FORGET flower crowns or reams of boho jewellery. This weekend, as the tsunami of images of pretty nobodies partying it up at Coachella stream through your feed, expect to see a lot of tape.
Yes, tape. For this, you can thank Joel Alvarez, the Miami designer behind the Black Tape Project, who has become infamous for creating swimsuits using only his imagination and rolls of the ubiquitous household tape.
There is a good chance you have already seen Alvarez’s work. For the last two years he has been making international headlines with his incredibly risque looks conjured entirely out of black and metallic duct tape arranged very, very carefully.
Along the way this “new artistic medium” (as he calls it) has helped him rack up 369,000 Instagram followers.
This particular project began way back in 2008 when Alvarez was a fledgling photographer.
As he explains on his website, he was working with a model when she “suggested I use electric tape for her last look…Essentially I just wrapped her in black electrical tape! Mind you she looked like two Christmas hams wrapped in rubber bands when I was done!”
While most of us would have put down the sticky stuff for good after that experience, this shoot sparked a particular creative fire in Alvarez who then went on to perfect his technique of using only duct tape to create barely-there bikinis.
Luckily, his creative foray into the world of curvaceous models and tape coincided with the ascendancy of social media. It was not soon before shots of his work were going viral and over the years he has racked up hundreds of thousands of “likes”.
That online fame has also trickled into real world success: he has since showcased his work at mainstream events including New York Fashion Week and Miami Swim Week.
But, not everyone is a fan.
Online commentators have pointed out that these very revealing ensembles can be viewed as highly exploitative.
On Twitter, one user opined: “This is misogynistic degrading ‘so-called’ fashion! How can NY fashion week support this?”
Alvarez seems to only work with woman with a very particular body type and never with blokes.
“No male example — shocker,” one online commentator wrote.
“The moment these trends stop being alternative methods of female objectification, is the moment they’ll actually make sense.”
“Isn’t this just a ploy to have women at the beach practically naked for men to drool at?” another asked.
Taking to the comments section of Jezebel, one person posted: “My ex is close friends with this guy. He is exactly what you think. A horny dude who loves touching models and pretends it’s for ‘the art’. Please.”
No matter what you think of his work, Alvarez is making bank with The Black Tape Project. Booking him for a live performance will set you back £42,000.
A personal taping session and photoshoot with the self-titled ‘King of Tape’ will cost you anywhere between £380 and £765, the New York Post has reported.
If you are particularly committed to experimenting with this sort of ‘outfit,’ Alvarez hosts seminars which teach participants how to create his mind-boggling and eye-popping styles. (Tickets prices vary from £380 to £575.)
For those who might be a big more budget-conscious, Alvarez sells eight different varieties of his signature tape via his website for between £22 to £38.
If you are considering snapping up some for at-home application, he suggests you will need about two rolls per ‘outfit.’
It hardly comes as a shock that these designs are not the most practical.
For one thing, even though his creations are widely referred to as ‘swimwear,’ his website states the tape is not waterproof and will also “come off with excessive sweat.”
The shopping section the Black Tape Project website also has this perplexing statement: “Although our tape is safe for the skin we recommend not being in direct sun exposure for an extended period of time as there is a possibility you might receive some interesting tan lines!”
Business, it would seem, is booming.
This weekend Alvarez has packed up his tape and his trusty scissors and has descended on Coachella as part of Palm Springs Fashion Week.
“I was asked 10 years ago how long and far do I think this tape thing will last,” Alvarez has posted on Instagram
“I said I have no idea but I’m [sic] milk it dry. Keep reinventing until there is nothing left to come up with.”
That, or nothing else to tape.
This story originally originally appeared on News.com.au and has been republished with permission.
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