FETISH x FASHION: DESIGNARÉ HOMME NOV 2011

I was assigned this story last minute, before the magazine went to print, but I writing it made me realise how much I've missed writing for a living. Not banal, PR-ish writing that I do on a daily basis [which I can't find joy in doing, and I have to give a lot of credit for people who do it well, and enjoy it just as much] - and what's even better is that the story made the cover! Yay! Eight years on and I still get tingles in my toes seeing something I've written in print. If this ain't love, I don't know what is.

In case you're still wandering about Orchard Road not sure which magazine stand you can hang out at and read my article since Borders has closed, I'll do you a favour and post it up here:

When you refer to your partner as the ole’ ball-and-chain these days, it may not just be figuratively anymore. Sure, you or your better half may not be literally walking around dragging a heavy metal ball secured to your leg by the means of a chain and manacle, but chances are, you might actually be wearing mainstream interpretations of “toys” commonly used in BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism & masochism) activities.

While latex catsuits, mouth gags and whips come to mind first at the mention of fetish gear, kink wear goes beyond than just that. Some may argue that it’s costuming, but Japanese schoolboy and girl outfits, tough biker guys clad in leather and even itsy-bitsy flashy-flashy French maid costumes can be categorized as fetish wear. In general, fetish wear takes a sexual fascination and pushes it to the extreme, making it more provocative and erotic than it usually is.

Some serious fetish wear purists argue that the use of corsetry and hobble skirts back in the late 1700's can easily be considered as the first mainstream indication of fetish fashion, particularly since the majority of society did not have access to such clothes. Others claim that smutwear’s rise to mainstream started as a part of an underground movement in London after World War II with the "leather-wearing" culture of homosexual men. During this period, gay men began wearing rarely-worn leather clothing publicly and in large orders with the intention of identification and separation from the norm.

Fast forward more recent times, fetish style has taken its claim on the mainstream since the TV show the Avengers in the 60s, Punk and Vivienne Westwood’s influences in the 70s, and the big explosion of fetish fashion innovation in the 90s. Fetish weave in and out of style, much like a lot of everything in fashion.

Of course, most recently, Jean Paul Gaultier has teamed up with French champagne house Piper-Heidsieck to launch bondage fizzies – that’s right, champagne bottles wrapped in ready-for-danger Gaultier fishnet stockings and sealed with a latex and a boudoir-worthy red eye-mask – you realise that these paraphernalia of perversion are things not necessarily adorned behind closed doors.

Bondage-inspired wear has taken over pop culture – Adam Lambert is known for his signature his Mad Max-inspired styles mixed with some harnesses and heavy chains, Rihanna practically made a career wearing latex and let’s not even start on the gold leather harnesses Lady Gaga’s male backup dancers have on all the time.

The fashion runways have not be spared – Gareth Pugh encased his models’ head in muzzles for his Spring/ Summer 2012 show; burlesque phenomenon Dita von Teese unpeeled the opulent swathes of the Gaultier frock she was wearing on the Jean Paul Gaultier runway to revealed to Paris’ fashion bigwigs a dominatrix-inspired leather corset, but also her fair, bare bottom. Marc Jacobs squished models into shiny black bustiers and Eyes Wide Shut wife-swapping masks, model Karlie Kloss opened the Hermes Spring 2011 show in Paris by trotting out in a black leather bustier and over-the-elbow leather gloves, with a ringed equestrian harness around her neck. Fetish fashion is dominating the runways – and quite literally.

Men are not let off the hook, of course. The late Alexander McQueen created headlines during his Autumn/Winter 2010 show, An Bailitheoir Cnámh, when male models strutted the catwalk donning weird masks and netted headgear that alluded to sadomasochism or bondage, and one of the suits was printed with human skulls and bones.

Granted, fetish-inspired menswear is not as extreme as womenswear can be. It ranges from the tame all-black ensembles that rock many-a-runway including Prada’s and Givenchy’s to more blatant interpretations of the style: Dolce & Gabbana’s studded boots and leather suspenders, reminiscent of harnesses you’d see on a gyrating bare body in an S&M club in Berlin.

What is interesting is that the more mainstream the black-and-studded smutwear has become, the more neutral and desexualised these S&M gear seem to become – what was once unquestionably subversive has become mainstream and banal. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, of course, unless you really are bondage fan and all these faux BDSM gear barely even grace mild bondage to you and you’re left scoffing left, right and centre at Britney’s circus whips and Katy Perry’s latex cotton candy-coloured dresses.

But on the other side of the spectrum, when smutwear is readily available off the shelves, it makes you wonder whether we’re a mere flogging away from buying nipple clamps and sex swings at Barney’s.