The collection is provided by Hanger, who previously broke ground by having their latexwear featured by online retail giant ASOS.
Most of the pieces are loose fitting basics, and therefore good for people experimenting with latex for the first time.
It’s not the first time Selfridges have carried latex: in 2013, part of the Atsuko Kudo ‘Restricted Love’ collection was available in the lingerie section of the shop. With its high baseline cost, latex fashion is perhaps well matched for high-end department stores like Selfridges.
Both Hanger and Selfridges are keen on promoting the sustainability credentials of natural latex. We predict it will be used as a selling point for latex clothing more and more, given the increase in ecological concern and heightened sense of consumer responsibility.
A TV channel devoted to latex clothing? What a time to be alive. Called LatexFashionTV, it brings you reports from various events across Europe, whether fashion shows, fetish gatherings, or cosplay conventions. Films include catwalk shows as well as a look behind the scenes, involving interviews with models and designers.
Besides these ‘on location’ reports, there are also cinematic showcases of particular models, outfits and latex labels, and the channel shares the best of video output by designers too, either of a promotional or behind the scenes nature. All of this ensures LatexFashionTV is your one-stop shop for latex in motion – and all in glorious full-HD, of course.
This is Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives’ sixth Q&A, and we thank them for sharing.
Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion? Who are you, what’s your background and how did LatexFashionTV come to be?
My name is Cole Black and my background is in media and video production. I don’t have any formal training in fashion but l work with brilliant people who do. LatexFashionTV came about through a love of film making and fetish fashion.
How did you discover latex and fetish fashion as a focal point for your video work? Did you have a personal interest in wearing latex or was it just a material that you found interesting?
I discovered latex with Batman Returns and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. I knew there was something special about her outfit and seeing shiny outfits on Top of the Pops or late night shows like Eurotrash and Sexcetera would always catch my eye. It seems crazy now but there was no internet back then. So it was kind of a building curiosity. You couldn’t type ‘latex’ into google and bring up thousands of images and videos like today.
At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation? Is it a vocation or just a personal side project?
It started as a side project but takes up half my time now. I discovered the fetish scene in the mid-noughties. Seeing people in person wearing amazing outfits that were so visually arresting, I knew working with latex would be fantastic to film and I’ve been shooting it ever since.
Since you’re constantly interacting with various aspects of the latex scene, how would you describe “the market” from a business perspective? Are people in the industry predominately focused on “sex & fetish” or is it an alternative fashion material?
I’d say it’s both. Most designers have some outfits leaning toward fetish and others toward fashion. There are classic fetish style outfits that will always be popular in the fetish scene while celebrities wear stylish latex dresses for fashion and cosplayers slide into catsuits for the latest comic con. For them It’s an alternative fashion material that’s fun to wear.
Latex can be described as a “fetish,” a “kink”, “Alternative fashion” or simply “fashion”. Do you prefer one description over another?
It can be all things to all people or something very singular. Latex will probably always have connotations of being naughty, just like thigh high boots, It’s out of the ordinary, that’s what makes it fun. I guess I think of it as alternative fashion. Lubing up to go to the shops to get a pint of milk isn’t something everyone would do.
Latex seems to be a small subset of things fetish. It can also exist without things fetish as pure fashion. In fact one can argue that “fetish” and the association with sex and/or pornography detracts from the fashion aspect. It becomes fashion for “porn stars” not fashion for regular people. So… Fashion or fetish? What side do you want to promote in your films?
The theme of LFTV is promoting latex clothing wherever that takes us. We can be front row at a fashion show one episode then demonstrate a vac-cube at a fetish club the next. But it’s a fine line to walk to keep everything in balance and we hopefully do it in a fun, friendly way that doesn’t lean too heavily in one direction for long.
Following that topic, the majority of your subjects are women. Are there plans to do any pieces on “straight” men’s fashion? What opportunities would that provide? Are there any stigmas you could break with such a piece?
Co-incidentally, as I write this our last two episodes are Men’s latex fashion shows. We try to cover the scene as we find it and it’s mostly women wearing latex fashion. That’s reflected in everything from the types of outfits for sale to the models in fashion shows. Guys certainly wear latex too but mostly in Fetish clubs and very few actually want to be on camera in my experience.
How about a piece focusing on a cross-dresser? Are there any stigmas you could break with such a piece?
We’ve featured fashion shows with cross-dresser’s before. Our focus is always going to be predominantly women’s fashion because that’s where my interest is. But never say never.
It seems many latex outfits are designed to be body hugging. We’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?
Absolutely. One of my favorite things about latex is how skin-tight it is. I personally love outfits that are unashamedly rubber. But there are some incredible loose fitting latex outfits too. I was once shooting in Piccadilly Circus in London with Rebecca from Yummy Gummy wearing a latex dress with a loose skirt and families came up to take selfies with her. That’s a perfect example of latex being seen as fun. They probably didn’t even register it as latex, It was just a cool shiny outfit.
How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), celebrity couture?
I’d guess it’s predominantly Women with celebrity couture the smallest market. There are only so many celebrities.
What is your favorite piece of latex fashion that you’ve had the opportunity to film?
That’s so tough. I do love a classic catsuit or latex leggings. My favourite thing probably changes with whatever I’ve filmed recently. I’m working on a motorbike film right now with an incredible latex biker catsuit.
It seems London and Berlin get all the latex events. A cosmopolitan city like New York has nothing. How come? Which event has been the most fun to film and why?
We’re lucky in the UK that London is kept busy with latex events. Other places both in the UK and around the world have latex events. In fact the biggest collection of latex catwalks was in Manchester at Sexhibition. New York has its own ‘the Baroness’ who as well as being a legendary latex designer I think holds regular latex events in NY? I’ve yet to travel to the states to shoot latex but would love to in the future.
In viewing the LatexFashionTV Youtube page, we notice that most of your pieces are in the 5 to 10 minute range in length. Do you have plans to create a longer, documentary style piece? With the range of access you have, it would seem you can take a deep dive into topics centered on an event, a designer, or one of your “challenge” concepts.
I’m a fan of shorter content so always aim for around five minutes give or take. There are plans for longer pieces, one following models shooting abroad, another is a deep dive into a designer. I did just shoot a pilot for a longer show format that worked pretty well and plan to develop further.
On that note, I’m sure it would be interesting for our reader to have a better understanding on the effort involved in putting your pieces together. The videos don’t jump straight from the camera to Youtube. Editing of both the video and the audio tracks is required. What’s really involved?
For anyone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of film making it can be pretty involved. I think of it as putting together a massive jigsaw… and you’re also making the pieces you’re going to need to put the jigsaw together as you go along.
It starts with the idea. Then I make notes about what I want to shoot. Planning what equipment I’ll need and outfits for the models to wear. An outfit for me to wear if it’s a club with say, an all rubber dress code.
Then there’s the actual filming itself which usually involves traveling. Shooting means making sure everything is shiny and perfect. Making sure everything is lit. That the sound is recorded properly. Back at the edit suite the footage gets copied off the cameras, backed up on two separate hard drives and again in the cloud. I’ve been shooting latex for over a decade and my main archive is pretty big.
Then I’ll start editing and organizing the footage. For a lot of films I have a certain style in mind so I’ll start dropping the footage I need on a timeline and putting it in order. Then there’s choosing music. We license a lot of tracks from music libraries. Sometimes finding the right music track can take longer than editing.
Editing from start to finish can take anything from a few hours to a few days. Right now I have around 30 films in production. Some waiting to be published. Some in various stages of editing. So it gets a bit crazy.
What drives your creativity for your video pieces?
Anything that seems likes it’s going to be fun. Something I haven’t done before or something familiar with a new twist.
Less or More? You’ve had the opportunity to film all sorts of outfits and costumes. What pops out more on film – the skimpy, the full enclosure or the couture?
Anything colorful is great on camera. Filming a black outfit in a dark club can be difficult. I personally love outfits that cling and are unmistakably rubber with lots of shine. A lot really depends on the model wearing it and what she brings to it as well.
Is filming latex more of a challenge than filming everyday outfits? Do you need to take special considerations for things such as lighting? What other differences are there?
It’s a lot like shooting a shiny car. You need highlights and reflections to emphasise curves and shape. Shooting outside in daylight always looks great.
You’ve done a piece titled “Wearing Latex for a Week Challenge.” This seems to be a “holy grail” type of experience for many latex aficionados who would love to wear latex in public but are too scared to actually take the leap.
What tends to be the general reaction of people to the outfits as you are filming? Do they react with ignorance, puzzlement, disgust or appreciation?
The ‘challenge’ films are some of my favorites. People’s reactions depend on the situation. Wearing latex in more regular settings like city centers or coffee shops get some looks I’m sure. But the outfits worn for those locations are somewhat appropriate and fashionable. Maybe latex leggings or a latex dress. It’s not too out of place. No one is dressed in a full Catwoman outfit in Starbucks. The idea behind them isn’t to shock people for the sake of it. It’s to see how latex clothes can work as part of every day life.
As a man, I find if I get women [who are not fetishists] offer a comment on an outfit it tends to come off as positive. When a man offers a comment, it usually feels as a backhanded insult. Have you ever considered filming the “viewers” reactions to what they are seeing? Would that perspective help a latex aficionado put together an outfit in which they would be comfortable wearing without provoking strong reaction – either positive or negative – from the general public?
I generally see positive reactions. But then I’m around people in latex at events or in situations were something different might get a second look but isn’t entirely unexpected. I’m more interested in portraying people as comfortable and confident in their latex rather than looking for a reaction, positive or negative.
Would you consider filming a “latex challenge” video with a person that is neither a model nor a fetishist? How about about the same for a man? How about a cross-dressing man or woman?
I love the idea of introducing a newbie to latex. We’ve done a variation on that with someone’s first time wearing rubber to a club but would love to expand on it more.
What are your goals for Latex Fashion TV?
To keep bringing you latex fashion and rubbery adventures. Our monthly views just passed 500,000 which is insane but pretty awesome.
What is your favorite part of being involved with latex fashion?
The friends I’ve made and the people that make up the latex scene.
What is your blue sky accomplishment to achieve in the world to latex fashion?
To be known as a great place for latex and rubber fashion and to promote the latex community in a positive way.
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 behaviour 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 a style 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?
Any outfit you have to lube up to get into is never going to be common place. Latex does take a little effort to wear, but that’s ok. It’s one of the reasons we love it. I’m sure you could interchange leather with latex at many jobs and it would be fine. A woman might wear a leather skirt to an office job, but not a full leather catsuit. It’s the same thing, you could wear latex leggings to work and be fine but your boss might not appreciate a full latex catsuit and hood.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
You can watch over 300 films with latex fashion on our website or YouTube channel (do subscribe) and follow us on social media for sneak peeks and updates. It’s great to get comments and If you’re involved with something epic that deals with fetish fashion we’d love to hear from you.
Header image: SatoriaAltModel presenting for LFTV at the Prague Fetish Weekend
Thank you to Cole for his participation, and to Kyle&Selina of the Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives blog for holding the Q&A.
Attention latex trend spotters! We interrupt your usual scheduled programming of A Kardashian in a Tight Rubber Dress to bring you this report, just in, of someone who doesn’t usually wear latex doing something not usually done with latex.
Rosamund Pike attended the Toronto International Film Festival and wore this flowing, rather gentle looking pink maxi skirt, contrasted with a fringed top of Swarovski crystal. The whole effect is rather soft and feminine, and another new style to add to the latex red carpet ‘lookbooks’.
This ensemble appeared in Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Perhaps it signals the potential for latex to be “the new leather”: A daring and visually striking material, which can be mixed and matched with other textures to create intriguing contrasts and sophisticated, stylish looks. First the runway. Then the red carpet. Next, the high street?
Latex already made it to the high street, of course: just look to House of CB. But we’re wondering if we may see even more styles beyond the sexy figure-hugging dresses. Don’t get us wrong: a skintight latex dress will always have a special place in our hearts. We simply think that latex is capable of even more.
Let’s also remind ourselves that latex achieves the glossy, wet look effect of leather or vinyl, as well as the smooth texture, without using neither animal skins nor the heavy pollutants involved in the manufacture of faux leather (PU leather) or PVC. Instead, latex is a natural, sustainable substance sourced from trees.
In our increasingly eco-conscious society, that may just make all the difference in Latex’s potential to storm the fashion world – so long as the designers continue to innovate.
Nina De Lianin of band In Strict Confidence describes their latest video, Mercy, as a “musicvideo/fashionfilm”, and it would be an injustice to those behind the video’s amazing wardrobe to be any less descriptive!
The costumes in this video are as much the showpiece as the actual music; and the fashion is as Alternative as it comes. The elaborate, often outlandish designs are provided by a number of avant-garde designers, as well as some recognised names in fetish-fashion, such as Marquis and Peter Domenie.
It’s Marquis which Nina herself is wearing; watch her strut through the old-fashioned rooms of this grand manor house while gleaming from head to toe in layers of transparent latex.
If Nina looks a complete natural in this get-up, it may be something to do with the fact she’s modelled for Marquis in the past. And indeed it’s harder to find a live performance of In Strict Confidence where she’s NOT wearing latex!
Nina performing with In Strict Confidence at the Blackfield Festival, 2013
For quite some time, the mere occurrence of a musician or celebrity wearing latex has ceased to be an unusual event in itself.
Time was, it took an artist with a certain reputation for eccentricity and non-conformity in order to push the envelope and wear these most eye-catching, and strange, outfits of rubber.
Partly due to their efforts, and partly due to the rise of latex couture, latex wear has spread from these fashion outliers to the mainstream core of pop culture, with presumably not much more ground – or taboos – to break. Even overt references to the fetish culture from which latex clothing sprang are now accepted as part of the normal iconography of the performer or fashionista; “Stars will be stars.”
However, all of the above assumes one crucial fact: we’re talking about women.
Michał Szpak performing at last month’s Top of the Top Festival in Sopot, Poland
Of course, men’s fashion does not have the same scope to be flamboyant or as out-there as women’s, and there is a whole host of reasons (that we won’t go into here) why this may be the case.
But even limiting the scope of our discussion to the famous, it still seems that few male performers are really taking advantage of their rock cred – their license to be larger than life – and breaking free of convention.
Not like we’ve seen in bygone generations, in any case.
Where are the New Romantics? The Punks? The Glam Rockers of today? We need new and exciting music, fashion and cultural movements to spur the kind of flamboyance and explosion of individuality and expression which marked those previous eras. And like female celebs have become trendsetters and brought latex fashion into the consciousness, perhaps we need genuine leaders, strong personalities, to show men also: There can be another way.
Szpak was a finalist on X Factor Poland, and later represented Poland in the Eurovision Song Contest, 2016
Michał Szpak may be too little known to be that influence. But hopefully he’s only a little ahead of his time. We salute Michał for putting some glam back into rock. Oh but this is no retro revival; latex is as bleeding edge as it gets.
I’m not entirely sure what I wanted to say with the post; but I guess it’s something like this: we’ve reached a stage where women’s latex fashion is in the mainstream consciousness almost daily; it would be nice not to have to wait years to witness another occurrence of men’s latex in the public eye.
Oh and the ‘L with a stroke’ letter is pronounced like the English ‘w’. Always been curious about that one!
Amentium is the latex fashion brand of Helen Teiman from Liverpool. They stand out for the use of laser-cut detailing to create repeating patterns from geometric shapes – designs Helen says were inspired by Renaissance and Classical designs and architecture.
We first became aware of Amentium through the ITV dating show Take Me Out (of all places). Last year, Helen participated in the show for the express purpose of wearing and promoting her latex designs. It seemed to be an effective strategy, as news articles and interviews with Helen appeared in print media following her appearance.
The brand continues to grow in popularity and is a regular participant of the biggest fashion weekends for fetish and alternative fashion across Europe, such as Avantgardista and the German Fetish Ball. Most recently, Amentium launched a new collection: ‘Without Warning’.
This is Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives’ fifth Q&A, and we thank them for sharing.
Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion?
My name is Helen Teiman. I graduated in 2016 from Leicester De Montfort University’s Contour Fashion course. When I started my degree course I had neither sewn nor drawn a fashion illustration before. I was going into it completely blind and I always had to work so much harder to catch up to my peers throughout the entire 3 year intensive course. I have done over 10 internships with fashion companies throughout the UK to push my learning in business but also experience the fashion industry in its raw form.
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?
As mentioned previously, I have done multiple internships. I thought I would give myself a new challenge and try a different material other than lace or Lycra. Having seen many images of celebrities in latex and extravagant costumes online I was curious about latex. I nervously contacted Catriona Stewart on Facebook, a previous graduate of the Contour Fashion course in De Montfort who had set up her own latex company. I asked if she needed an intern for the upcoming Christmas period in 2014, which was perfect timing as she had a large workload to get done for the Christmas season. Catriona accepted me as an intern (her first ever intern!) and later hired me as an assistant, a position I held for over a year before moving back to Liverpool once I had graduated.
Helen’s graduate collection ‘Hidden Escape’
At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation?
After completing my second year at university, I was pleased with how much progress I’d made. So I uploaded images of my best work onto PurplePort, including swimwear and lingerie and the first latex outfit I’ve ever made — The Launch Bustle Body. The attention my profile got was crazy — I had so many people asking to buy my outfits. I’d uploaded them onto PurplePort just to have an online portfolio for myself, but never expected anyone to actually want to wear them!
Still on the hunt for more fashion internships, in my final year I contacted the organizer of Liverpool Fashion Week to ask if I could help backstage at the 2015 event. Instead of offering me a backstage job, the organizer asked me if I would like my own show as a designer. I thought that, with the interest I had received on social media, this event would be the perfect platform to potentially start my own business and make some money for my final year at university.
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. 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?
As a one-person business I find it difficult to balance my time across all areas. Some days I want to spend all day designing and making a new collection yet I have to respond to many emails, prepare for upcoming events, sort out events and their fees, outfit costings, suppliers… so a lot of my time is spent organizing everything else over what my passion is: designing.
In the commercial market everything is based on cost, so as a designer you’re limited. I don’t want my creativity to be limited. I will never compromise on quality, and latex is a niche market where customers are willing to pay for creativity and quality. I feel like latex clothing is more respected as art than just clothing. Yet the rest of the business is definitely very strict on price as Amentium is still such a new brand I have to really think about the cost of everything else so I can spend more money on the outfits.
photo: Busha Bailey; model: Olivia Harriet
Latex can be described as a “Fetish,” a “kink”, “Alternative fashion” or simply “fashion”. Do you prefer one description over another?
I think the lines are starting to blur now more than ever. Initially, I wanted to design statement fashion outfits, something to be seen and flaunted, and latex allows that. As Amentium we try and add our own spin on the fetish and kink scene, introducing newbies with more fashion garments than fetish that they are proud to say they wear latex.
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?
Latex can be quite a heavy material and likes to have a mind of its own at times, I’ve learnt this the hard way, so introducing volume and loose fitted outfits can sometimes be a challenge to fall the way you intend it to and to stay there. It’s rare to wear undergarments when wearing latex clothing, as if it is a fitted garment then you can see every lump and bump where the undergarments are. It creates a much smoother finish going commando. Some people wear undergarments just for their own personal comfort.
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 it was no different than a “second skin” or is it more of a fashionable type of shapewear that fixes a person’s perceived “flaws”?
People that wear latex exude confidence and there’s nothing better than having someone proud to wear your designs. Latex wearers are generally proud of their body and want to parade it in whatever they wish. When customers are trying on my designs I always get questions like “Does this look okay, is it too tight, can you see my rolls etc?” yet their face and the way they hold themselves has completely changed, and I always say to them, “How do you feel?”. I always wait for their response, even though it is already written all over their face, they feel amazing! That’s what I love about latex, it acts like a second skin in a shapewear fashion, just slipping into a garment can completely change a persons confidence.
Part of the iLLUSION collection, modelled by Katie Miller
How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), and celebrity couture?
Currently, Amentium only offers womenswear. We have many transgender buyers, it’s just about finding the right style for their figure. The market is predominantly womenswear but those that do menswear are very good at what they do. Likewise for the celebrity-driven brands.
What is your favorite piece of latex that you’ve created in your career?
I will always hold a special place in my heart for The Launch Bustle Body as this was the very first latex outfit I had made and ultimately started Amentium as a brand.
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?
Yes, latex has a certain smell, doesn’t breathe, can be tight and make you sweat as a result but personally, I do not think it looks like you’re selling sex. Amentium wants to break the negativity with latex that it’s “for weird people who wear gimp masks and leads”. We offer loose fitting outfits like the Back to Basics Pencil Skirt that is more breathable so sweating is minimal. Some customers like to wear a smaller size as they love the constricting feel and how the tightness shapes their body, some customers prefer to wear something bigger; I cater to each individual customer about their needs.
The Launch Bustle Body
Less or More? Do you prefer designing a latex outfit which is more on the revealing side or leaning towards full coverage?
This depends on the collection, who I have in mind and where they will be wearing it. The iLLUSION collection is definitely the most revealing whereas the new collection [‘Without Warning’] is more covered and all about volume, a lot of jumpsuits and highlighting elements of the body i.e. legs, waist, rather than revealing them.
How do you feel is the best way to integrate latex into an everyday “public” outfit. How would you mix it with other materials?
I encourage people to invest in basic everyday pieces like a plain skater skirt or pencil skirt to combine with a non-latex top as you can dress it up or down, with another latex garment or another material. What is very popular at the moment is the Back to Basics Strappy Halterneck to be mixed with jeans and a jacket for everyday public wear.
What are your goals for your future in latex design?
We want to continue to grow and push the boundaries for design, try new things and master them. We also intend to start on menswear… we keep saying this but it WILL happen… eventually!
What is your favorite part of being a latex fashion designer?
Definitely the people I get to meet. Everyone is so warm and welcoming, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world with the brand and no matter where I go everyone is so supportive and engaging.
Sierra Colleen models new collection ‘Without Warning’. Photo: Busha Bailey
What is your blue sky accomplishment to achieve in the world of latex clothing or fashion in general?
I wouldn’t say there is one. I am grateful for all my accomplishments to date no matter how small and I think if I continue to think this way then bigger things will follow. If you have tunnel vision on one goal you will miss out on other opportunities that could lead to greater things.
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 commonplace? 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?
I despise hierarchy and those who believe their views are superior to others. I think the society that we live in today has evolved from even 5 years ago when I first started my fashion career. I launched Amentium at Liverpool Fashion Week closing the show with a latex collection. The journalists’ headlines were all about how racy it was yet my models were more covered than if you walked down the high street display windows and billboards. Purely because it was latex.
So I said to myself, okay, the world isn’t ready just yet. I was involved in a prime time television programme showcasing my designs on ITV last year and still received rude feedback but what both experiences taught me is to have confidence and believe in what you do. The world doesn’t have to agree with you, only a selection of people. When I were 14 I bought a crushed penny that I carry around with me in my purse still; although I was never much of a fan of Shakespeare the quote is from Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true” and that is what you have to do as a designer.
An indication of the work that goes into creating these garments: watch Helen drafting and cutting the patterns for one of her designs.
Women’s clothing seems to have such variety. Can men’s latex be as interesting? What are your thoughts on men’s latex fashion?
Absolutely! Those that do men’s latex do it incredibly well. Hopefully in the near future we’ll be able to add to that list.
What would you do to it to make it special to your line?
So this is easy: I really want to do a ‘his and hers’ matching collection. I have so many customers with jealous husbands as they want to wear something by us with their partner.
Do you have any final thoughts to add?
We’re going to be at Avantgardista, Munich in October if any of the community want to know where we’ll be to purchase or see any of our garments in person, as well as Le Boutique Bizarre in the Ministry of Sound, London during London Fetish Weekend.
Helen Teiman wearing her ‘Pretty in Pink’ designs. Photo: Busha Bailey
Thank you to Helen for her participation, and to Kyle&Selina of the Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives blog for holding the Q&A.
The outfits of the future will be made of latex. If, that is, we are to believe the accounts of numerous sci-fi movies, films and video games. We’ve shown many of these portrayals in our posts about latex in science fiction and cosplay here and here. Something about the slick, flawless, metallic-appearing and yet completely natural origin of latex makes it a perfect fit for portraying a future where the organic is increasingly interwoven with the robotic.
There are some, however, who are not just presenting high-tech latex costumes as something out of sci-fi but are creating this future as we speak. Introducing Olga Levitskaya, CEO of Cyber Myonics, neurobiologist, inventor, musician, cosplayer, and self-styled ‘Cyborg’.
Photo: Guiseppe Nucci For National Geographic
The term cyborg is not the same thing as bionic, biorobot or android; it applies to an organism that has restored function or enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback. – Joseph Carvalko
Ignoring the usual fantastical connotations of the popularised term ‘Cyborg’ and instead applying the above literal definition, it transpires that Olga’s claim to this moniker is entirely legitimate.
While making a sculpture during her 4th year of university, Olga accidentally sliced through her hand. The injury was severe, and Olga, a keen musician, was told she could all but forget about playing her Double bass. Through a curious confluence of her training in neurobiology and interest in Anime (where the heroines often don high-tech suits offering the wearer superpowers), it dawned on Olga that it may be possible to use technology as an aid in overcoming her disability.
The Eureka idea was a glove that used electronic pulses to stimulate the nerves, causing the muscles to move the hand in the desired way. In effect training the neural networks and ‘reeducating’ the brain in those physiological mechanisms as when the arm was healthy. The principal can be seen in this TV spot from Russian news, where the reporter puts on the glove and sees his arm take on a life of its own (at 1m 10s):
Here the arm was programmed to learn the muscle memory to play the drums, but in Olga’s case she was able to rehabilitate her arm to be able to take up stringed instruments once more. Besides rehabilitation after damage or a stroke, the same principle of ‘recording’ physical movements in digital and then playing them back, from computer to body, may even be used to learn an entirely new skill requiring muscle memory.
From there, the idea grew – why stop at a mere glove? A whole suit of this kind would have a much wider field of application. The Cyber Suit was born.
We can see from much of the promotional material that besides muscle rehabilitation and learning new skills another potential application is for ‘deep immersion’ in Virtual Reality; the electrodes and sensors of the suit acting on the nerves in such a way as to trigger the correct sensory responses to match what the user is seeing within their headset.
And then there is also the claim that such a suit can even help the body become fitter or to lose weight without exercising. We don’t know the science behind that, but suspect it may be the same concept as those toning belts which you strap to your abs, the electrodes inside the belt stimulating the muscles and causing them to contract repeatedly. Imagine a whole suit of that!
Olga credits her Cyber Suit with helping her to lose weight
The claims are bold, the ambition lofty. What we don’t know is how much of this is just conceptual, and whether any results have been independently proven, outside of this video by a YouTuber who tested a prototype (non-latex) and found the fitness aspect did deliver some results: (video is in Russian)
What we don’t doubt is Olga Levitskaya’s own dedication and belief in her vision; battling constantly for media exposure and funding (one often following on from the other) as well as injecting non-trivial sums of her own money. Perhaps the most gruelling process was taking part in the TV reality show “Million-Rouble Idea”, which is much like the show “Dragon’s Den” for startup companies seeking investment. The pre-selection process for this required a successful crowdfunding campaign – itself requiring no small amount of time, resources and energy – and Olga went on to feature in Million-Rouble Idea as a contestant in December last year.
We found this episode and thought the segment well worth posting, as it gives the best look at the suit up close, along with a detailed showcase of its workings in the form of an investor pitch (unfortunately in Russian, but the main attributes have been covered in this post already).
Olga proceeded to the series finale but unfortunately lost out on any investment at that stage.
All of this still leaves the very pertinent question though…
Olga herself has stated that for the Cyber Suit to work it has to be both tight against the skin and following perfectly the contours of the body, for an uninterrupted connection between the suit and the muscles or nerves of the wearer. Of course, latex and its famed property for being like a “second skin” fits this bill.
Cyber Suit prototype. The latex catsuit itself is made by celebrated cosplay designer Andromeda Latex
Whether it is exclusively latex which can perform this job we are doubtful, and indeed there are other functioning Cyber Suits created by Cyber Monics from other materials.
But putting aside practical function, there are few materials that capture the sci-fi feel as latex. As we noted at the outset, latex is an effective bridge material between the organic and the cybernetic, and aesthetic concern is surprisingly important to a scientific project such as this, if only to make the science attractive; to popularise it and grab our attention.
So yes: it’s effective PR. But more than that: it intrigues us, makes us want to discover the substance behind the attractive visual; it makes the technology appealing and aspirational. The future seductive.
Even that well known futurist Elon Musk thinks so, who hired superhero movie costume designer Jose Fernandez to work on the space suits for SpaceX:
[Mr Musk] wanted it to look stylish. It had to be practical but also needed to look great … When people put this spacesuit on, he wants them to look better than they did without it, like a tux. You look heroic in it – Jose Fernandez interviewed by Bleep Magazine.
It seems that Olya, taking her inspiration from Anime, Games and Cosplay, also understands this. And really — what good are superpowers if you don’t look the part?!
Filmmaker Jade Jackman has collaborated with London designer Hanger to produce a fashion concept film. The atmospheric short film, titled Sleepy Chan, is an artistic showcase of Hanger’s new collection – much of it latex – and draws heavily on designer Claire Davis’ roots.
Check out this article by Dazed for a discussion of the themes and imagery involved, as well as the sources of inspiration for the designs themselves.