Instagram is full of idiosyncratic, wearable crafts, from James T. Merry‘s impossible-to-obtain “Sporticulture” tees to the many things now being made from IKEA bags. But 22-year-old Mexico City-based illustrator and embroidery artist José Ramirez’s “Embroidery Nipples” are truly something special, even in an era where boobs are being cheekily placed on everything from tote bags to throw pillows. For one thing, Ramirez’s tenderly sewn, delicately pierced nipples look almost eerily realistic. Who knew that a bunch of light pink thread stitched together correctly could look so much like an actual nipple? Rendered on slouchy sweatshirts, minimalist tees, and yes, tote bags, the results are edgy, provocative, and yet somehow still totally wearable.
We caught up with Ramirez to talk “Free the Nipple,” his artistic inspirations, and how you can get a pair of these daintily pierced nips for yourself.
When and why did you start making Embroidery Nipples?
I started about a year and a half ago. I have a workshop and a neighbor had given me recycled couture materials; at that time I had read about the “Free the Nipple” movement, specifically an article that talked about the hypocrisy in social media by banning and censoring such part of the female body. So I decided to practice on a stitch that gave that natural nipple effect on a basic tee, so that article gave me an extra kick in the butt to go ahead and embroider my own nipples.
What about the “Free the Nipple” movement specifically spoke to you?
I think it’s an important movement because no one had really taken the time to realize there was such censorship around it and the whole fact of sexualising a female nipple trying to come to an end. The nature and purity of a human body shouldn’t be sexualised, nor censored nor seen as violent to anyone. Not being able to show nipples without censorship, to me, it’s like someone forbidding me to make a decision.
What is it about nipples that you find artistically inspiring?
The colors of the skin in the area, being able to admire the colors changing and blending in a body part and being able to modify its appearance with piercings.
Where can people buy your products?
Through my Instagram account, where it’s me replying to all the orders and local design sales. I am aiming and hoping to soon open an online shop so my work can reach out to many other parts of the globe.
What’s it like for you to see people wearing and enjoying your products?
It’s super cool because I’ve met so many different souls who’ve identified with my shirt, I’ve even found my work in music festivals when I’m out for a dance night or even walking through the city’a downtown.
What have been some of the best/funniest reactions to Embroidery Nipples?
All my clients’ parents put on very strange faces when their kids purchase my pieces. Once, I sent a shirt in the mail and the girl who had ordered it wasn’t home so her father opened the package, so the girl texted me and attached a screenshot of her father fussing about her walking in the streets with a shirt that had nipples on it.
How long have you been doing embroidery?
Since I was nine years old because my grandma does embroidery too. The first shirt I ever made was near the end of 2015, but my project as a brand is only 8 months old.
What other artistic projects or creative endeavors are you involved in?
I throw local design sales with my friends, the project’s name is “Internet Friends Having Art Parties” cause they’re all friends I made online and we are all involved in personal art projects. I have an alternate brand as a newbie illustrator (@holajoseramirez) and I participate on calls of temporary art.
Who are some other artists/fashion designers whose work you admire?
Right now, I’m really digging Weimar Youths, which is a Mexican fashion brand that feeds off feelings and the youth’s protests. And Scent, a leather goods and graphic tees brand that throws political ideologies and feelings out there. Both brands have something I find myself in, the fact that clothing is used as a canvas to protest and let everyone acknowledge a generation’s ideals.
What’s next for Embroidery Nipples?
I’m planning on applying the project on more garments and play around with different fabrics, I’m hoping and aiming for the pieces to make their way all over the globe and hopefully, more people have fun with them, feeling identified with its purpose; that my shirt stands out in the streets in different countries, I would also love to collaborate with other creative minds and brands that like Embroidery Nipples and well, launching a retail shop soon.