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Vilnius restaurants use fashionable mannequins to fill empty tables

Restaurants in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, are using social distancing rules to become fashion displays for local designers. As of this week, the country has eased the restrictions on bars, cafes and restaurants to allow them to operate indoor seating areas, although strict social distancing measures remain in place. Tables that otherwise must be kept empty will therefore be used for mannequins to demonstrate this season’s fashions.

“Empty tables inside our restaurant look rather odd, and we don’t have any way to remove them,” explains Bernie Ter Braak, the owner of Cozy restaurant, who came up with the idea with a local well-known fashion designer, Julija Janus. “Therefore, we decided to reach out to our neighbours, fashion boutique stores, and invited them to use our empty tables to showcase their newest collections. The news spread, and well-known designers joined the project, which is gaining interest across the city.”

Currently, a few dozen restaurants and cafés located in the Old Town Glass Quarter of Vilnius are participating in the initiative – over 60 originally dressed mannequins have been placed at the unused indoor tables, filling the space between dining guests. The mannequins will showcase unique fashion pieces from 19 boutiques, featuring local fashion designers and brands. At each table, visitors will be able to find information about the exhibited items and where each piece can be purchased. This way, restaurants expect to be able to maintain the required indoor social distancing while helping designers gain attention for this season’s newest fashion trends.

The idea, which unites art, fashion and food, was fully supported by IDW, one of Europe’s leading high-quality mannequin manufacturers, which agreed to provide all the mannequins free of charge.

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“The fashion industry is particularly affected by the lockdown,” says Janus. “Local boutiques used to sell the niche, original pieces created by local designers. As they are currently closed due to the quarantine, designers do not have many opportunities to showcase their latest collections, and in general, the consumption is down. We hope that this campaign will move the waters and local designers will gain some visibility.”

According to the designer, those who have joined the campaign want to spread one clear message: “A crisis like this calls for all of us to unite and help each other – together, we can achieve much more than being alone.”

Earlier this month, Vilnius fashion designers, also led by Janus, organised the world’s first Mask Fashion Week. The unique showcase of quarantine masks on the city’s outdoor posters was among a bunch of other Vilnius initiatives, such as a giant open-air cafe and airport drive-in cinema.

According to the mayor of the city, Remigijus Šimašius, such initiatives will keep happening across Vilnius.

“While the quarantine restricts us in many ways, I have always believed that it also gives us many opportunities, which we can use creatively to unveil the boundless charm of our city,” says the mayor. “This current initiative is a perfect match of communal spirit and creativity working side by side – and it also brings us some tangible material benefits.”

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