This is the second part of our three part interview with Catasta Charisma. One down. One to go. All parts are great. Keep reading.
Part I of this interview series can be found here
K&S: How do you find the market for latex wear distributed between men, women, cross-dressers (men or women), celebrity couture?
CC: We live in a world in which markets are fetishised. By this I’m not actually referring to the fetish world but overall across all commodity markets. This is where products are marketed to be seen as having more value than what they are intrinsically worth, to be seen as more desirable, a must have to satiate the need instilled within them, that they must have this product to feel fulfilled in being themselves.
Of course the products don’t bring any satisfaction because that isn’t there purpose, their purpose is simply to be marketed as desirable so people will buy them. It isn’t that people truly desire them but that they have been informed that they should desire them. Currently the markets focus more on women than men and it has nothing to do with sex or gender but rather that is where the energy is focused. I believe it began around the time of the suffragette movement in which the actions of women for attaining the right to vote led to a great deal of publicity that saw women, often for the first time, hitting the front page of newspapers. Women were big news, that is they sold newspapers. So, with the newly blossoming concepts of advertising working with the blossoming science of psychology men utilised the suffragette movement to get products into the papers.
Various suffragette rallies were actually male manipulated creations by advertisers so they would get into the newspapers with the newspapers naturally informed about these rabble-rousing antics by the same advertisers themselves. The rallies sponsored by commercial enterprises who would get their products into the hands of women under the claim that they not only had the right to say, for example, smoke but that such products through their use were a part of their liberation. Smoking equals female liberation so you need to smoke. Of course the tobacco companies just wanted to double the size of their market by fetishising smoking, by making it appear to have a greater value than its addiction, it was now glamorous, revolutionary, seditious, insubordinate and anarchic, so what women wanting to stick it to the male suppressors wouldn’t want to smoke? only the ones happy enough to accept their place at mens feet! Sales sky rocketed. The system worked so let’s keep on doing it and as women gained ever more greater independence, ever greater control over their lives, found freedom from the toils of hearth and home, became self-sufficient financially, then this was all to be exploited.
Men were also to be exploited of course but many male garment orientated markets were already well established if not entrenched and unmovable. To give an idea about this we can look to the male fashion market where men would, as the primary movers of trade and commerce and government demand the best garments of the day in the latest fashions and so we have many centuries worth of recorded statistics of male measurements from tailors but not for women who often behind the scenes had to make their own clothes. Markets then already existed for men who were out in the public eye but not for women who were hidden away more.
During the early 1800s the fashion for men changed and became more entrenched in rules of dress so it became less about being seen as leaders of fashion or following the latest trend and more about falling into the homogeneity that the rules of dress established. Men all began to look the same within the fields of their work and so their social status. This became a very difficult market to effect but by the end of the century with women now working in the factories and mills and wanting equality then hello, this was new, this could be exploited, we can get money from this.
So we have it today that women are catered for, exploited more, manipulated more by markets than men are. Men can feel a little left out but honestly they shouldn’t be for all it led too was women scrambling over one another in competitive hunger to out do one another to obtain the products they have been told they need in order to be seen as the most successful kind of woman possible.
So we have it that in the fashion industry around 90% of all products are orientated to the female market and this isn’t really any different for rubber garments except for one aspect of it. In the traditional rubber fetish wear men and women are just about equally catered for, it may even lean more towards men but more choice exists for females on the more fashionable side. For male to female cross-dressing the rubber wear market has always been larger than the conventional garment markets in that female gender orientated clothing has been made for the typically larger male frame. This is probably because much of rubber wear has been made by smaller manufacturers and because within the fetish world there not only exists a greater openness to be able to ask for such clothing but almost a tradition of catering for it has existed. For female to male cross-dressing I don’t believe this is specifically catered for at all. One of my own personal joys in making garments has been to work with Max Ryder, a drag king.
K&S: What is your favourite piece of latex that you’ve created in your career for a man and for a woman?
CC: Lovely I can give a short answer!!! My favourite has always been the very first item I ever made which was a coat. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!
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?
CC: Yep, there are lots of reasons people give for not liking rubber. Some concerns are unfounded and if they do truly want to wear rubber I can inform them where their misconception might have originated from but really if they are saying they simply don’t like the material then its not for me to convince them otherwise. However, if they are telling me that I shouldn’t wear rubber for the reasons you have given and more then I’ll also tell them that that isn’t their place and attempt to put them straight on their misconceptions. If they dislike the smell that is cool, I like it, if they dislike how it can make you sweat that is cool, I like how it can make me sweat, if they think it makes me look like I’m selling sex then cool too if that is the image I’m seeking to project.
When I use to make rubber garments in the shop I did so publicly. As the environment was very creative then the customers would be curious about what I was making. I would hand them the material to touch, they could even love what it was I was making. While they might never ever wear rubber this didn’t stop them from coming to appreciate it and came to see that it was as much a medium through which one could express ones self as the cotton fabrics I sold to them. Not only that but I would also point out that their reactions when coming to the shop were almost exactly the same as my own when entering a fetish shop – a wonder for the senses and the imagination.
K&S: What is your design philosophy? What drives your creativity?
CC: Wow, do I have a design philosophy? To stay away from commercial enterprises maybe, of thinking will this bring me money in but otherwise I don’t know. Sounds lame doesn’t it. Because I’ve been making things every day since a child I can’t even say what drives me creatively. I found from an early age that I could express myself visually better than I could through talking due to the speech impediment I had back then and I guess it became habit or I fell in love with what it opened up to me, the self awareness, how the brain perceives and makes sense of the world, how our understanding of the world is under constant manipulation. It is ever fascinating to me.
Maybe an aspect of what does drive me is the life long love I have had for fantasy and science-fiction, that is the power of the imagination to project beings and entities that either reveal our short comings or attempt to make up for them in some fantastical way. Originally we had gods, angles, demons and sprites, fairies and trolls, chimeras and dragons, then werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein monsters, then super heroes and villains. I think all these things over time have been a reflection of the means by which we make sense of ourselves and the world around us ever being more and more influenced by scientific illumination and a part of me believes that in the future we will use science to turn ourselves into becoming many and more of these fantastical life forms. I think through rubber I often delve into this world of imagination, of possibility, and visualise many an outfit as imbued with supernatural powers. I don’t believe my outfits have these powers of course but rather in my imagination I am giving the outfits a story, a meaning that helps maintain the coherency of their overall design.
When I design I have a mental map in my head, a kind of globe. In the centre of the globe is a naked human. As the human comes to the outside of the globe they don more garments. Around the equator of the globe I start at one point in which the garments are conventional. Travelling in one direction the attire begins to become more impersonal, starts to be associated with institutions larger than the individual so uniforms that reflect such institutions. Keep on going and the separation from the individual to the collective grows until humans become mechanised, synthetic in form and we are into cyborgs and androids. Keep going and we enter into robots and automatons until eventually all the original human has been stripped away and they are left as mere objects.
We are now the very opposite of being human, we are unfeeling, unthinking things. If we keep on moving around the equator however organic life begins to emerge again but it is so strange and unfamiliar and alien. Take a few more steps and that which is alien starts taking on more familiar characteristics and more bestial forms, animals, plants, and human hybrids of nature. Keep going and we have fantastical humanoids such as elves etc and eventually we return back to the individual human.
The pole to pole axis of the globe is about status, about levels of authority, about assertion of will, about domination and subjugation. We might best visualise this in the institutional form of clothing in which uniforms are both worn by prison guards and the prisoners.
Most garment design tends to occur in a very small wedge of this globe but as I have no plans for my garments to be commercialised and because I show off my work within the fetish community I have a freedom to fully explore this globe. Within the fetish community this entire globe is acceptable, it permits me an audience with whom I may share exploration into objectification, subjugation, transformation, all possibilities.
K&S: Less or More? Do you prefer designing a latex outfit which is more on the revealing side or leaning towards full coverage.
CC: I would like to say that I don’t have a preference but in practice that isn’t the case, I tend to create outfits that are all encasing from head to toe, have multiple layers to them, stripping away any of a persons true felt identity to give them a wholly new one which they then must explore and find for themselves through the limitations the outfit might impose on them in regard to sensory responsiveness, movement restriction and even restriction on breathing.
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?
CC: I am hoping to be working with another designer at some point this year (2019) in which I will be making some basic rubber garments to go with her everyday knitwear. I think the contrast between the heavier textured look of traditional knitting and crochet is just exquisite against the traditional smooth flawless look of garments made from rubber sheeting. The knitwear simply transforms our perception of rubber and knitted fibres with each enhancing the quality of the other.
For any of us who have worn rubber openly with other materials it is such a divine experience for its being worn as an everyday garment rather than isolated to its fetish confines, there is a kind of sense of self liberation through it and a sense that we just feel and look darn good. However, I don’t believe it would ever really catch on for anyone other than folks who already enjoy rubber but rather the rubber be replaced by a more agreeable and practical substitute such as a shine like surfaced lycra. But for anyone who does enjoy rubber and wishes to integrate it with everyday conventional garments one way they might try is wear their garments inside out.
Most good quality rubber garments are made in a sheeting that has a more matt like or satin like underside so when turned to face outwards no longer has the same associations as the more smooth and shiny side. It is less visually obvious as rubber and more seen as a kind of conventional fabric.
K&S: What are your goals for your future in latex design?
CC: My primary goal is to create a library of manuals on rubber garment making so that for the future there will exist out there all the information needed in regards to their production. To achieve this I have to keep on making garments to put many a theory at times to the test. For the last number of years I have concentrated a lot on shows and the making of garments for the assortment of models. I think I will soon be turning back and concentrating on myself and those friends willing to put up with something crazy I’ve envisioned for them.
K&S: What is your favorite part of being a latex fashion designer.
CC: My favourite part is often not knowing what I’m going to make, being happily surprised at the results and being challenged at times in their making.
K&S: What is your blue sky accomplishment to achieve in the world of latex clothing or fashion in general.
CC: Part of me wished I knew the answer to this and part of me is happy that I don’t because I know once I have reached the most imaginative realm of possibility, challenged myself to make in rubber all that I could possibly envision, then I wouldn’t make anything afterwards. It would be time to move onto something else then. But rubber has fascinated me since a child and forty odd years on it still does, it has always been a part of my life and I don’t ever see it leaving me. Both it and myself have evolved together and I have loved the relationship I have had with it even through the decades in which I kept it secret from the world.
One blue sky accomplishment I do hope to reach soon in my writing is the manual I’m currently working on. It is primarily about catsuits and could work out to be as nearly as long as the Compendium of Rubber Garment Making, so around 600 pages! This has been the manual I have been aiming for ever since first jotting down my first notes on making rubber garments. It will probably be the most in depth manual done so far. There will be nothing on the techniques of garment construction unless there is something that hasn’t been mentioned in the Compendium but solely concentrates on drafting patterns from the simpler and less well fitting styles of catsuits to the much more involved and best fitting types. I’m very excited about it and totally lost in my obsession in its writing and illustrating. There is still some considerable time, however, before it gets released because to go alongside the writing I also like to make many of the garments so there are also photographs. I say many because I can’t make them all as quite literally I provide instructions for producing hundreds of different styles.
K&S: Lets talk about your books. What motivated you to start creating such design guides?
CC: The manuals came about simply because I needed to record what I was learning as I made rubber garments and the patterns for them so I wouldn’t forget for the future. To begin with I use to make my garments by simply copying sections of pre-existing conventional material garments. This wasn’t enough so I taught myself pattern making. Pattern making manuals are of course orientated towards conventional fabrics and these are often fine with a few alterations for making looser fit rubber garments but not so much for skintight garments. Yes such manuals can cater for stretch materials but rubber is a very different kind of stretch material, often not so forgiving on the short cuts that conventional pattern making instructions provide and I needed to understand why. So the manuals began just for myself.
K&S: As a person interested in latex, I find it frustrating on some levels to search for clothes. There is not a store that one can go into locally to try stuff on. The design choices may be limited with respect to what you can find. Sizing is a problem. As such, the thought of making one’s own clothes is extremely appealing. How difficult is it for one to go from a wearer of latex to a maker of latex?
CC: If one already has a background in making anything; assembling car engines, playing music, building brick walls, gardening, decorating, whatever then you already have an advantage. You already recognise that to achieve the result you are after there are tools and equipment and materials that one has to become familiar with in order to get the best out of them and that this may take time and patience and practice. One also recognises that the vision of what one wants to make need not be the reality that is attained for the materials may not exist, may be too costly, that certain aspects of the vision aren’t practical and need to be adapted. One also recognises that preparation can be involved, planning, organisation, focus. One also recognises that there may also be a number of steps involved before the final product is realised. If you don’t have any experience in making anything I’d say that you just haven’t recognised that you have, businesses don’t appear from nowhere and neither do babies!!!
If one has also been a wearer of rubber garments this is also a great advantage if one turns to making them as you will already have a surprising amount of knowledge that is untapped. You will already know, consciously or not, about the typical widths of seams, where they can be placed, that they are made differently to sewn fabric clothes, how compressive a skintight garment might feel in a particular thickness of rubber, that there can be questionable areas such as armpits that might cause you to stumble more when you do come to learn how to make things than other areas of the body.
One of my biggest problems is that I don’t like to be told how to do something, I prefer to do the research myself and often find out more than what I need at the time. When I was at school I also had a fantastic art teacher whose method of teaching was that we should experiment for only in this way could we learn about the potential and the limitations of the various mediums, tools and materials we had at our disposal. And that is very much how I learn things. A little knowledge and a great deal of trial and error. However, I recognise that many people prefer to be told what to do, they just want to be told how to make the shirt, they just want to be provided with the steps necessary to get them from A to Z.
You also have to ask yourself what is it you want. Do you want to learn how to make rubber garments or do you just want to make rubber garments because these are two very different things. If you want to learn then this means you will have to learn about how to record the vision you have for a garment or outfit, that is design, how to take measurements, how to draft patterns and adapt and alter them in many ways, understand more about what can be achieved with rubber and so understanding more about its dynamics, about stretch tensions and learn a considerable amount more about construction. If you just want to make rubber garments then you are interested in simply selecting a type of standard garment that has a pattern already made for you to follow.
The manuals I produce fall very much within the first category but there are a number of books by other authors that address the second category and most of us also participate in rubber garment making forums to help answer peoples questions on sources for materials and equipment and techniques etc. Through these forums on such places as Fetlife you can also find links to many free patterns.
An actual good starting point for anyone wanting to try their hand at rubber garment making is not to actually start with making a garment. If you already have a garment that has seen the best of days, might be stained, might be torn on the edges, might have lost its shine, might simply no longer like, then have a go at giving it new life. Either one can repurpose the garment by turning it into another type, one could simply want to repair it, or one may want to add decoration to its surface, whatever. You have little to lose in doing this but it can help you get a sense of whether you have a feel for working with rubber, with cutting and gluing it etc, becoming familiar with new tools and processes of working.
Oh and start small, don’t start with a hood or a catsuit. That is a bit like being thrown into the deep end of the pool. You will sink. Start with simple projects that may only be accessories for garments but which again allow you to familiarise yourself with the tools and materials. And keep a look out for anyone offering workshops near you or simply contact a person and ask if they do workshops. People regularly contact me for just that and if I have time I’ll spend the day with them and help them make the leggings or shirt etc. they are after.
Irrespective of ones amount of knowledge and experience in making rubber garments the biggest problem to overcome in learning anything, in making anything, in showing something new, is confidence, both a lack of it and an excess of it. Too much confidence and you don’t believe their is anything you can be taught, you know it all, you know better than others and you can often be delusional about what you know and the work you produce. To little confidence and you don’t believe you could ever learn something new, let alone actually make something that can be worn and shown off. I want people to be creative, I believe it is hugely beneficial in peoples lives for numerous reasons, and so I have concentrated more on people with a lack of confidence than those with too much. Much of the time it is about convincing people to be less judgemental about themselves and not to care so much about other people judging them. About seeing what mistakes truly are that yes, at this point with what the person wants to achieve they haven’t attained the result they desire and so this shouldn’t put them off but drive them forwards to improve if they feel this is necessary, and that just comes down to practice of which the biggest thing to practice is self-patience but also, that the thing they view as a mistake is also an opportunity to recognise a potentially new application for attaining a result they may desire in the future. To first lead a creative life you first have to lose the fear of doing wrong.
And one last thing. Just because someone might not have any experience with working with rubber this does not mean they won’t become the best at it but no-one knows this until they try. Never deny yourself the opportunity to discover something surprising about yourself.
TO BE CONCLUDED
Catasta Charisma (Heath Clark)
website – catastacharisma.weebly.com
Facebook – facebook.com/catastacreation/
Facebook – facebook.com/exxesslatex/