The Iron Man, designed by Antony Gormley, normally cuts a lonely figure in Victoria Square. But yesterday he found some company.

Shoppers in Birmingham were stopped in their tracks by an army of ghostly mannequins - as naked as the day they were made. They had been placed round shopping hotspots, with little more than a cloth sash to hide their modesty.

The model citizens had been placed to mark the launch of the new Style Birmingham campaign, a concerted push to promote the city as a European shopping and fashion capital.

Style Birmingham is being run by marketing Birmingham on behalf of more than 1,000 shops in the city centre, large chains and small independent boutiques. It will involve national advertising, a retail directory, awards, fashion shows and a website - - which goes live today, offering style hints, articles and features as well as shop and brand lists. It will be holding a four-day extravaganza in April to give retailers the chance to shine in front of thousands as they celebrate Style in the City.

Retail Birmingham business manager Nigel Godfrey, who is overseeing the campaign, said: "Birmingham is ranked as the best shopping destination in the UK outside London. That is a position that we want to maintain and build on for the benefit of all retailers in the city centre.

"Style Birmingham will project shopping and fashion in the city as one voice and the industry leader so that it's no longer about one shop, one street or one shopping centre against another.

"It's about 1,000 shops in one destination, it's about 100 independent retailers in the city centre and quirky Victorian shopping arcades standing shoulder to shoulder with modern department stores and high street brands. That is what makes this campaign unique, it's designed to represent everyone."

More than 30 million people visited Birmingham last year, with the city's shops being a major draw for many of them, recent figures collated by marketing Birmingham show.

The retail industry in Birmingham employs around 47,000 people, and brings in more than #2.1 billion to the local economy every year.

Mr Godfrey said the mannequins were the ideal way to promote Style Birmingham, and said the idea was to suggest that style hungry mannequins want to come to Birmingham above anywhere else to get dressed.

"The decision to use unclothed mannequins was a bold one but illustrates what the campaign aims to achieve so concisely," he said.

"They tell consumers that Style Birmingham can be whatever you want it to be, you don't have to fit into a certain look or demographic to find what you want.

"It's also really key to highlight that the campaign isn't just about clothes, it encompasses everything that is available in the city centre which makes the offer all the more rich.

"The campaign aims to encourage more people to visit the city from further a field and reinforce Birmingham's position as a style capital."