We Spoke To The Woman Behind Cara Delevingne’s Free The Nipple T-shirt

Nipples have been causing trouble at Fashion Week


by Zing Tsjeng |
Published on

Nipples – the most ordinary, every woman piece of anatomy – have been causing all sorts of dramas at Fashion Week so far. Kooky street style queen Michelle Harper was spotted getting hers out in a completely sheer top. Sans bra. FYI: It’s minus five degrees in NYC right now. Then Kendall Jenner’s nips were thrown off Instagram when her sister Kim uploaded a picture of her in the Marc Jacobs show in a sheer top that showed them off.


And now Cara Delevingne has joined the nipple crew (naturally) turning up to the US ambassador’s house last week in a T-shirt printed with a pair of breasts along with the slogan “Free the Nipple”.

Lest we forget, it’s been ten years since Janet Jackson’s Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, which basically invented the idea of the nip slip. A decade on, maybe everyone’s sick with tabloid talk of nipples sliding, spilling or falling out of tops, and just figured, “Hey, they’re just another body part.” Because after all, what makes cleavage socially acceptable but not nipples, anyway?

The woman behind Cara’s tee thinks the same thing. Filmmaker Lina Esco made the clothing range to raise funds for her film, Free The Nipple, which follows female activists as they challenge a ban on toplessness in New York.

We sat down for a quick chat about why the fight to normalize nipples is important.

Do you think women are, in general, getting more confident about getting their nips out?

There’s a shift in society and media, for sure. Women are less afraid. The beginning of it was women not being able to feel comfortable while they breast-fed. No one wants to be told how to dress and how to behave and how to dress; the whole mission right now is to rebrand feminism, it’s a beautiful thing. More women are starting to feel they can be who they are and not care about what people say. There have been a lot of topless protests around the world like Femen – but the problem with Femen, I think, is they’re so aggressive in their messaging!

How have your male friends reacted to the film?

They are all for independent strong women, and women speaking and becoming strong role models, the whole system of men trying to oppress women is not what our generation is all about. A lot of our supporters on Twitter are men who say, “Keep doing what you’re doing, we love strong women, we support this!”

Do find it difficult to navigate the rules of social media?

In America, we are still living puritanically. They get a kick out of the sexualizing of breasts, but you can’t show a nipple. Nipples are just part of our boobs! But you can’t show a nipple on Facebook or you’ll get shut down. When we started out, people started following us on Facebook – before Miley tweeted about it – and they shut us down with no excuse. We were obeying all the laws. Facebook couldn’t handle the fact we were promoting freeing the nipple. But there’s another site called Free the Boobs and it looks like porn! All they’re doing is cutting out areola, and that’s ok. But all the beautiful images I had of breast cancer survivors and women breastfeeding… they still shut us down. They shut our Instagram account too.

So, do you think being topless is a political statement?

Yes, it’s so prohibited. I’m not saying that people should go around topless all the time – but people should have that right. It’s an inequality issue, which is so rife in our culture. For example women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes in America. The Janet Jackson incident at the Superbowl ten years ago, five hundred thousand people complained to the PTC and they fined Janet Jackson $550,000 for a nipple shield that was out for less than a second! This year, Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performed and he was topless the entire time - nobody cared! It’s having that choice, that freedom and equality that we don’t have.

Why are people so afraid of nipples anyway?

I dunno…I grew up in a Catholic home, I was the most repressed person ever and I lived in fear of getting naked. I became more liberated as I made the film, now I can be topless and naked and not care at all.

Finally, do you have any advice for women who’d feel self-conscious exposing themselves in public?

I think if you don’t feel comfortable or you feel shy, don’t do it. But if it’s against the law, just do it! I went to Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti Park and went there with a few topless friends. Within five minutes, we had hundreds of people around us. It was like the Beatles. Everyone was like, “What the fuck?!” taking pictures… But somehow after ten, fifteen minutes everyone calmed down. They’re just boobs and they’re not going anywhere. It shouldn’t be against the law. Boobs are beautiful, whatever size they are.

Follow Zing on Twitter @misszing

Pictures: WENN, Jason Lloyd-Evans

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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