A designer who walked at New York Fashion Week guided models down the runway using nothing but duct tape.
Joel Álvarez, creator of Black Tape Project, presented his daring fall 2024 collection yesterday at the Ángel Orensanz Foundation, promoted by Art Hearts Fashion.
Not for the faint-hearted, the flesh-glow range was made entirely from body tape, in shades of black, neon green and baby pink, leaving very little to the imagination.
Álvarez, who was born and raised in Miami, He has worked with numerous celebrities, such as Billy Ray Cyrus and Afrojack, in addition to the main clubs in Miami and Ibiza.
However, the first-generation Cuban-American hasn’t always led such a high-profile lifestyle, having spent months “living in his car” without “a dollar to his name.”
A model walks during the Black Tape Project show at New York Fashion Week yesterday
Models of diverse bodies, freshly recorded by Álvarez, walked confidently down the runway at the Ángel Orensanz Foundation on Sunday.
Revealing plenty of skin, the women flaunted strategically placed duct tape to cover their modesty.
Strips of black, neon green, white, and iridescent baby pink adorned her shapes, highlighting her natural curves.
Certain sections of the tape were intricately “mosaiced”, creating a unique crop top and monokini.
Meanwhile, other designs emulated bodysuits and bandage-inspired lingerie sets.
Álvarez’s unique concept has allowed him to travel to 42 countries and work with countless magazines, including Maxim and Playboy.
But the first-generation Cuban-American hasn’t always led such a high-profile lifestyle, having spent months “living in his car” without “a dollar to his name.”
In 2008, Alvarez was living in his car and struggling to feed himself at what he described as “the lowest point of his existence.”
The daring show, powered by Art Hearts Fashion, was presented at the Angel Orensanz Foundation in New York City.
The flesh-showing range is made entirely from body tape, leaving little to the imagination.
Joel Álvarez, creator of the Black Tape Project, could be seen filming a model during the show.
He said most of his family had passed away, but he inherited a “small, run-down property” that was “unfit for living.”
The designer continued: ‘The house smelled like a wet dog. I had pink water coming out of the bathtub when I flushed the toilet and there were holes in the ceiling the size of a microwave.
‘I mean, I could literally see the sky from the living room. I knelt down, looked at the night sky and cried. I asked what I did to be dragged so far underground?
But while cleaning the residence, he miraculously discovered a box in the closet containing $26,000.
He discovered that the money had belonged to his late grandfather, who saved it in the late 1960s for a rainy day but had never spent it.
“After many years of what I considered ‘the hardest era’ of my life, I quickly put the funds to work in hopes of fixing my debts and turning my life around,” he continued.
‘First I put a new roof on and paid off the Ford Focus I was living in. I partied a little and gave money to my family and friends.
“When you’re young, that amount of money seems like a fortune, but I soon realized that $26,000 wouldn’t last long these days.”
Certain sections of the ribbon were intricately crafted into ‘mosaics’, creating a unique crop top.
This bandage-inspired jumpsuit featured narrow strips of black tape wrapped around the body.
He said he used his last $1,500 to buy a camera, which ultimately launched his career as a fashion designer.
Using his new camera, Alvarez began photographing some of the women working at his local Hooters, before beginning to connect with Miami models through Myspace.
Within months, he began publishing in local magazines and continued to climb the ladder, eventually photographing for major outlets like Maxim and Playboy, still using the original Canon he had bought with his grandfather’s money.
“One day, an out-of-town model hired me for a photo shoot and on our last look she pulled out a roll of tape and asked me to record it,” he explained.
‘I had no idea where to start or what she expected. So I jumped in and started recording it.
‘The design was very incomplete and extremely tight. He looked like the Michelin Man who lost a fight with rubber bands.
“But I kept it up because I kept seeing lines and found the ability to complement the body by adding lines and creating negative spaces that called to viewers.”
From there, Alvarez began working with local dancers in Miami clubs and explained that he began working “three or four nights a week” recording up to six women.
“I had to work fast and make designs that wouldn’t fall apart when they danced, this is where I developed most of my techniques,” he continued.
Within a few years, the designer was catapulted to viral fame when he worked on a photo shoot with a former Miss Puerto Rico at a charity event in 2017.
Álvarez decorated her in a gold ribbon ensemble, a process he documented in a social media video, which quickly racked up tens of millions of viewers and earned him a new legion of fans.
“The calls and emails started coming in and my life changed once again,” he recalled.
“I can safely say that The Black Tape Project has saved my life and now I can support my family, my circle and myself.”
Alvarez is now thriving in the spotlight and charges his fans $999 each for VIP experiences at his shows.
Now, Alvarez has become a New York Fashion Week staple, regularly wowing crowds with her incredibly daring ribbon ensembles.
He has turned his Fashion Week appearances into a lucrative venture, selling tickets to his shows for up to $999 each for a VIP backstage experience.
The designer also sells rolls of his signature body tape in a variety of colors on his website.
The most basic black shade starts at $9.99 a roll, while more vibrant options, including metallic golds, blues, and pinks, cost up to $29.99 each.
But Álvarez does not limit his art only to catwalk models.
He was previously invited to Vienna to record legendary supercars, the Ferrari 488 Spider and the Lamborghini Urus, at the Gumball 3000 street rally.
A neon green look incorporated small pieces of tape applied to create a monokini effect.
Not for the faint-hearted: New York Fashion Week saw a range of eye-catching looks
It was there that he won Best Wrap Design before being offered a collaboration with Miami’s Lamborghini to record the Miami Art Basel debut of the 2020 Karma Revero 2.0.
Speaking about his journey in a previous interview shared on Instagram, Alvarez said: “I have always been more of an artist than a businessman.
‘And now I’m a very good businessman because I learned the hard way.
“I remember my friends told me that you had to take off your artist hat and put on your business hat…
“But I don’t want to stop being an artist and I don’t want to change who I am and my way of thinking. My passion comes from my art, and my way of being comes largely from the past that I’ve been through.”