Kyle & Selina: Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion?
Atsuko Kudo: I have studied fashion in Tokyo where I discovered latex then I moved to London to study theater costume and night clubs!
K&S: How did you discover latex as a material to use in fashion? Did you have a personal interest in wearing latex or what it just a material that you found interesting?
AK: As above, I discovered latex when I was studying fashion in Tokyo. it was a part of the college course to do the 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 super woman when I wore it. Later it become my passion to dress other women to discover the magic of latex and feel empowered.
K&S: At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation?
AK: 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!
K&S: 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?
AK: 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 hand made in London.
If you haven’t got a factory to cut the down the cost like big fashion brands or just exist as a one woman band with no shop or staff to avoid paying high over heads 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 its 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.
- Photo: Gregory Michael King / Esme Bianco
K&S: Latex can be described as a “Fetish,” a “kink,” “Alternative fashion” or simply “fashion” Do you prefer one description over another?
AK: I like them all!
K&S: 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?
AK: 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 body con styles but lets not limit our perception. Loose garment can be wonderful too. For example we make a very nice trench coat which is not body con at all but I think it is very sexy.
- Photo: Andrew Lamb
K&S: If it’s a “second skin” does it mean it needs to be worn without “undergarments”? Does that intimidate people from wearing it?
AK: It’s nice to wear it without under wear. If latex is cut correctly it will give you support like a shape wear. 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.
K&S: In your experience, how concerned are people concerned about body image when considering fashion choices. Does latex, as a material, help or hinder these decisions?
Do you feel latex tend to express one’s body with honesty as if is was no different than a “second skin” or is it more of a fashionable type of shapewear that fixes a person’s perceived “flaws.”
AK: 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 shape wear. There are garments with built in bra cups, 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.
K&S: How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), celebrity couture?
AK: Atsuko Kudo latex is for everyone who wishes to feel beautiful, feminine and strong!
- Photo: Peter Ashworth
K&S: What is your favorite piece of latex that you’ve created in your career for a man and for a woman?
AK: For a woman… we created so many pieces for so many incredible women and I love them all – but if I have to choose one it have 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 hard core 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 long time collaborator, business partner, muse and later become my husband – it was for a Millennium party – the year 2000 was when I started Atsuko Kudo.
K&S: People can state that they don’t like latex because of the smell, or because the material doesn’t breathe and they sweat to much, or because it’s too tight or it makes them look like they’re selling sex.
How do you address those concerns?
AK: I actually like the fact that latex has all of those qualities. It’s not easy to wear it. You have to go though some suffering but …. the results are amazing.
I see latex 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. some times. On my own terms. It’s interesting – not boring. So long as it is all under your control.
K&S: What is your design philosophy? What drives your creativity?
AK: I want to empower the 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.
K&S: Less or More? Do you prefer designing a latex outfit which is more
on the revealing side or leaning towards full coverage.
AK: I love both. It is not necessary to decide one or another.
K&S: How do you feel is the best way to integrate latex into an everyday “public” outfit. How would you mix it with other materials?
AK: 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!
- Photo: Andrew Lamb
K&S: What are your goals for your future in latex design?
AK: I want to dress the Queen of England in our latex one day. When she celebrated her 60 years diamond jubilee she had a photographic exhibition in Windsor castle with one photo per year and chose that picture with Lady Gaga for presenting the year 2009. It seemed so far away before but after seen 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 will be nice. it will be a pleasure and my ultimate dream.
K&S: What is your favorite part of being a latex fashion designer?
AK: To be able to meet and work with so many amazing people and projects. We get to work with world’s top super stars 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 a corset, briefs and 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 make 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 one on the news paper. Often more so.
K&S: What is your blue sky accomplishment to achieve in the world of latex clothing or fashion in general?
AK: 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 super model 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!
- Model: Natasha Poly, Photography & Director: Jeff Bark
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 theater 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, whats next? The blue sky can be anything…
K&S: 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 thru 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 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? 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?
AK: 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 have the problem. Stop fear and make love the goal.
K&S: Women’s clothing seems to have such variety. Can men’s latex be as interesting? What are your thoughts on men’s latex fashion?
AK: Man’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.
K&S: Is there anything you would like to add?
AK: 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
K&S: Thank You.