Every so often, a fashion season will see a handful of designers flirt with latex – a striking material that instantly brings to mind themes of sex, fetish and extremity. What was most most interesting about autumn/winter 2011 was the provenance of the fabric, with three designers using latex from London. Marc Jacobs and Mugler turning to House of Harlot and Atsuko Kudo respectively, renowned latex specialists who both have stores on Holloway Road. And newcomer Phoebe English who used latex from local Hackney supppliers.
Latex rubber is best known for its associations with fetish culture – its skin-tight, second skin effect, restrictive and waterproof qualities making it perfect for provocative and sexual performances. Aside from fetishistic bodysuits, gloves, hoods and cloaks, latex was traditionally used in protective clothing, for gas masks and Wellington boots but has since been superseded by plastic alternatives. Outside the world of hardcore S&M, latex has made numerous appearances in popular culture – in Madonna's iconic Human Nature video and in Blade Runner and Catwoman, as well as featuring prominently in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's iconic 70s clothing boutique SEX.
For autumn/winter 2011, Marc Jacobs had 'fetish' on the brain: for his eponymous label, he collaborated with House of Harlot on latex button-downs and a new rubber fabric intended to look like sequins used for dresses, whereas at Louis Vuitton, he cited one of his key references to be the sexually-charged and controversial film The Night Porter. At Mugler, Nicola Formichetti opened his show with tailored jackets, sliced open at the waist, their top and bottom halves held together by a strip of transparent latex shot through with a drawstring, followed by latex leggings courtesy of Atsuko Kudo. Central Saint Martin's MA graduate Phoebe English's collection was inspired by light, gravity and notion, combining hair and latex. "The garments were woven with a crochet technique using strands of hair", reveals English, "Latex is a wonderful material to work with as it has a nice weight and a beautiful sheen in the light. I discovered cutting into the fabric multiple times gave it a shivering quality, a contrast to it's literal weight."
Photographed by Stefan Heinrichs and styled by Agata Belcen, this shoot for AnOther explores the work use of London latex by Marc Jacobs, Mugler and Phoebe English for autumn/winter 2011.
Models: Melodie Monrose at Silent, Maddy Ford at Storm, Darya K at Premier
Hair: Christian Wood at Premier Hair & Make-up using L'Oréal Professionel
Make-up: Lucy Burt at Premier Hair & Make-up using Chanel A/W 2011 Collection
Photographic assistant: Neil Pemberton
Styling assistant: Yana Sheptovetskaya, Becky Baik
Production: Hannah Chrispin at Santucci & Co.
Thanks to: Loft Studio's & Filmplus
Text: Laura Bradley