150-year-old mannequin firm could be forced out of area (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Proportion London produces thousands of distinctive mannequins for fashion houses
A business which has produced hand-made mannequins for the fashion industry for nearly 150 years may be forced from Walthamstow after its factory was sold for development.
Proportion London, which was founded in France in 1867, makes hand-crafted, fibreglass and papier-mâché mannequins for high-end fashion houses.
The firm moved to an old tram depot, known as Mandora House, in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow, in 2002.
But the owner, Peter Ferstendik, has sold the land for a housing development and the firm, which employs 60 skilled workers, has until May next year to move out.
The search has now begun for a new premises for the company, which produces 2,500 fibre glass mannequins and 15,000 papier-mâché variants a year.
Managing Director, Keith Fox, 65, says the factory is more than 100 years old and was used to produce slippers for Marks and Spencer up until 2000.
He said: “This factory was not built to make mannequins but we’ve got by over the years and grown to love it.
“We’re now looking to buy a factory which is in keeping with what we need and I don’t think there is a premises suited to what we need in Walthamstow.”
Many of the staff employed at the site live in Walthamstow and surroundings areas in east London.
Mr Fox adds that losing skilled people as a result of moving would be “detrimental”.
“The likelihood of finding the same level of skilled employees would be very slim,” he said.
Creative Director Tanya Reynolds admitted she is saddened by the prospect of leaving Walthamstow.
She said: “It will be very sad if we have to leave Walthamstow, especially as many of the staff lives locally.
“Wherever we end up moving to, we want to try and keep as much of our workers, artisan directors and designers employed.”
Proportion London owns three other subsidiaries which operate alongside staff at the factory.
Gems Studio designs wax and fibreglass mannequins for museums and exhibitions, Studio Mannequins sell mannequins to independent retails and Bodyline is a mannequin renovation business.
Clientele include Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, Hobbs, Liberty and Marks and Spencer to name a few.
In 2013, Proportion London worked with organisers on the creation of the 54 display figures used in the sell-out David Bowie exhibition at the V&A museum.