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Salt Lake City designer Jared Gold's psychedelic fashions get lots of attention on tonight's episode of "America's Next Top Model." But what made competitors scream was modeling one of Gold's most bizarre fashion ornaments: Crystal-studded brooches made from living Madagascar hissing cockroaches, complete with little gold-chain leashes.
"They hiss when they get upset," Gold says, "and boy, you'll see a lot of that on the show."
Gold won't give away any details of the episode but does hint at a "terrifying surprise."
"As producers of this show, we couldn't invent this stuff," laughs Anthony Dominici, an executive producer at UPN. "It has to have existed in reality first."
One of the show's producers is a longtime fan of Gold's work and decided to feature the Salt Lake City-based designer's avant-garde styles, Dominici said. There was the added attraction - and challenge - of having competitors model Gold's insect pins.
The show was taped in Los Angeles in October, and Gold was invited to serve as a guest judge, along with show creator and supermodel Tyra Banks.
The latest collection in Gold's Black Chandelier line, featured in W and Paper magazines, mixes Ukrainian folk influences with saturated colors. The designer starts with long, flowing gypsy lines, then decorates the fabric with screen and foil printing and tacks on layers of fabric strips, sequins, rick rack and ruffles. "You could be looking at up to eight layers of stuff," Gold says. "It's really ridiculous. We are in no way afraid of over-ornamenting anything."
But it's Gold's living jewelry that captures everybody's attention. The 32-year-old fashion designer has been showing off cockroach pins since designing his first fashion line in 1999.
Gold was inspired to create live brooches when he learned that cockroaches are often kept pinned to corks as pets in Mexico and South American countries.
It took a month of experimentation with clasps and adhesives and other variables - for example, Gold now only uses sterilized male insects - to stabilize the design. "We set the crystals on hand in various patterns, with clasps on the back, and a hook on a chain" which functions like a little leash, the designer says.
His company buys insects from a breeder in Los Angeles and ships its bejeweled brooches to customers along with instructions. Feeding? Banana bits and water. Cage? A warm, dark place. The cockroach brooches - which retail for $35 at Black Chandelier, Gold's Trolley Square boutique, and $80 online (http://www.jaredgold.com) - have an expected lifespan of up to a year.
Gold, a native of Idaho Falls, attended Los Angeles' Otis College of Art and Design, and sold his clothing in hip boutiques in New York, Hong Kong, London and Milan before moving his company to Salt Lake City in 2003. He opened a Trolley Square outlet in 2004, and now has pocket boutiques in stores in Seattle and Los Angeles and plans to open a second local store in the Gateway shopping center in June.
Gold says he hasn't heard complaints from any animal rights groups about his use of insects in jewelry. "What we do to them doesn't affect their life at all," the designer says. "It's not like we're torturing them."
Model fashion, Salt Lake style:
Jared Gold invites fashionistas and other interested viewers to his Trolley Square boutique, Black Chandelier, from 6-9 p.m. to watch the show. The boutique is next to the mall's Regency Theatres. The party offers champagne and refreshments, and after the TV show, a free screening of the 1967 British comedy, "Smashing Time."
"America's Next Top Model" airs tonight at 7 p.m. on KPNZ Channel 24.