear store dressed only in bikinis. Yet these days, their Bare Essentials shop at the Jumeirah Centre has a mannequin that is not only underdressed, but topless - with just one breast. The mannequin was put there as part of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, and will remain until the end of November.

Mrs Mason and Ms Curtis want to bring the issue of breast cancer further out into the open. They have tagged all of their merchandise with brochures detailing how women can self-check for lumps, and put posters in their changing rooms. "It is only natural to be raising awareness at such stores," Ms Curtis said, "because women will be trying on swimwear tops and bras in the changing rooms, and the whole subject is relevant to such an experience."

The mannequin was not placed in the store window, to avoid offending passers-by. Mrs Mason said reaction from female customers has been very positive. "We were worried that the mall management might have a problem with the display, but we have had no complaints," she said. Ms Curtis said they are proud to be the only store doing such a campaign, "but it is also a shame that there isn't enough awareness happening in lingerie and swimwear stores".

The idea for the campaign came from the Dubai office of Memac Ogilvy, an advertising and public relations agency. When representatives of the agency approached Mrs Mason with the idea she loved it. Till Hohmann, the agency's executive creative director, said it was a challenge finding someone to show the mannequin. "When we thought about the idea internally, we thought it was hard-hitting, but we considered the circumstances," he said. "We obviously could not put such a mannequin in a storefront in Mall of the Emirates." Mr Hohmann said the agency wanted to implement the idea in an intimate environment where mostly women would see it. He said that in choosing Bare Essentials, a store popular with Dubai women for 16 years, he was reassured that the women who entered the store would understand the idea and not be offended by it.

"The mannequin is not out of place in a swimwear store," he said. Customers, mostly expatriate women who frequented the mall, did not seem to mind the mannequin's presence either. "I don't find the mannequin offending," said Rima Ahmed, 26. "It is not really in your face, and only people who walk into the store to look seriously can see it." The store's campaign supports the national campaign against breast cancer, she said.

"There is nothing wrong with shedding light on a cause that affects many women in the world."