Los Angeles’s Bones and Feathers Collective creates anatomically correct jewelry by hand-dipping wax casts of fox, shark, and rattlesnake vertebrae into molten bronze derived from expired bullet casings. Even more spine-tingling? Designers Natalie Mauro and Nicole Morrall have thrown in a bronze-cast necklace of dangling human teeth, with the goal of showcasing a collection that “hovers between where we begin and end as humans and animals alike.”
Looking for a pair of shoes to complete your creepy Halloween costume? Fantich and Young just carved their way into our darkest nightmares with a pair of black oxfords soled with 1,050 fake human teeth. Some of the dentures even sport gold caps. “The idea for the shoes are based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection and juxtaposing them with the supernatural elements of pagan rites and rituals,” according to designers Mariana Fantich and Dominic Young. If that’s not unsettling enough, the duo also offers a matching suit from human hair and glass eyes.
For folks whose tastes run in the truly macabre, there’s the creative taxidermies of Diamond Tooth Taxidermy, James Faulkner, and R/P Encore. Budding Norman Bateses will delight in their lurid offerings, which include headdresses made with roadkill-pigeon feathers, coin purses hewn from whole mice (the unavoidable victims of pest control, we’re told), and hats modeled on the uneaten portions of last night’s rabbit stew.
Remedios Vincent’s grisly accessories would fit right in the prop room of a Hammer horror film. Like a mad scientist who operates in an atelier in lieu of a laboratory, Vincent creates his wares—old prescription lenses lined with human lashes, rings hollowed from false eyeballs, brooches studded with teeth—by arranging antique medical instruments and vintage prosthetics in the most discomposing way. “These objects have their own stories, having been used by people who lived in other parts of the world,” he explains. “I have tried to retain their spirit subtlety intervening in them.”
BREAKING THE MOLD
Ninela Ivanova is a Kingston University graduate student who experiments with mold and fungi to create her unconventional garments. Her “Moulded Minds” collection is a far cry from your typical science-fair entry, however. Inspired by Dmitry Vassilev’s 2009 documentary about humans and fungi, the garments question our notions of beauty and decay. “Mold is extraordinary,” Ivanova tells Ecouterre. “It thrives when nothing else can grow. It prospered in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and even grows on the outside of spaceships.”
Kerry Howley’s jewelry is guaranteed to put some hair on your chest. That’s because the Middlesex University graduate uses actual human locks, specifically her own, plus that of a friend’s mother. Hair, according to Howley, is a familiar material we take pride in, yet it becomes a source of aversion once it parts from the body. She chose to focus on symmetrical forms that are instinctively pleasing, creating what she describes as a “delicate balance” between delight and disgust. “Although theoretically contrasting emotional responses, attraction and aversion are oddly congruous,” she says. “There is often an element of fascination to the repulsive.”
Londoners can hardly be called prudes, but a dress made from 3,000 protruding cow nipples had 2011 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 raised the ire of the British public, politicians, and animal-rights groups alike, who branded it “inappropriate and disturbing,” “absolutely grotesque,” “sickening and repulsive,” and a “runaway freak show.”
Sruli Recht might be suffering for his art a little too literally. For his Autumn/Winter 2013 collection, the Icelandic designer created a “Forget Me Knot” ring made with a swath of flesh from his own abdomen. Following its surgical removal—you can watch a video of the procedure if you have the, pun intended, stomach for it—Recht stripped the 110-by-10-millimeter piece of skin of subcutaneous tissue and fat, salted and tanned it with alum solution, then mounted the resulting leather onto a 24-karat gold band, wiry belly hairs intact.
For a coat that puts hair on your chest, look no further than the “Man-fur Coat,” a topper made from actual human chest follicles. Commissioned by Wing-Co to promote its “manly” chocolate milk in a series of parody ads, the coat served as a “wake-up call for the nation’s gents…to readopt the values of assured ‘men’s men’ from yesteryear who would laugh nonchalantly in the face of adversity and be proud of their abundant manliness.” Um, okay.
Blink and you’re likely to miss it, but one of Snow White and the Huntsman’s high points is a gleaming turquoise gown that Charlize Theron wears in her role of the wicked queen. Trimmed with thousands of discarded jewel-beetle wings from Thailand, where the insect is a delicacy, the dress is a brittle, decaying carapace that mirrors Queen Ravena’s own physical and psychological deterioration. Costume designer Colleen Atwood might have been inspired by a Victorian-era gown worn by Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. Recently restored by the National Trust at the cost of £50,000 ($81,000), the dress features 1,000 iridescent beetle wings, 100 of which had to be painstakingly repaired using small pieces of Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.