Libidex is one of the biggest UK latex clothing companies, certainly offering the largest range of women’s and men’s clothing I’ve seen, all designed from the company’s own latex sheeting brand: Radical Rubber. With control over the sheet manufacturing process, Libidex are able to price their garments competitively while retaining quality of design. They market to all audiences of latex wear, with entire collections based around either fetish or latex fashion themes; just this summer they launched a new Men’s Fashion Range, and this sits right alongside their ‘Hard & Heavy’ BDSM based collection: a clear message as to the spectrum of latex clothing on offer, and Libidex’s readiness to cater for all.
Simon Rose of Libidex agreed to take part in a Q&A with blogger Kyle Selina of the Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives Blog, and a recurring theme was this relationship of fetish and fashion, not only from the perspective of Libidex itself but also in the context of wider developments and trends in latex clothing and how it relates to fashion and pop culture.
Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion?
I am Simon Rose, Libidex owner and creative director and co-founder. I have a Psychology degree from Lancaster University. I am an avid reader, world traveler and latex fashion trendsetter.
How did you discover latex as a material to use in fashion? Did you have a personal interest in wearing latex or was it just a material that you found interesting?
I grew up in a military family and from birth I was surrounded by uniforms, rubberized chemical warfare suits and gas masks (one of my favorite toys). From there I discovered Atomage and early Skin Two magazine and everything fell into place.
At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation?
In 1994 I was working with English latex designer pioneer Helen Saffery at Libidex in London. The label was still in its infancy and earlier on I spotted a huge opportunity to take Libidex to the next level making it the fetish powerhouse that it is today.
My inspiration came from the idea of offering customers both fetish and fashion latex clothes in one place.
A business has a number of things that one must deal with that sometimes dim one’s passion. You have rent, insurance, utilities, materials, employee salaries etc. Is the market for latex adequate to balance the pressures of business? What end of the market absorbs more time – the celebrity couture or the consumer market? How do you balance your passion for creativity with the need to be profitable?
Most certainly the consumer market. Celebrity endorsement doesn’t pay our bills in fact we turn away quite a few celebrity requests, from stylists, photographers etc. We just make sure we design popular items that are also creative, fresh and new.
Latex can be described as a “fetish”, a “kink”, “Alternative Fashion” or simply “fashion”. Do you prefer one description over another?
Whatever name people are comfortable with. I like Fetish better. Because that is what it is after all.
It seems many latex outfits are designed to be body hugging. I’ve heard latex referred to as a “Second Skin”. Do you agree that latex should be used for tight outfits or does it lend itself to “loose” outfits? If it’s a “second skin” does it mean it needs to be worn without undergarments? Does that intimidate people from wearing it?
Not necessarily as many designs in our range are loose fitting. For example, our Swing Circle Skirt or Rebelle Dress as well as our Pyjamas to name but a few. Not everyone likes to be squeezed in on tight latex. There are no rules and if there are, I live by the motto the rules are only there to be broken. If you feel freer wearing your latex with nothing underneath that is your own personal choice. The Scottish have done that for centuries. But if you prefer to have pants and bras under your latex garment and that makes you feel good, go for it!
In your experience, how concerned are people about body image when considering fashion choices? Does latex, as a material, help or hinder these decisions?
Do you feel latex tends to express one’s body with honesty as if is was no different than a “second skin” or is it more of a fashionable type of shapewear that fixes a person’s perceived “flaws”?
We have customers of all sizes and we cater for them offering a size range that goes from XXS to 6XL so you will always find something that will suit you. Everyone is different and some people prefer tight fitting catsuits and corsets and others want to be able to breathe and be comfortable while wearing latex, so they should do whatever they feel the most comfortable with. Some people wear it for fetish and some for fashion.
How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), and celebrity couture?
We probably sell a bit more for our male customers, but women buy a lot from us too as do the transgender community. We cater for everyone.
What is your favorite piece of latex that you’ve created in your career for a man and for a woman?
Ummm that’s a hard one but one of my most fun was my Black Betty catsuit which is for all sexes and trans.
People can state that they don’t like latex because of the smell, or because the material doesn’t breathe and they sweat too much, or because it’s too tight or it makes them look like they’re selling sex. How do you address those concerns?
Latex is like marmite you either love or hate it. You can be converted into it by a loved one or a friend but mostly it like a fire that burns you up inside, an uncontrollable desire to dress head to toe in shiny latex.
What is your design philosophy? What drives your creativity?
I have many different sources of inspiration, from classic literature, to films, music, art, period costumes, contemporary fashion. The fetish scene in Europe and its many clubs and events is an endless font of inspiration. Seeing what people are wearing is a fun and fabulous way to come up with new designs and ideas.
Less or More? Do you prefer designing a latex outfit which is more on the revealing side or leaning towards full coverage?
It depends of the occasion, what collection I am working on. More is definitely more.
How do you feel is the best way to integrate latex into an everyday “public” outfit. How would you mix it with other materials?
Latex leggings can be beautifully paired with jackets, or a latex skirt with fabric blouse. Guys can have classic latex jeans in some funky colour with a cotton T-shirt.
What are your goals for your future in latex design?
To keep bringing affordable, exciting and innovative collections to our customers.
What is your favorite part of being a latex fashion designer?
Designing new collections. The research process is very exciting.
What is your “Blue Sky” accomplishment to achieve in the world of latex clothing or fashion in general?
From gluing my first suspender belt in 1990 to the present day, Libidex has had to overcome a huge number of challenges and obstacles. Every collection photographed and each of our fashion shows are always memorable moments. The fact that we are still here, bigger and better and appreciated by rubberists the world over, over 25 years later is what gets me out of bed with a smile on my face.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” People tend to be fearful of things that are different. They express that fear through aggressive or demeaning behavior towards others to express that their position is superior. Even without external pressure, a person can be fearful due to internal thoughts over how people will react.
This brings us to fashion. You can say the more different something is from the norm, the more people will react negatively. Do you agree with this? Is latex “too different” from what is accepted fashion to be common place? How much more extreme is it than wearing leather? Women often wear leather to corporate jobs. Is latex that much more extreme? Is men’s latex wear more “extreme” than women’s wear?
What do you say to someone who deep down would want to wear latex in public settings?
This is 2017 and latex fashion is everywhere. Pop videos, TV, commercials, youtube, Instagram, and social media have done wonders to remove the stigma associated to latex. And it all depends how you present it. Of course if you turn up in full Dominatrix gear you will raise the wrong kind of attention but if you wear something more fashion orientated, you could be fine even at your work place. Society is changing and so is people’s perception of latex wear.
No I don’t think men’s wear is more extreme than women’s at all.
Go for it, start with something bright and colourful, mix it up with something quirky and you will be fine.
Women’s clothing seems to have such variety. Can men’s latex be as interesting? What are your thoughts on men’s latex fashion?
Yes 100% men’s clothes can be exciting, varied and colourful. The new Male Fashion Collection we are working on at the moment is a testament of that.
You have expanded your line greatly. What drives the expansion?
Demand, our customers always want new styles and designs and as long as there is interest from them we will be more than willing to oblige.
Thank you to Kyle Selina of the Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives blog for holding the Q&A, and to Simon Rose for his participation.