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Franc Fernandez is an Argentinian designer located in the Los Angeles area that has designed outfits worn by Lady Gaga, notably including the meat dress. During high school he attended ArtCenter College of Design, but dropped out. He also attended architecture and art school, but dropped out of both. He also apprenticed for a milliner in London. Says Fernandez, "For the most part I’m self-trained. I’m not very good in institutions. I can sort of weed out what I like/dislike, need/not need."

Custom pieces

Diamond Princess ensemble, 2009

It was a personal request by Nicola Formichetti, Lady Gaga’s stylist, to construct a sort of “diamond princess” piece that she would be wearing in the portion of the Bad Romance video where the men are “bidding” on her. The crown along with the rest of the ensemble are made of individual pieces of jewelry wired together. The crown was finished the day before and the bust/top portion was literally constructed and molded on Lady Gaga, herself, on the day of the shoot. Lady Gaga has an amazing team around her so it was great to be a part of that experience.

—Frank Fernandez

Fernandez created the Diamond Princess ensemble made off a crown with a matching outfit (top with shoulder piece and panty) for the music video for "Bad Romance" directed by Francis Lawrence. It was also Franc first custom piece.

Clear Rubber Mask, 2009

The mask is shaped to fit under the nose and around the wearer's cheeks with an oval opening of the mouth. Four lacing holes at each side. The mask was worn in "The Manifesto of Little Monsters", a film shot by Nick Knight on November 8 of 2009 used as interlude during the Monster Ball in 2009 through 2011.

The mask was sold for Icons & Idols Rock ‘n’ Roll Auction Event which took place at the Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills Gallery on December 1st and 2nd, 2012.

Headpiece, 2009

Fernandez was asked to create a matching headpiece for a Olima dress to be worn at New Year's Eve 2010. He fabricated it from stiffened material that fits around the face and embellished with silver sequins and rhinestones. Additional elastic band secures the item to the wearer's head.

The headpiece was sold for Icons & Idols Rock ‘n’ Roll Auction Event which took place at the Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills Gallery on December 1st and 2nd, 2012.

Meat dress, 2010

Background

The inspiration for the Meat Dress.

Following the 'meat bikini' that was shot by Terry Richardson on June 7, 2010 and used as a poster inside of A/W 2010-2011 Issue (Vol. 5) of Vogue Hommes Japan. The goal was to create a tie-in with the Vogue Hommes Japan piece and also to 'perform' in some way at the MTV Video Music Awards since Gaga wasn't performing any song.

The photo taken by Terry Richardson prompted a strong reaction by "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA), which said in a statement, "No matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal. Meat represents bloody violence and suffering, so if that's the look they were going for -- they achieved it". PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk added in an interview with the Daily News, "Oh, Lady Gaga's job is to do outlandish things, and this certainly qualifies as outlandish because meat is something you want to avoid putting on or in your body,"

Creation

Fernandez was contacted by Nicola Formichetti to create a meat dress for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. As explained to Imagine Fashion in their "Haute Butchery" film, Fernandez first asked his family butcher, Palermo Deli in Granada Hills, the best meat cut to do a dress with. He suggested matambre, a thin cut of beef, like flank steak. He then bought around 40 pounds of meat and some strings at a butcher supply store.

The dress was “constructed over a corset, hand applied and clear-stitched over a two day period while in constant refrigeration” by Franc and Lyndsea LaMarr. Although heavy, the weight of the dress is distributed on her chest by the baby blue corset by Kiki de Montparnasse.

On the day of the show, Franc carried the dress in a cooler ("its own little coffin") to the venue. The dress had to be sewn to Gaga to complete it. She only wore fishnet and panty under the dress. A pair of Delight-1020 patent white platform ankle boots by Pleaser were also covered in meat and butcher twine backstage. The inspiration for the boots were a reference to roast, "where you roll it in a tortilla and put it in the oven. Hence, the shoes — that’s why they were wrapped in butcher twine."

They also accompagnied the dress with a meat hat and a matching purse with a brooch and a crystal ring by Rodrigo Otazu. She also wore a silver-colored galvanized brass chocker and a bracelet on her right hand by Giuseppe Zanotti with claw-set mini and maxi Swarovski crystals. The other unsigned bracelet was a vintage piece from New York Vintage and a flower-shaped ring by A-Morir.

While wearing the dress, Lady Gaga was presented the award for Video of the Year for "Bad Romance" by Cher. During her speech, she sang and revealed the title of her next new record, "Born This Way".

"I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse," -Extract from her speech onstage

Controversy

During her interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show following the awards on September 12th, Gaga explained the reasoning behind the two meat outfits. Gaga, who was campaigning at the time in support of repelling "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," told Ellen DeGeneres that the dress represents equality, saying "Equality is the prime rib of America."

Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgement-free human being on the Earth. However, it has many interpretations. For me this evening, if we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights pretty soon, we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat.

—Lady Gaga

During Gaga's concert at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, she expressed her thoughts over the controversy the outfits caused.

"Next time I'll wear a tofu dress and the soybean police will come after me."

A spokesperson for PETA released the following statement regarding a meeting with Gaga to try and understand the situation.

"Ingrid did send Lady Gaga a private letter inviting her to a vegan dinner. We know her to be a kind person from her previous anti-fur statements, and we hope that she takes Ms. Newkirk up on the offer."

Also Lady Gaga talked about the Meat dress in "Lady Gaga: On The Record with Fuse" interview:

"The meat dress was a cultural shit storm, right? And everybody was "What's wrong with her, it's weird" or whatever they felt about it. But those who paid attention to what I was doing from a political side, the political activism, the cultural activism, the social activism, the name of my speech when I spoke in Maine was "The Prime Rib of America". And what I said in that speech is that "equality is the prime rib of the Constitution. Equality is the greatest cut of meat that our country has to offer." And I wore the meat dress with the soldiers as a statement about our cry for wanting them to have the greatest cut of meat that the world has to offer. For wanting all soldiers and all people to be valued as equal and to open the door not to shut the door."

Preservation

When asked about what will happen to the outfit, Franc said that "the dress will be put in an archive with all of her dresses. [...] It won't last, that's the beauty of it. When it is brought out again, hopefully it will be in a retrospective, and it will be a different dress, which is the best thing. I like the idea of it changing and evolving into something else. [...] My butcher said I could taxidermy it if I wanted it to stay the way it is, and I didn't want it to stay that way. Seems like a waste to keep it that way, than to watch it change."

Right after the VMAs, the museum contacted Lady Gaga about the meat dress and the plan for the future. They agreed to send it to us, but at the time it was still raw meat. So we had to figure out—we went back and forth with ideas—and the thing we decided on was to preserve it like a beef jerky. So it’s taxidermied. Right after that, it was packed and shipped here, and we featured it in our "Women Who Rock" exhibition.

—Jun Francisco, the Director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

At first, Gaga and the Haus agreed to loan the dress to the museum but hoped it would be allowed to rot as a part of the exhibit. The curators at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame convinced them that it should be dehydrated instead. According to Franc Fernandez, they used curing salt on the outfit to remove the water and transform it into jerky.

Two months after the MTV VMA, the museum reach out to Burbank, California taxidermist Sergio Vigilato to ask if he could preserve the outfit. He replied that he "can do anything if the price is right" and they paid him $6,000 upfront for the dress.

'They called and said, ‘Sergio, do you know Lady Gaga?’ I said, ‘No.’ But they told me about the meat dress and the first thing I asked was, ‘Ok. Where is it?’
'Formichetti told me, ‘Um, it’s in my room with air conditioning.’' Sergio was incensed. '‘What?’ I said! ‘It could have maggots by now. Get it in a freezer!’'

Upon his request, the 35-pound dress made of a dozen thin-cut flank steaks was quickly transported to the meat freezer at a local deli. Then, when it showed up at Vigilato’s American Taxidermy taxidermy shop 3½ weeks later, it was frozen stiff and maggot free. Vigilato defrosted the meat and discovered signs of decomposition on the dress which had occurred prior to it being frozen. According to Vigilato, "the oxidation from the air had made (the dress) blue" and that he "spent six weeks just killing bacteria" by using bleach and detergent.

He then cured it with formaldehyde to preserve it and the next step was to recondition it to make it semi-pliable so it could be reassembled. After sending sample sets to be approved by the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, under Lady Gaga’s ‘Haus of Gaga’s’ watchful eye, Vigilato finally began gluing pieces to a mannequin and applying the dress’s official color.

To match the original design created by Franc Fernandez and Nicola Formichetti, Vigilato used photographs from the event while he glued and used fishing nylon to stitch the meat slabs to a corset on a mannequin. Layers of fat on the garment, which it was impossible to prevent rotting, were recreated from rubber. However, after the preservation there were several pieces of beef left over and not included in the reworked dress. Vigilato said to the Independent that he would like to turn them into earrings and other items of jewellery which would be sold for charity. However, he was unable to secure the permission to do so.

Once dry, he dyed it a dark red to resemble the original color by matching it with photographs again. Vigilato applied muscle colors and beige and white striations present in the meat’s fat and sinew. According to Vigilato, the whole process took three and a half months.

Once all four components of the outfit including the shoes, purse, bonnet and dress were completed, professional art movers boxed them up on May 20, 2011 and sent them to Cleveland. They received it on June 10, 2011 but opened the crates on the 13th and the dress was put into the exhibition on June 15, 2011. Although the museum paid to taxidermy the dress, hat and shoes, it is still the propriety of Lady Gaga.

When asked about the final product, Vigilato, a perfectionist, replied that he is "not proud of it. I know I could have made that identical dress. But Lady Gaga’s team wanted something different. And I had to respect that."

  1. Dress by Perry Meek for Haus of Gaga, inspired by the original Meat Dress.

MTV Interview with Franc Fernandez

What was your inspiration?;
"I was contacted by her stylist, Nicola Formichetti, and they had already shot the picture with Terry Richardson in the meat bikini for Vogue Hommes Japan. They told me that they wanted to make a main dress [out of meat], so I did it."
What kind of meat was it?;
"I don’t know what it’s called in English, but in Argentina, it’s called matambre [Argentinean beef]. I went to my butcher to get it, in Los Angeles in the valley. He’s the butcher that my family goes to. I’m trying to get him a signed picture of it."
How many pounds of meat did you buy?;
"I bought a lot of meat because I wanted extra. I would say more than 50 pounds of meat. Is that a lot?"
How heavy was it?
"It was fairly heavy. She said it was the most comfortable dress of the night, though. I’m guessing it weighed around forty pounds. It’s built on a corset, so the weight is distributed on her chest, so it’s not like it’s hanging off her neck."
Was it comfortable?
"She said so."
Were there leftovers?
"Not very much, no."
Did it leave a blood trail?
"No, not at all. It’s actually very clean meat, very sturdy and strong and doesn’t run at all. It’s the meat you use to make a roast, where you roll it in a tortilla and put it in the oven. Hence, the shoes — that’s why they were wrapped in butcher twine."
Did it smell?
"Gaga said it smelled good. It had a sweet smell. It hadn’t been sitting out for more than five hours. And it’s not a heavy gross meat."
Did you have to keep it refrigerated?;
"While it was being made it was refrigerated, [worked on] and then refrigerated. It took a span of two days on and off. Maybe three with sourcing and getting materials and everything."
Will this dress “go bad”?
"Well, yes. And it’s a dress that will dry out. The meat dries out, rather than rotting. It becomes jerky. But, it shouldn’t be worn again."
Was the look designed, or did you drape it naturally?
"I just did the meat. You can’t really design something that we’re making out of organic pieces. It’s like ‘This piece can go here,’ and you look at the cuts you have and you drape it."
How do you drape meat?
"I’ve done some draping, it just seemed logical to me. The way I was doing it, nothing about it was much of a challenge, except for the time it took. I had helping hands that were great. It was just sewing through meat, which is a little weird, but it’s not rocket science. I just used regular string, some stronger thread, nothing unusual."
What did it feel like on Lady Gaga’s body?
"There was a corset but the rest of it was skin on skin. Initially it was cold, but then it warmed up. Not too much, though. She said she wasn’t warm at all, especially under those lights, it didn’t heat up."
Did Gaga have to be sewn into the dress?
"She went in through the bottom. Some of it she was sewn into. I was backstage."
Did you treat the meat with any preservatives?
"No, not at all."
How did you transport the dress?
"I’m in Los Angeles. So, I had a little cooler that I carried it in — its own little coffin."
When Lady Gaga sat down, did the meat rub onto the chair upholstery?
"Well, it shouldn’t have because it’s not a sticky meat. It’s not a messy dress at all, surprisingly. But I didn’t see the seat after she sat on it. But I’ve been handling that meat for two days and there is nothing messy about it."
What would the dress feel like? Like for Cher and those who touched it?
"It would feel like meat I suppose. It’s all natural."
What happens to the meat dress now?
"The dress will be put in an archive with all of her dresses. The Gaga Archives, I suppose. It won’t last, that’s the beauty of it. When it is brought out again, hopefully it will be in a retrospective, and it will be a different dress, which is the best thing. I like the idea of it changing and evolving into something else. My butcher said I could taxidermy it if I wanted it to stay the way it is, and I didn’t want to stay that way. Seems like a waste to keep it that way, than to watch it change."
How did you come up with the idea of butcher strings on her shoes?
"I was referencing the whole meat theme. I bought the strings at a butcher supply store."
What were the crystal pieces on her meat purse?
"It’s an antique brooch that was applied to the meat."
Gaga said this dress represents that we shouldn’t be treated like a piece of meat. What does this dress represent for you?
"I have to agree with her. I just think it looked great."
Where is it now?
"I’m not sure. She has people who handle everything, so it’s with them."
Would you create this look again?
"I think it’s just that—it’s just the meat dress. There’s not going to be meat dresses in the future. This was made for a specific purpose. It’s what it is."
When you saw her wear this dress, what went through your mind?
"She’s wearing my meat dress! It just looked great on her and she made it look easy and things come very naturally to her."

Church hat, 2011

Fernandez created the "Church" hat for Lady Gaga worn on the 2011 Grammys.

Wanted it to have the same idea as her skin. As if something was pushing up against it and creating a new shape" - Franc Fernandez

Mugler hats, 2011

Franc made hats for Mugler Fall/Winter 2011: "Anatomy of Change" collection.

Ornamentation pieces, 2020

The Meat Dress: The Second Serving, 2020

For a how to vote PSA, Franc Fernandez in collaboration with Conrad Muscarella did a second meat dress. The second serving was also made with matambre, a very thin cut of beef.

Other

  1. Deconstructed denim shorts by Franc Fernandez & Olima.
  2. Printed meat shirts were also available at Nicola Formichetti's pop-up store (September of 2011) in New York City in limited quantities.

References

Link

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