Bug on a Leash : The Roach Brooch

Marv D'Souza , 18 Jun 2012
Hmong Boy with a Bug on a Leash
Hmong Boy with a Bug on a Leash

The Roach Brooch could probably be fashion’s most bizarre entry. When I told friends about it, no one believed me. But there is enough evidence that they do exist. They are alive, bejeweled and creepy.

What makes them interesting is that they have a history in fashion and are available in different forms.

What are they?

They are 3 inch-long Madagascar hissing cockroaches bejeweled with expensive crystals and attached by a chain to a pin. The Roach Brooch wast created by clothing designer Jared Gold in Utah. In the first few week, 25 were sold weekly for $60 in-store and $80 on-line at Black Chandelier, a clothing store owned by Gold. The live bugs on a leash set are ready to wear or scare!

Who could think of such a product?

Jared Gold
Jared Gold

Though the idea was long forgotten since its usage in the Victorian ages, designer Jared Gold revived the idea in 2005 at this Utah store. Known for his avant-garde take on Victorian sensibilities, “taking the mundane or grotesque and making it pretty or taking something pretty and making it slightly disturbing” comes naturally to Gold.

How do they Brooch the Roaches?

The Roach Brooch
The Roach Brooch

Gold claims that it takes about an hour to decorate a cockroach and his head seamstress, Aja Davis, is the studio’s “roach wrangler.” Gold’s team has their own way of prepping the insect as the latter secretes a wax that doesn’t let any adhesive stick on. The actual material used to stick the crystals to the cockroaches is a secret. Gold explains that it took months of trial and error to finally figure out a way to get jewels to stick to them.

The reason Gold worked with cockroaches is because of their shell that extends over their heads called the hood. The ‘hood’ is a non-feeling part of their body. This makes them a workable candidate for the jewels to be fixed on. Gold assures everyone that his staff is very gentle with the roaches, making sure they don’t hiss.

Once bought, how does one maintain them?

Campaigns featuring the Roach Brooch
Campaigns featuring the Roach Brooch

There is an instruction manual that come with the roaches.

Important notes: “Our Roaches, Gromphadorhina portentosa, are live creatures who require proper care to be in tip top shape to accompany you to all of tomorrows parties. With the purchase of your Roach Brooch you will also need to provide it a place to live, we recommend a small to medium terrarium with a place to hide and rest, along with a damp sponge to absorb moisture and healthy snacks like fruits and veggies. When we ship our roaches to you, we must make proper carriage for them to travel safely so shipping is not based entirely on weight in this case. We know you will fall in love with your new Roach friend. All we ask is for you to love them as much as we do!”

Feeding : “Hissing cockroaches should be fed a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in combination to dry dog food.”

So the next question, does PETA know?

Jared Gold doesn't harm the roaches
Jared Gold doesn’t harm the roaches

In an interview in March 2006, Jared Gold claimed that he had not heard anything from PETA’s end. He also made a statement to a newspaper clarifying that he doesn’t think PETA should have any issue, as the insects weren’t harmed in anyway, at least while under their supervision. But in April 2006, PETA spokesperson Micheal McGraw said, “For a person who doesn’t mind a small animal excreting on them throughout the day and doesn’t have an ounce of compassion for these small, defenseless animals, this could be just the gift.”

Other appearances of insects in fashion and art

Other insect brooches
Other insect brooches

Jared Gold’s infamous Roach Brooch is an apparent throwback to an oft-forgotten Victorian-era trend of wearing bugs. Likewise, it was also a decorative tradition dating back to ancient Mayan civilizations, where they used bejeweled beetles known as “maquech”. If folklore is to be believed, the living insects are decorated with precious stones, gold and silver, and sold as one of the world’s most original fashion accessories.

On another note, French artist Hubert Duprat collected the aquatic caddis fly larvae from their normal environments, relocated them to his studio where he gently removed their own natural cases and then replaced them in an aquaria filled with alternative materials from which they began to recreate their protective sheaths. Initially he began with only gold spangles but since then has added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones (including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds) seen here in the video below.

Duprat's art installation
Duprat’s Installation

There have been skeptics that believe that this whole insect-making-statement jewelry could be a hoax. I stumbled upon a common search result website that had badly photoshopped pictures of celebrities including one with Kim Kardashian sporting the jewelry. The website’s photoshopped pictures, ‘Fake Shopping Carts’ made a convincing story line.

Whether a hoax or a true fashion discovery, it is clear that the Roach Broach and its kind, definitely make an intriguing statement. Well, as the marketing tag-ling goes, “It’s not a pest if you wear it on your chest”.

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