Latex was once seen as the domain of the kinky, the sexually experienced and the reprobates. While it still encapsulates those associations, it has moved on, becoming something more. No longer purely for the sexualization of the body, it’s now considered fashionable; a statement of dress and style.
Fetish fashion shows exist to let latex fashion designers illustrate how stylish latex can be, and show the many ways they can work with this difficult material.
Dawn Mostow, 34, is the designer of the Dawnamatrix clothing line, which sells high fashion latex wear to the public. She is also studying for her Masters in Liberal and Visual Arts at Harvard Extension School. Mostow is writing her thesis on fetish wear, “specifically latex as a means of body transformation and how that relates to the mainstream.”
She is fighting the stereotype that latex wearers are just about sex.
“People look and say its kinky fetish wear but the aesthetic is different, it just happens to be in latex.”
But can latex really transcend its fetish roots and move purely into a stylistic role?
“Fetish wear, has a specific, psychological or tactile purpose beyond aesthetics,” said Mostow. “The purpose is to have this body modification and restriction, and the aesthetic is dark and scary. But with the fashion aspect - while you still have the body mod part, transforms them as well. It’s less about the sexual aspect, more the visual aesthetic.”
The origins of latex are convoluted. However, technically it was discovered by Christopher Columbus, as it was extracted from the rubber tree he found.
Latex was also used as a weight loss aid in the early 1900’s - the material makes you sweat and slimmers were a fan. The fetish community then embraced it due to its restrictive nature, as the feeling of being “confined and bound” was highly eroticized. Then came pop culture, associating latex with superheroes in movies and pop stars such as Madonna using it in videos.
“There is a psychology to wearing latex,” Mostow said. “Latex being worn to be in control; or to be the submissive. In pop culture latex is generally worn to be super human, a dominant figure. Metahuman!”
She believes latex has more aspects than just sex.
“Someone who empowered by wearing latex to recreate themselves into something more than they were originally. They do this by enhancing physical characteristics and giving the wearer a sense of power and control over their environment.”
Latex is sexy, but the style element is important too. Once latex came in one color and was hard to handle. Today, it’s still surprisingly delicate material (it looks tough but is actually very easy to tear) and more colors are available. Mostow started selling her designs full time in 2010, and has seen the market change dramatically.
“The material is a lot more accessible than it was,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of designers experiment with it and try new things.”
So where will the latex end up?
“I don't see it being sold in Target,“ said Mostow. “It’s a delicate material and it would cheapen it if you were to put it in big box stores!”
Ingrid Rojas is a Colombian multimedia producer based in Miami. She spends her days either shooting, producing or editing all kinds of video content.