History / About / Early Days

Adel Rootstein's early days

Rootstein was born in South Africa in 1930 to Russian parents. She came to the UK in the 1950s and, after working as a window-dresser for Aquascutum on Oxford Street, she set up her own company making display props for smaller London fashion stores.

In 1956, together with her husband, the industrial designer Richard Hopkins, she founded Rootstein, the mannequin company that would forever change the look of retail fashion displays.

Rootstein spent much of her career working with sculptor John Taylor. Their combined talents would see the company grow exponentially from its early start in a backroom of a Soho greengrocers to headquarters in the United Kingdom and the USA. At its peak the company employed almost 200 people.

Despite its growth, Rootstein managed to retain a sense of experimentation - recognising trend and talent ahead of its time - and infusing her forms with the spirit of the age. Long before it was topical, Rootstein had a passion for diversity, her collections were often based on multicultural references and featured models of varying shape, size and colour.

Rootstein's first collections were based on up and coming personalities of the time; arguably one of her most famous being Twiggy which was sculpted by John Taylor in the early 1960s. Before then, mannequins were typically narrow waisted with a size 34 chest, modelled on Hollywood personalities of the 1930s and 40s. Twiggy changed all that...

Twiggy never stood erect and no mannequin has stood erect since.
Adel Rootstein - Speaking to the Washington Post 1975

Imogen from the Go Go Girl Collection. 1965

Her very first creation, a reclining mannequin based on the fashion model Imogen was unique in every sense. Rootstein styled her in a dramatic reclining pose affording true personality and charm to her form. It was unlike anything seen in shop windows at the time. For the first time, Rootstein's mannequins gave visual merchandisers the same tools for staging as photographers had with magazine models.

Magazines had begun to relate clothes to real people, yet it never occurred to stores to do this with their window displays, even though this is precisely what they were selling.
Adel Rootstein - Speaking to the Washington Post 1975

By the 1970s, Rootstein had firmly positioned herself as an arbiter of popular culture. Her sources of inspiration were now expanding to the burgeoning music and club scenes. ‘The Aristocrats’, ‘Today’s Men’ (which included photographer Lord Patrick Lichfield) and ‘The Actors’ collections became cultural barometers in their own right. Marie Helvin, pioneering Japanese model Sayoko and Pat Cleveland were some of the stand out Rootstein figures of the period.

It is the greatest change since the Sixties, Once more, the focus is on the club scene, escapism and fun.
Adel Rootsein

The glamour of the 1980s seemed to come at a perfect time for Rootstein - popular culture and television had offered her such characters as Alexis Colby-Carrington (Played by Joan Collins) and society hostess, Dianne Brill. These were larger than life personalities that defined the era. The early 1980s proved to be a distinct turning point from subtlety to escapist fantasy.

Dianne Brill; "The shape of the 90s"

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rootstein had amassed a large body of work. Models and actresses, Yasmin Le Bon, Susie Bick and Dianne de Witt all featured in her collections which now seemed firmly entrenched in a sophisticated style.

In 1990, the Rootstein Hopkins Group Ltd was bought by Japanese mannequin manufacturer, Yoshichu who had been a long time collaborator of Adel's. They continued to grow the business and release collections that stayed true to Adel's founding principles. The company has continued to release hugely successful collections including both abstract and traditional realistic mannequins.

Adel Rootstein died in London on the 20th September 1992.

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