Why the nipple is becoming fashion's must-have accessory
We have reached peak nipple, thanks to the very clever marketing strategy of a certain Kim Kardashian
On Tuesday, Paris Fashion Week kicked off and the anticipation around the Yves Saint Laurent show was at a peak. A new head designer was about to show his debut collection for the house. Six months ago, 34-year-old Belgian-Italian designer Anthony Vaccarello was given one of the biggest gigs in fashion.
Vaccarello stayed true to his own aesthetic of amped-up sexuality and YSL's predilection for the little black dress.
Very short frocks in very shiny fabric took to the catwalk, with one in particular garnering the most attention.
Strapless, black and tight, it was cut to cover one side of the chest whilst the neckline swooped right under the model's left breast, leaving it entirely exposed save for a diamante nipple pastie.
Perhaps it was a pastiche to Helmut Newton's iconic image of YSL's Le Smoking tuxedo. Newton famously photographed two models, one in the tailored trouser suit and the other completely naked, with one breast bared brazenly at the camera.
That was in 1975 but it's fair to say the nipple had its heyday in the 1960s. They emerged unbridled into the mainstream as the sexual revolution peaked, hemlines shot up and bras were burned.
There was sex, there was love and there were lots and lots of nipples. In 1966, YSL showed Le Smoking as part of his 'Pop Art' collection and exactly 50 years on both YSL and the nipple are the talk of the town.
How is it that a piece of flesh the size of a coin is such a cause for contention? Do we really still find them so… titillating? No other body part has its own hashtag or strident social movement behind it.
Folks, we have reached peak nipple and the person we have to thank for this breast baring upheaval is not the bra burners of yesteryear nor the Vaccarellos of Planet Fashion but the iconoclast of modern times - Kim Kardashian.
She built her career quite literally on her buttocks but most recently it's her mammaries being bared for the cause. In a particularly memorable stunt, she teamed up with Emily Ratajkowski, a model-come-actress, who was launched into Hollywood's stratosphere by a topless appearance in Pharrell William's Blurred Lines music video.
They took to Instagram, the social media platform that censors female nipples whilst allowing male ones to frolic freely on the internet, in a topless photo with middle fingers up and boobs out (albeit censored behind a black bar) in a bid to promote female empowerment.
We've seen Kim's nipples so often we are probably more familiar with them than we are our own. They were coyly peeping out from the see-through chainmail dress she wore to a Kanye concert last month. There again in Paper magazine as she attempted to break the internet. They even went to the desert, covered in a stripe of body paint.
This is a woman who has leveraged various body parts to further entrench herself in contemporary pop culture. Call her vulgar, call her irrelevant, but I call her very clever. We are in peak nipple thanks to the furore caused by this Kardashian. Does Kim really care about Instagram's sexist nipple policy? Probably not.
What she does care about is her brand and, by virtue, her body. By fanning the flames of a trend that allows her to further advertise her wares her star continues to rise. And as for that YSL dress? If I were in the market for a designer LBD I think I'd prefer not to have to pair it with a nipple pastie.