Londoners can hardly be called prudes, but a dress made from 3,000 protruding cow nipples—not yak, as People.co.uk erroneously reported—had Fashion Week attendees clutching at their pearls like disapproving dowagers. Designed by Liverpool-born designer Rachel Freire, who fashioned the nipples into disarmingly genteel rosettes, the floor-length gown has raised the ire of the British public, politicians, and animal-rights groups alike, who have branded it “inappropriate and disturbing,” “absolutely grotesque,” “sickening and repulsive,” and a “runaway freak show,” according to the gossip website.
But Freire, who obtains her materials from tannery waste, doesn’t comprehend the outrage. “All of the leather used is a byproduct of the meat industry and the nipples are a byproduct of that leather production,” she writes on her Facebook wall. “Their use is absolutely no different to any use of leather, the source is exactly the same. To specifically attack me for using the most narrative part of the animal seems strange when everyone who uses leather is doing exactly the same thing, it is just more abstract and therefore more socially acceptable.”
“Their use is absolutely no different to any use of leather, the source is exactly the same,” Freire says.
Which brings us to a critical question: Is the dress more objectionable because we’re forced to confront its source? If leather from hide is copacetic, then why shouldn’t any other part of the animal? Are we just Thinking of the ChildrenTM or does our censure, particularly for people who have never seen a Porterhouse steak they didn’t like, frankly smack of hypocrisy? Surely our indignation could be better spent on curtailing livestock production—one of the major causes of global warming, land degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss—without which all of this fuss would be rendered moot.
“What I am doing is recycling,” Freire tells People.co.uk. “The people criticizing are clearly clueless about the amount of leather wasted on a daily basis.”