Ukraine has been an unexpected hot spot of latex fashion news in recent months, kicked off by Tina Karol wearing several latex outfits to at least five different events and TV appearances. Check our full post here.
Since then, Tina’s top rival for Ukraine’s annual ‘Most Beautiful Woman Award’, Olya Polyakova, has seemingly been inspired by her compatriot and fellow singer to also experiment with rubber wear in a number of high profile appearances.
In February, it was in attendance at the aforementioned award show by Viva! magazine, where Olya went on to take the crown:
It would be a great shame to waist such a dress on a mere red carpet photo opportunity, and so Olya took part in the comedy competition show League of Laughter wearing the same dress for the first episodes, broadcast in March.
That’s not all though: for the most recent episodes Olya played a main role in some of the sketches on stage, and that called for some latex outfits which were even more attention-grabbing: first, a unitard in shocking pink, and afterwards a racy policewoman costume! See all of Olya’s outfits in the video below:
There are parallels once again with Tina Karol, as Tina also played a role in the same series, which was also one of her first TV appearances in latex. We wonder if Olya will take her latex affair yet further. In the meantime, we haven’t heard the last of Tina Karol and latex. Expect another update to follow!
As one of, if not the most eminent designer of luxury latex couture, Atsuko Kudo barely needs introducing. Her label’s rise in popularity has been marked by an explosion of interest from celebrities, performers and fashionistas, which in turn has contributed towards an unprecedented mainstream awareness of and interest in latex fashion generally.
Atsuko Kudo’s popularity is not due merely to powerful branding or famous associations, of course, but her sophisticated and feminine designs, employing technologically complex innovations such as prints, lace effects or perforated patterns.
Atsuko Kudo took part in blogger KyleSelina’s latest Q&A, and we thank KyleSelina once more for sharing.
Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion?
I have studied fashion in Tokyo where I discovered latex then I moved to London to study theatre costume and nightclubs!
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 above, I discovered latex when I was studying fashion in Tokyo. It was a part of the college course to do market research. I chose to visit a sex shop. I fell in love with the fabric. I love the look and feel of latex. I felt like a superwoman when I wore it. Later it became my passion to dress other women to discover the magic of latex and feel empowered.
The ‘Restricted Love’ collection shown at Lingerie London, 2012
At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation?
I was making clothes for myself and friends to wear for parties. One day I got a call from Coco de Mer when it first opened – they wanted to stock my latex. I was making clothes from my living room alone, I didn’t even have a price list but I set up a business so that I could start to sell!
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?
The latex industry is still very young and small compared to ordinary fashion. The costs of running a business in London are high. Because we are a couture brand and have a shop, design studio, staff and offices we have even more costs. Many of the garments we create are made to fit individual customers. Everything is handmade in London.
If you haven’t got a factory to cut down the cost like big fashion brands or just exist as a one-woman band with no shop or staff to avoid paying high overheads it’s even tougher. Actually the market price for latex doesn’t really make sense because the expectation is for it to be a cheap product. You just try to be good, creative, and prepared to work hard for everything.
However we have such a passion for latex and want to make sure it’s done at the very highest standard so we are always feeling creative. You have to love what you are doing and believe that you can achieve your best work. I hope the passion shows in what people see with our latex designs.
Atsuko Kudo’s boutique at Holloway Road, London. Photo: Timeout
Latex can be described as a “fetish”, a “kink”, “Alternative Fashion” or simply “fashion”. Do you prefer one description over another?
I like them 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?
One of the big strengths of latex fabric is the second skin element. It can fit beautifully like a glove so long as it’s cut correctly – so it’s perfect for bodycon styles but let’s not limit our perception. Loose garments can be wonderful too. For example, we make a very nice trench coat which is not bodycon at all but I think it is very sexy.
If it’s a “second skin” does it mean it needs to be worn without undergarments? Does that intimidate people from wearing it?
It’s nice to wear it without underwear. If latex is cut correctly it will give you support like a shapewear. You can wear with underwear of course. There are no rules. But some garments have got bra cups already built in. A lot of our dresses come this way – we recommend not to wear a bra underneath those items.
Top: Mabel McVey; Above: Nicola Peltz
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”?
We offer different styles to suits all sizes, shapes and ages of women. As above, if the garment is cut to the correct size and thickness it will work as shapewear. There are garments with built-in bra cups, and corsets to give extra support available too.
Overall if you choose the correct garments and they are well designed and cut then latex will make the most of your body in the way you want it to be expressed – and that is the most important thing.
How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), and celebrity couture?
Atsuko Kudo latex is for everyone who wishes to feel beautiful, feminine and strong!
What is your favorite piece of latex that you’ve created in your career, for a man and for a woman?
For a woman… we’ve created so many pieces for so many incredible women and I love them all – but if I have to choose one it has to be the red dress that Lady Gaga wore to meet the Queen of England! It was an iconic performance by Gaga and the dress looked amazing on her. I was also so happy to see the Queen’s smile when she met Gaga. I felt it was a bit like royal approval for latex fashion – not that the latex community needs that of course but it was just funny. Latex had been seen as only more hardcore and S&M but everything seemed to change from that moment. I am so grateful to be part of it.
For a man…. I made a special hand-painted cheongsam dress for Simon Hoare who is my longtime collaborator, business partner, muse and later became my husband – it was for a Millennium party – the year 2000 was when I started Atsuko Kudo.
Lady Gaga’s Royal Variety Performance, 2009 – she wore this dress to meet Elizabeth II
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?
I actually like the fact that latex has all of those qualities. It’s not easy to wear it. You have to go through some suffering but …. the results are amazing.
I see latex the same as other fetish items like high heels, corsets etc – they are not easy but they are worth it…
Do I want to look like someone selling sex? – Yes. Sometimes. On my own terms. It’s interesting – not boring. So long as it is all under your control.
What is your design philosophy? What drives your creativity?
I want to empower woman through latex. I want to see a shiny sexy woman living the life she wants and deserves. I want to see a more shiny world full of love.
Less or More? Do you prefer designing a latex outfit which is more on the revealing side or leaning towards full coverage?
I love both. It is not necessary to decide one or another.
How do you feel is the best way to integrate latex into an everyday “public” outfit. How would you mix it with other materials?
There are no rules. But you may not want to wear head to toe latex for every day. You can easily mix a latex pencil skirt or leggings with other materials. And accessories such as gloves, collars, belts, hats, look great. It’s however you feel – do what you want to do!
Mixing a latex pencil skirt with other materiels, by Style On The Couch blog.
What are your goals for your future in latex design?
I want to dress the Queen of England in our latex one day. When she celebrated her 60 year diamond jubilee she had a photographic exhibition in Windsor castle with one photo per year and chose that picture with Lady Gaga to represent the year 2009. It seemed so far away before but after seing her with Gaga there may be a tiny chance? I would design a classical style suit and hat like she wears now in a bright colour would be nice. It would be a pleasure and my ultimate dream.
What is your favorite part of being a latex fashion designer?
To be able to meet and work with so many amazing people and projects. We get to work with the world’s top superstars and creative artists but also what nobody sees is that we mostly work with people you will never hear about because they are ordinary people buying an extraordinary product to make some special moments in their life feel even more special.
Some time ago we made briefs and a corset for a very large sized girl (14 x XL) who wanted to feel and look beautiful for her husband. She could not find the outfit that made her feel that way so visited us to make her own unique pieces. When she wore the outfit there were some tears both in her and her husband’s eyes.
These stories of ordinary people you never really hear about but they are just as beautiful as the ones in the newspaper. Often more so.
What is your “Blue Sky” accomplishment to achieve in the world of latex clothing or fashion in general?
I want to dress many more women to make the world more shiny and lovely. That can happen in many unexpected ways. Recently we dressed a car and supermodel Natasha Poly at the same time for a fashion campaign for Mercedes Benz A/W 2016 in which AK was the chosen brand. We vacuum bagged the car in a concrete factory in Miami, Florida – it was epic!
Also we dressed a set and models covered in 99.9% latex for a Veuve Cliquot champagne party last year. It was a fashion/art event curated by former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld and we collaborated with her along with work from Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford. The event was directed by theatre director Patrick Kinmonth. It was such a thrill and a great experience and I think took latex to another place as the audience were coming into the concept from a very different angle.
Now we have dressed a big car and the set that we never thought to dress, what’s next? The blue sky can be anything…
Top: Mercedes Benz Fashion Film; Above: Atsuko Kudo with models for the Veuve Clicquot event ‘SEVEN’. Photo: Dave Benett
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?
It’s ok to be yourself and respect others, we are all different. If someone is nervous about a fabric choice then it is probably them that has the problem. Stop fear and make love the goal.
Women’s clothing seems to have such variety. Can men’s latex be as interesting? What are your thoughts on men’s latex fashion?
Men’s latex can look great too. But it’s different of course. We specialize in women but we do a range of good suits and accessories for men – but only really in store. So you have to visit us! Then I can show what is available for men.
Is there anything you would like to add?
If you are thinking about trying latex or even Atsuko Kudo latex for the first time I would say if you can then try to visit us. The experience we try to give is unlike normal shopping. We sell our clothes in our flagship store in London.
But we also sell to many people online who we never meet by using measurements and possibly some photos. We always prefer to meet in person but it’s not always possible. Some of the public/celebrity work that you may have seen might be done this way too. We hope we can help you too. Looking forward to seeing you in Atsuko Kudo! xx
Photo: Amy Spanos, Model: Em Cmk
Thank you to KyleSelina of the Dark Shiny Fashion Alternatives blog for holding the Q&A, and to Atsuko Kudo for her participation.
Breathless create smart and sophisticated latex couture and fetish-fashion; suits, dresses, uniforms and more. They’re offering a 20% sale on everything online and in their London store (48 Phoenix Road). Sale ends midnight 18th March.
On a related note, this morning I also discovered this striking Vespa advert from India, 2013 by director Harvey B Brown. It features the classy white ‘Clover’ suit from Breathless, as well as capri leggings.
Vespa is an iconic brand that has long been associated with timeless style; with beauty of form and lines. It’s especially cool that latex couture fit the director’s vision of an idealised world symbolising and encapsulating these associations.
One of the best and most wide-ranging introductions to latex clothing; in this video Racked speaks to designer Kirsten Li, and the amount of ground covered in the short 2 and a half minute duration is surprising.
Besides getting an up-close look at some of Kirsten’s gorgeous designs, Kirsten talks us through the unique appeals of the material and why people love to wear it, beginning with its inherent material qualities, tactile sensation, visual allure and contradictions; its surprises and the misconceptions surrounding it.
Of course, this is placed in the wider context of its impact on those around, namely its shock value or ‘taboo’ status (which itself is often part of the appeal).
We also get a quick insight into the design process – the pattern cutting and glueing – while Kirsten talks us through latex’s natural and green origins, how it’s cared for, and how to put it on.
Last but not least, the dichotomy of fetish and fashion can never be ignored, latex occupying both these spaces due to its great versatility, sensuality and tendency to make a bold statement of avant-garde style. We think it’s rarely a binary issue: its allure and power often lies in a deliberate blurring of the line.
When we are researching articles we naturally find a lot of artists that we may not have discovered otherwise had it not been for their connection with latex clothing and fashion. This is not an indictment on those artists, merely a reflection of ourselves being out of touch with the modern popular music scene!
A lot of this music we could take or leave, and our interest in the artist extends only as far as our solemn duty to document latex developments in the mainstream.
However just occasionally, we’re introduced to an artist or song which excites us, inspires us, makes us feel good, and we can’t help listening on repeat and spreading the word to those in our circle. We thank latex for such discoveries!
And so it was late last year as we watched Rae Morris when performing her new single Do It for the BBC’s Live Lounge. Rae wears a red latex body which looks fabulous on her under the dim red lights of the close-up, intimate studio environment. Rae’s joy in the performance is as infectious as the song, her vocals sharp and distinct, and the melody and electronic production right up our street. We’re happy to say that with Rae we came for the latex, and stayed for the music.
In a recent Q&A, Rebecca Allsop said the following in relation to her discovery of latex:
It is an incredibly moreish material. Whether you’re making or buying, you always have the next outfit you want lined up almost before you’ve bought/made the first piece.
This nicely encapsulated a post we made in September, titled They Always Come Back For More, where we looked at a pattern of performers discovering latex and returning to it again and again: evidence that latex is indeed, as Rebecca says, ‘moreish’. Some of us would go even further and use more emotive words to describe our attraction: latex can be an obsession, it can be an addiction, and it can be a fetish.
Whatever the degree of fascination, we can generalise that latex often makes an indelible impression on those that try it, and some just can’t get enough of it.
And so, without further ado, we present Ukrainian pop idol Tina Karol:
We can trace Tina’s public love affair for latex back to the release in May last year of her music video ‘Ya Ne Perestanu’, in which she and a coterie of clones wear red latex stockings. She and her backup dancers would go on to wear the same for a number of live performances of the song.
All was quiet for some time until the 11th of November when Tina kicked off a veritable latex binge with an appearance on the live comedy sketch show League of Laughter. Tina was wearing a red Linde Pencil Dress by Atsuko Kudo, and it was to be the start of an all-out media blitz of latex, Tina’s every appearance being a showcase of her favourite latex designer.
On the 15th of November, it was in attendance to the Viva! Ball 2017, this time in a black Eden Corset Dress, where she was interviewed for the show Svitske Zhittya, or “Society Life”. Of course, her outfit one of the main topics for discussion:
Katya: In case our viewers didn’t notice, this is a rubber dress on you. Rubber woman – beautiful!
Tina: This is latex couture. I bought this dress in a special store of a Japanese designer. It’s actually unbelievably technologically complex. It’s really couture.
Katya: This dress is stitched, more precisely, is glued especially to your size?
Tina: Yes. But I don’t betray my style: it’s still my length, it’s still retro, and it’s still Tina Karol.
On the 9th of December, it was off to the M1 Music Awards. For this event, Tina even wore the red Linde dress for official promotional material and graphics. However, in attendance for the live event itself, Tina wore a new dress – the Paris Cup Pencil Dress in custom green – which she showed off when collecting her two awards for the night: best artist and best music video. That’s not all: for a live performance at the same event, Tina and her backup dancers were wearing transparent lilac latex leggings. This is true latex mania!
In late December, another interview was aired on Society Life, Tina wearing the Paris Cup Pencil Dress but in the more familiar light brown colour. What’s more, Tina has also worn this dress to perform live, as can be seen in the video below. The interviewer comments on Tina’s beautiful appearance but there was no reference specifically to latex this time. We guess by now the presenter had become used to Gumova Zhinka – the Rubber Woman.
Finally, to cap the year off, Tina appeared on the channel Ukraina for a new year celebration, wearing a long white ball gown with transparent panels. As something of a departure, for once this was not an off the peg design by Atusko Kudo, but rather a custom commission (we are not sure of the designer).
As for what 2018 might bring and whether Tina Karol will continue flaunting her latex love, we’ll be on the lookout. We do know that there were several promotions and TV shows already filmed in 2017 with Tina wearing latex that have yet to air: at the top of this post you can see at least one of them, Tina wearing the light brown paris pencil dress during filming for The Voice of Ukraine (Golos Krainu). Follow us on twitter for smaller updates, and if the content is really special we’ll follow up with another dedicated post.
Another year, another raft of music videos featuring latex outfits. There were the usual suspects but also many complete newcomers to latex fashion and imagery. In a few cases, latex was an artistic representation of futuristic fashion or empowerment and submission; in other cases, it was not a meta-representation of ‘fashion’ but simply fashion in itself. And there is always, of course, room for latex as simple, unpretentious sexy fun.
Outfits were sourced from couture latex designers spanning the globe, from Vex Clothing, Syren and Dawnamatrix in the US, to Kim West, Atsuko Kudo and Maddrubb in Europe, and Atelier Harlem in Australia.
And so, in reverse order: our top 10 favourite music videos of 2017. Click the song titles for a more detailed post or a direct link to the video itself.
Black M – Comme moi (ft. Shakira)
Shakira was that rare pop icon who avoided experimenting with a latex look over the length of her extended career. Until 2017, that is. The wait was worth it, as this nude latex bodysuit is the ideal ‘second skin’, clinging to Shakira’s every twisting and undulating movement.
Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B – MotorSport
Nicki Minaj is one of those stars who fell for latex hard this year, appearing in a multitude of videos, live appearances, and social media posts wearing her newfound favourite material. But we think she saved the absolute best outfit for MotorSport in December. For the Blade Runner-style neon sci-fi setting, they opted for a chrome and transparent future fashion combo: the look is achieved with no less than a head to toe semi-transparent catsuit!
Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do
Taylor Swift wears an orange Atsuko Kudo bra in an early scene, though it’s a mere tantalising hint of latex before she appears in full dominatrix-queen regalia around the 1 minute 50 mark, looking the cruel despot, oozing power. Granted, the screen time is all too short, but nobody can deny she looks devastating.
Janel Parrish – Dance For Me
This video is ridiculously over the top, with four women in red and black catsuits, writhing around between smoke, mirrors and lasers. But it gets away with it by being half parody: Janel Parrish plays a fictional singer within the Rosewood TV series, and this is the music video filmed in-show, then released independently as a cross-promotion. We quite admire the self-awareness of latex being a music video trope, but even at face value what’s not to like about four dancers in tight, shiny, head to toe rubber?
Pixie Lott – Won’t Forget You (ft. Stylo G)
The latex bodysuit has been one of the vogue items for performers, featured in five of the videos on this list alone. Here Pixie Lott wears a bright pastel green which fits the bright and fresh summery vibe of this video and the single.
Katy Perry – Chained to the Rhythm (ft. Skip Marley)
We are back to future fashion for Chained to the Rhythm. Despite this future being a different, Brave New World-style vision of dystopia – one of pastel colours and endless stimulations – chrome, transparent and otherwise reflective clothing still rule the day. Latex is just one of a number of materials that fit into this vision, and we love Katy’s look in the latter half of the video especially. Extra points for the catchy retro 80s synthpop and what it tries to tell us.
Kimbra – Top of the World
It’s Kimbra, “smashing shit up in latex”, and that must feel as good as it looks. Care was taken to make sure the choice of outfits were a representation of the lyrics in each scene, and Kimbra dons the latex for a climactic verse in which she tells us she feels “Like a god”. If you’ve ever dressed up in latex, that may well resonate with you.
Reyko – Spinning Over You
Latex takes front and centre stage in this debut video by Reyko, thanks to solid primary and secondary colours, set to maximum shine on a minimalist set. The dancers wear the ubiquitous latex bodysuit, however the real star is the luscious yellow midi dress worn by the main singer. This combines two great visual and tactile effects of latex: the figure-hugging second skin on top, and relaxed and loose at the bottom. Seeing the unique weight of loose latex in motion, and how it falls and flows freely while catching the light is one of its stand out qualities, here exploited to maximum effect against the black background.
Katy Perry – Bon Appétit (ft. Migos)
The imagery in Bon Appetit is a visual feast. Even apart from the latex, the scenes are arresting and provocative but also playful, as Katy Perry wryly serves up another course of her social commentary. The latex is plentiful, in transparent nudes, pinks and lilacs. The nudes are like a call back to the shrink wrapping covering Katy at the start of the video, while the pink becomes a mouthwatering glaze as she is served up, all prepared and fit for presentation. When it’s time for the big reveal, Katy in fact covers up: a lilac kimono materialises over her existing outfit; a reflective armour, latex layered upon latex; Katy revels in the moment as power is turned on its head.
Bolshaya Opera is a TV talent show on Russian channel Telekanal Kultura, and earlier this month the contestant Yana Dyakova performed aria della bellezza wearing a black and white latex catsuit and inflatable headpiece.
Latex doesn’t discriminate when it comes to musical genre: In one moment we may be watching Nicky Minaj rapping in consciously trashy latex for Jason Derulo’s Swalla, and in the next we can switch over to the arts channel and see an aria performed in a catsuit!
What’s more, neither of the outfits are out of place. Latex is continually breaking boundaries and confounding expectations. Latex is for whatever your imagination wills it to be.
Yana’s look is styled by her compatriot, the performance artist Sasha Frolova. The catsuit + inflatable head piece is Sasha’s signature look when performing for her music project AQUAAEROBIKA, though Sasha also adds a mask to the ensemble. It’s another demonstration of the varied contexts latex can be adapted to, this being ultra saccharine electro-pop:
And check out this video interview with Sasha Frolova in which she discusses her reasons for working with the material, and her fascination for its unique properties and contradictions here.
Kimbra’s ‘Top of the World’ is that desired combo: a great song paired with a visually impressive and artistic video which makes use of latex. Adding a little context makes the whole experience all the more perfect, especially when this Behind The Scenes video makes it obvious how much thought was put into the choice of costume for each segment of the video. In Kimbra’s words:
One of the more exciting processes of making a video, for me at least, is conceptualising the fashion and the growth of outfits […] I like when the clothes seem an expressive part of giving the audience a way into the lyric further.
It’s telling that latex enters in the final third where Kimbra acts her most emboldened – feeling “like a god” – while social conditioning and limiting beliefs come crashing down around her. How good that must have felt. Take it from Kimbra herself:
Smashing shit up in latex = my favorite part of the new music video.
It’s an oft-held view that besides its visual allure latex offers a sensation which makes the wearer feel super-powered. Often born of this feeling is a desire and need to transgress social constructions and conventions through self-actualisation. I can think of no better choice of costume for the climactic act of a song entitled ‘Top of the World’.
On Wednesday, Bella Hadid attended the Victoria’s Secret Angels Viewing Party 2017 in New York wearing this Lady P Long Evening Dress by Atsuko Kudo.
Bella Hadid has worn Atsuko Kudo before, that time a plain black Paris Cup Pencil Dress. Both are stunning in their own right, but the fine lacework of this pearl sheen red dress pushes it into the upmost tier of luxury of what is already an upscale boutique latex brand.
Atsuko Kudo considers the lace effect latex as seen here to be one of her signature innovations, and we think it makes the nature and origin of the material slightly more subtle – an extra step in the direction towards couture and away from fetish. This applies to non-black and patterned latex in general, but the design here is particularly delicate and classy.
We wonder why patterned latex has not made more inroads into showbiz fashion, being aware of only one previous occasion when it was worn: by Kelly Brook back in 2009.
With the positive reception for Bella and her gorgeous and elegant dress on Wednesday, who knows, she may just spark an interest in a different sort of latex.