You may have come across the name “Catasta Charisma” in your search for Latex fashion information on the internet. Our own search discovered the name when we found a link to tutorials on how to create one’s one latex garments. To say the guides were detailed was an understatement – The content was outstanding. Suddenly the possibility of creating one’s own latex outfits was a glimmering possibility.
More research into the name and more creations come to the surface. When we inquired about an interview for our series, we were expecting interesting answer. What we received was such a detailed narrative that we couldn’t stop reading and reading the answers. We’d venture to say that most of the “latex thoughts” that a latex afficiando has are touched on at one point or another.
Since the answers were so extensive, we’re breaking the interview into three parts just to make the reading experience somewhat manageable. We hope you enjoy. We certainly did.
Kyle and Selina (K&S): Can you provide a short bio of your background in fashion?
Catasta Charisma (CC): I began to make rubber garments around nine years ago. Initially it was just for myself, accessories to or adaptations of garments already bought from other manufacturers. Over time I began to concentrate on much grander themed outfits involving multiple garments. Various fetish event organizers and friends encouraged me to show off my work and I use to do quick change one man shows. I then met ExxEss Latex from the U.S. at the Montreal Fetish Weekend and started working in collaboration with them. With ExxEss I began to make garments that weren’t just for myself but for anywhere up to 24 models at a time and involving hundreds of garments per show. The shows took me to multiple fetish events per year, some small and some large and with each show I and my friends from ExxEss would reveal something different.
K&S: 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?
CC: I have had an interest in rubber since a child but I didn’t get to wear my first garments until the age of 21. My interest really began around the age of 6 with discovering my mothers drawer of nylons and I became fascinated by the materials stretch quality and its capacity to transform how the world around me was sensed and how it could effect my own appearance.
Gradually my tastes grew to include most stretch types of materials of which one was rubber. Rubber was always elusive, it wasn’t as if one could easily lay hands on garments made from rubber other than swim caps or old Second World War gas masks so it wasn’t until I got to university and could travel more to the shops that sold fetish wear that I truly got to experience it. I’ve now been wearing rubber for some 27 years and it still fascinates me.
I think before continuing I should provide some clarity as to why I use the word rubber instead of latex. Latex is a liquid found in many thousands of plants that is thought to help regulate its temperature as well as provide protection against bugs if the surface of the plant is damaged, oozing out and sealing the wound, potentially trapping the critters and making the plant taste very bitter. Depending on the plant from which the latex is gathered it forms various products such as chewing gum, opium and of course rubber.
The rubber from which rubber garments are made comes from the Rubber Tree, Hevea Brasiliensis. The tress are cut, the latex collected, formic acid added to speed up the coagulation that separates the rubber from the latex into a solid form. The rubber is then sent to manufacturers who put it through various processes to help stabilize the product. In regards to fashion the form which rubber takes is in sheeting which comes in various thicknesses. That’s it very crudely put. So I distinguish a difference between latex and rubber because I use both in my work, I use it both in its solid form of rubber as well as in its liquid form as latex and by maintaining a distinction between the two it helps when writing the manuals on rubber garment making and crafting such as for example, using latex for producing moulded items, or as a paint or even making ones own sheeting.
I’m not too sure when we began to use the two words more freely, interchanging rubber for latex but currently it seems that latex has almost replaced the word rubber and now refers to any material that resembles in appearance sheet rubber so a shiny surfaced lycra or even a soft leather can be referred to as latex.
K&S: At what point did you decide to take your personal interest in latex and transition it to a vocation?
CC: Before deciding to become a rubber garment designer I owned a shop that sold cotton fabrics for sewing. I began to have thoughts about changing what I did in life around six years ago. I had set up a work shop area within the shop where I could craft with rubber in between serving customers. I found I was making more and more rubber garments, that they were taking up more and more of my time so it seemed there was a gravitational pull towards wanting to work more with rubber than there was working in the shop and so three years ago I made the decision to let it go, sell everything off and with the proceeds build myself a studio.
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?
CC: One thing people can find perplexing is that I don’t make garments to sell, it is also a very rare thing for me to accept commissions. I have no interest in such things. I made and sold items (not made from rubber) for 18 years in my shop and even longer when one also accounts for my career as an artist and frankly it’s boring.
While it is entirely feasible to make a profit making rubber wear I have no interest in doing so. I use to represent at one time around 55 different artists and crafts people of which very few made a living from it. They treated their art/craft as a hobby and derived great joy from it, sold their goods through me and were happy for having extra cash in their pockets. A handful did make a living from selling their goods. Either they had really keyed into a fashionable market or they were selling their goods through multiple shops. In both cases they would have to step up production and turn something that was a passion into a factory process.
Some were okay with this, it suited their demeanor but for others they came to hate that which they once loved, they never wanted a job in a factory and yet here they were setting up their own small version of one. That is not my intention for my life. Rather I intend to make enough money to pay the bills life throws my way through the manuals I write on how to make rubber garments.
One big aspect of the job I did in the shop was to demonstrate to customers how to make things, how to make a patchwork quilt, how to make a shirt, even how to make some things that I had no experience of making and how to interpret other designers instructions and patterns.
I loved this, it suited me as a person who is constantly fascinated with how to make things and sharing with others what I learn. The many years of daily reinterpreting and teaching gave me the background to be able to write the manuals. My background as an artist also helps for illustrating them and of course, many of the garments I make for shows provide the photographs.
While the world of rubber is a large market it is of course very small in comparison with many other things, it gets incredibly small once you isolate in that rubber world who would like to make their own rubber wear but as there is only a very few people who share their knowledge one can make a small living from doing so. A small market but with barely any competition.
I work with ExxEss Latex to help produce some outlandish outfits to show the world what is possible in rubber, this pushes me to constantly innovate what can be done, this pushes me to understand better how I am doing this and learn how I may convey to others how to realise ones wildest dreams.
K&S: Latex can be described as a “Fetish,” a “kink,” “Alternative fashion or simply “fashion” Do you prefer one description over another?
CC: I have no preference for how others refer to rubber garments. The association of what the material means to everyone is different. It will never be a conventional material used to make everyday garments, it is simply too impractical a material without getting some serious tech involved to modify its negative qualities (negative in the sense of what aspects of its nature prevent it from becoming a conventional fabric), and while serious tech is getting involved it does, however, turn the material into a different kind that does not have the same appeal to people who enjoy it. You want the material to be conventional then the material must change, you want the material to remain unchanged then it will never be conventional. And, if it ever did become a conventional fabric then I think it would loose its attraction as alternative fashion.
Alternative fashion is seen as attractive because of its taboo associations. In itself it doesn’t have any taboo qualities but rather it inherits them from people who do have a genuine fetish for rubber, people who have often felt ostracised for liking the material, people who may at some stage have felt shame for wearing it, or even just an attraction to it.
Rubber as an alternative fashion isn’t always bought by people who have a fetish for it but rather seek to be associated with having a fetish, they have a fetish for being seen to have one, for being seen to possibly have a “dark side”, for being seen as not being part of the herd despite the wearing of rubber simply associating them to another herd. And there is nothing wrong with this.
They may have no real concept of what it actually means to live with a fetish and possibly a taboo but that’s fine, that’s cool, I have no real concept of what it feels like to wear rubber and not have a fetish for it. I guess in some ways those who don’t have a fetish seek its association with darkness while for myself as a fetishist who has spent too long immersed in its dark, negative world, often seek in my designs to make it more acceptable, to make it more associated with the light it has also brought into my world, that it has also helped me to experience the world in different ways unimaginable and to establish new forms of expression, that it’s a medium through which I discover myself.
Perhaps then rubber for me is about learning about my light side after discovering that to wear rubber was dark, was wrong, while for others they seek to learn more about the darkness because life has been too bright. I should really make guesses here. We are all on the same trip of self-discovery anyway, learning about our dualistic qualities, trying to find a balance.
I honestly have no idea what it should be called if it actually needs a name, yes it is fashion, it reveals an aspect of our current cultural meme, its alternative because it uses an unconventional material, it’s kinky because rubber can be associated with sex although that is more a stereotype and, it can be a fetish because it can have an attraction to some people that goes far beyond it simply just being used as clothing. To me it’s just rubber wear, it is rubber we wear, everything else is just what it can be associated with.
K&S: In browsing your creations on your facebook page it is obvious that you truly create outfits which are not reproductions of everyday normal clothes. What drives this creation. Where do you envision people enjoying such outfits?
CC: I began to make more outlandish rubber wear when I got bored with what I could buy from manufacturers. Initially I wanted to take rubber out of the bedroom or dungeon, I wanted to go to events and walk out in public and as such I didn’t want to go in my skintight equivalent of pyjamas, a classic black catsuit for example, but rather in my Sunday best, in something head turning. To show myself off, to own the rubber, to wow folk and be proud.
No matter how much I mixed and matched garments from other companies none of them could attain the vision I desired. I began to design my own outfits and have other manufacturers make them up for me but not only can this get expensive but one is also limited in that one can’t change what is being made half way through the making as its out of ones own hands. The garments I came to make often can be your classical normal clothing, they can also be your classical fetish clothing, they are often a combination of both or an extrapolation upon both.
I never envisage where people might wear anything I make because I never intend to sell anything I make and really, where people go in their clothing and what they do in it is their business, if they want to be dressed as an inflatable teddy bear and go down to the supermarket that is up to them, in fact I’d pay to see that! So I don’t think about such things. When I make the items I do it is about showing others what is possible, to knock their socks off at times, to make them laugh, to scare them, to excite them and much of my creativity is driven by a perception of not how I see people wearing such items but how in some future we would desire to actually become entities that might partially resemble what I make, to be able to genetically modify the housing of our consciousness to resemble a giant teddy bear or whatever!
K&S: Do you find any interest in what I’ll call “plain” latex fashion? That is latex clothing that a person can confidently wear out in public without screaming “kinky” or “weird”?
CC: There is room in this world for all uses of rubber garments. One just needs to check out my own wardrobe. I will dress in the most conservative of fetish wear, I will dress in what looks like everyday conventional garb, I will dress to the nines in some flamboyant pantomime affair, I will totally transform every aspect of my physique to disguise its identity and transform it into an alternative form. I have a fetish for rubber and it doesn’t matter to me what form it takes.
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? If it’s a “second skin” does it mean it needs to be worn without “undergarments”? Does that intimidate people from wearing it?
CC: Rubber can be used from its lightest, gossamer thin and billowy loose form to its heaviest, thickest and most body compressing form just as any other material that has the capacity to stretch. Rubber neither suits one type of clothing better than another.
There are four different categories of what we refer to as skintight garments; form fitting, cling fitting, action fitting and power fitting. The first describes garments that have few wrinkles and a minimal amount of stretch required for the wearer to be accommodated within the garment. Barely any pressure is put on the body by the garment as it contours around it and no mobility is impeded. In the second type the rubber clings to the bodies curves rather than simply accommodating them and accentuates its natural shape although there isn’t any significant compression.
With action fit the rubber grips the body and requires better cutting to produce better shaping around the more prominent aspects of the body to prevent them from being distorted. There can be significant streamlining to the softer parts of the flesh.
With power fit the compression increases either in full or just in part upon an action fit garment and again, to both avoid body distortion and to improve movement the degree of knowledge required to cut the garment increases.
For any skintight garment then it can be experienced in various degrees of compression and fit and through a large range of different thicknesses of rubber sheeting. How a skintight garment looks and feels then is dependent on these various things so some garments can be made from a thin rubber and have a certain degree of compression which for anyone who doesn’t want to show off their cellulite is a mistake as such rubber will adhere to its undulating nature but that same garment in a thicker material but without necessarily being more compressive will see their cellulite smoothed down.
This is true for anything worn under such garments from extra clothing to body jewellery. It will depend somewhat on the garments worn underneath, how thick they are, even how compressive they are as to the degree to which they are seen embossed on the surface of the rubber. One can always have garments in which rubber underwear is worn if necessary or even underwear built into the garment. However, most skintight garments have no need for anyone to wear underwear unless it is out of fear that the garment might tear itself apart under the stresses of its stretching but this shouldn’t happen if the garment is well made and cared for.
K&S: 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 is was no different than a “second skin” or is it more of a fashionable type of shape-wear that fixes a person’s perceived “flaws.”
CC: Let’s assume we have never worn clothing before and think of our body as a blank canvas. What are we going to paint on that canvas? This is a very difficult because really what I am saying here is how are we going to transform the perceived identity of the blank canvas into something else.
Go to any gallery and all those countless thousands of paintings all began life the same, as blank canvasses. As soon as we daub something upon that canvas it becomes something different. But what will our daub be? What will that daub say about us? To answer this we need to know what it is we want to say, in other words, dressing ourselves is an art form, a process of deliberated decision making that leads to an overall expression and just like any art form it does not work well when free but requires to be confined, requires boundaries within which our decisions can be made.
A starting point in establishing these boundaries is the canvas itself, it’s shape and surface, our bodies, our objective observations and subjective perceptions of it, so, the canvas itself can influence us. We look upon it and make decisions that we want it to appear larger or smaller for instance, we want to project to the world that the canvas they are seeing is not what it actually is, that the canvas in of itself is not everything that we are. It isn’t always the case that we are unhappy with the canvas though, with its shape but rather that the blankness we feel it projects just doesn’t say everything that is behind the canvas. It doesn’t project the ever fluctuating, evolving and flexible nature of the multitudinous aspects of our identity. Identity then becomes one of the boundaries for our decision making because what aspect of our identity then are we going to project, what will be the painting that best reflects how we feel about ourselves today.
If we are aware enough to be able to recognise what it is we want to project, to say about ourselves, we then have to make decisions on how we are going to create this expression. Here we can be confronted with many new boundaries upon our decision making processes in regards to materials and colours and patterns etc and that not all that we envision as the things required for our expression are available to us, that the garment simply does not exist, that the fabric we want is too expensive, that the specific colour is unavailable and this leads us to modify, to compromise on the vision we have so that any eventual painting isn’t just a reflection of what we want to say but is also in part a reflection of what is able to be said at any given time.
Okay then, dressing ourselves is the simplest thing in the world, we grab what we need for the day for the sake of modesty and sling it on but it can also be a very complex process of decision making of which ones perception of their body image is just one influence.
I wouldn’t say rubber nor any other kind of material hinders our decision making. I think once we opt for any specific material such as rubber to become the prime fabric of our dressing then it becomes one of the boundaries that will help to establish the form of the identity we wish to project or/and feel privately within because we recognize that wearing rubber is saying something about us. Also what we can do with rubber allows for certain forms of expression in how it can be manipulated that other materials cannot achieve just as other materials can be manipulated in ways that rubber can’t. Each type of material both frees and limits us in what we are able to say.
I guess what I’m also saying here is that when we dress we aren’t just dressing our physical form, our body, that that is actually the least of what we are doing. If we wanted to solely express our body with honesty then we wouldn’t wear any clothing irrespective of the material they might be made from but truthfully I don’t think it has anything to do with honesty.
Our bodies are what they are while honesty is a concept dependent on current trends as to an ideal standard in which aspects of our body are flawed today but seen tomorrow as perfect. It is based on what we feel we are being told we should be comparing ourselves to. Of course we utilise clothing to mask and reveal aspects of our body but it has nothing to do with the body at the end of the day but about everything we feel within about our bodies and this is often influenced by the current form of the culture we are born within or come to inherit, whether we want to embrace what our culture is informing us as the ideal or question it. And if we question it then in all honesty we may wish to embrace our supposed flaws and show them as anything but.
At this point rubber is one of the materials that can come into play, not just because of what it can do as a material but, how it is perceived within our culture, how people perceive it as an unconventional fabric that kind of forces people to have a reaction to it and question what is right and wrong in what they are seeing. Because of its capacity to be a second skin (it is a skin, a film) and can be perceived not just as an extension of the body but of the body itself, as its actual skin, it’s not always about exploiting it to manifest what is currently held to be the ideal body form but also about exploiting it to manifest the very opposite and celebrate ones body for being so deviant from the ideal. I think many of us who wear rubber, who explore who we are through it, often project the dualistic qualities of both wishing to celebrate those parts that are unique to us as well as those parts that suit the cultural ideal and that is one of the fascinating things about rubber that it can actually do both simultaneously.
TO BE CONTINUED ………………………
For more information see the following:
- website – catastacharisma.weebly.com
- Facebook – facebook.com/catastasecrets/
- Facebook – facebook.com/catastacreation/
- Facebook – facebook.com/exxesslatex/