It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a lady in latex. There’s something about someone clad in that shiny stuff that speaks to me, and a certain empowerment always accompanies latex images in my view. Before setting up this blog I was aware of Rubber Monkey latex and the stellar work they were doing in the industry. After talking with numerous models that had experience working with latex outfits, I realised that Rubber Monkey was fast becoming the premier latex provider in the UK. Of course I had to get in touch and try and get an interview. To my delight I was able to snare “head monkey” Em for an interview about a company that from humble beginnings has become a latex leviathan! I know Rubber Monkey has thousands of fans and loyal customers, and I hope they appreciate this piece.
It’s a genuine thrill to welcome the Rubber Monkey latex ring leader to my blog, how the devil are you, and what have you been getting up to recently?
At the moment I am super busy putting my new collection together. It’s a little bit darker and more vampish than my recent costumes and fun character work.
Rubber Monkey latex was only founded in July 2011 so has been in existence for just over a year. With that in mind, it seems that the majority of people shooting with latex in the UK are using your product. How have you achieved this? It must say a lot for the quality of your product and service.
I’m not really sure; I guess I have just been lucky. I like to think I’m quite honest in my approach to my latex. I am the first to admit I make mistakes and I am still learning. I’m not sure as a designer in any genre that you ever stop learning; you need to continually evolve and make something new. I work closely with a select number of models and photographers and I have become quite firm friends with several of them. I think this allows me the luxury of shaping shoots and they also understand what it is I am looking for in a picture and model.
Rubber Monkey may have only been around since last year, but could I ask how long you personally have been involved with latex production? It’s certainly not a skill you can develop in under a year. How did you get into working with latex?
I bought a length of latex with the intention of trying to help a friend who is a burlesque performer. I did some research online and locked myself away for a weekend. After a lot of pulling my hair out, many a cup of tea and lots of referencing to my research, I emerged with my first pair of high-waisted pants. They were far from perfect but I was proud… It also gave me the bug to want improve and do more.
No matter how many times it’s explained to me, I can never get my head around how such stunning and intricate pieces can be made from a material like latex. Is it unpredictable to work with at all, or has your experience meant you can treat it like any other fabric?
In truth, sometimes it can be an absolute pain in the arse! It curls when you add the adhesive and doesn’t always hang in the way you might expect it to. You can easily adapt a standard pattern to work with and there is a degree of trial and error to get the perfect finish, shape and product.
I love the slogan I read on one of your pages “where fashion meets fetish and fantasy meet reality”. It’s such a perfect phrase and one hell of a mission statement. Is it your opinion or goal that latex should be worn day to day, rather that being only seen as fetish clothing?
I think there is room for latex is everyday clothing though it’s practically is limited by the fact it’s not always the most comfortable thing to wear. Predominant media icons such as Gaga and Katie Perry etc have helped to push the idea of wearing latex, but only so much as in a “dress up” nature. In 2010, Topshop launched a small range made from latex which compromised leggings and skirts so it is slowly making inroads.
Until I discovered Rubber Monkey latex, I had no idea there were so many different garments that could be fashioned from latex. Bras, knickers, tops, skirts, even socks! How do you realise you can make something like a sock out of latex? Are you constantly trialling new ideas and applications of latex?
I try and treat like a ”normal” fabric, so I think you are only limited by your imagination.
On that same theme; I was wondering if you could explain how an idea for a piece of clothing goes from your mind and into reality. Is it a long process when a new piece is being created?
It normally starts for me with an idea for a photo shoot. I then progress that to a sketch which I use as my reference for making a pattern and then the final item. The length of time it takes to make something varies depending on the detailing or how creative I am feeling at the time. Sometimes I feel entirely devoid of skill and creativity and so have to step away to regroup and refocus.
What also impresses me about Rubber Monkey is that the emphasis is on made to order clothing. I love that you tailor your work for the individual, and I think that must only add to the affect latex has on the wearer. Maybe a silly question, but do you wear latex in your personal life? Would you agree that the right piece of tailor made latex does something to the wearer and almost empowers them?
It sounds terrible… but no I don’t. I’m not really sure why… I think it’s probably because I’m not a big fan of my own self image. I get so much more out of seeing it on someone who is really enjoying wearing it. I think anyone can wear latex and it can make you feel amazing. It’s no reflection on the quality of my work that I don’t wear it… I’m just an odd one.
Are there any designs or trends in latex that are more popular at the moment? Would you say you make more garments as costume pieces, fashion pieces, or fetish pieces?
Comic book characters and cult film icons are most definitely in vogue at the moment. Costumes for this genre have made up about 80% of my order book of late.
All my admiration for latex comes from seeing women wearing the outfits. How do you feel when you see your work being displayed by some of the most sought after ladies in the modelling industry? I love seeing VioletEyes in your clothing for example, do you keep track of whose wearing your stuff in what shoot etc…?
Violet Eyes is one of my absolute favourite people to work with. She is a genuine professional and has become a really good friend. Whenever she models my clothing I know I don’t need to worry about the result as she always makes it look amazing. This is also true of Ruby True, Salleh Sparrow, Kaykay Sakura and Ruby Jewel. Sometimes it’s hard to keep note of who is wearing what as often photographers will buy an outfit for use with a specific model. It’s only when I see it pop up online somewhere, or I am tagged in something that I realise who is wearing it.
I’ve asked many latex models this question, but who better to ask than someone so attuned to the material as you undoubtedly are. Seeing as your motto is “latex is for life” can you give us some advice for; putting on, wearing, taking off and storing latex clothing?
Treat your latex with precious care and mind your talons. I recommend using talc and lube to get your latex on, washing in tepid water with mild detergent, drip drying and storing it out of direct light at a not too hot or too cold temperature. I would also recommend using something like a Vivishine treatment on it. It will keep it soft and make it slightly easier when putting on, as well as giving it a mirror shine finish.
Another astonishing thing about Rubber Monkey latex is the prices. For such quality and well represented products, the cost is extremely reasonable. Playsuits for example are normally a big expenditure for ladies, but you produce stunning wears for amazing value. Was it important when you started out that your pieces were affordable? Is it key to getting more people wearing latex?
I like to think I offer my products at a price that makes it accessible to a variety of people. Buying latex is an investment but it doesn’t need to break the bank. I cover my costs and draw a minimal profit which allows me to further research and develop my skills, patterns and ranges.
Could I ask if there are any developing trends in latex that we should keep an eye out for? Is there anything new in latex production and application that will mean the material can be used in different ways when it comes to garment manufacture?
Hand painted and printed latex has been around for a while but I think it will be making a surge forward again soon, especially due to the big love there is for animal print right now.
Finally before we end the interview, can I please ask about your recent Carebear collection? When did you get the idea for such a selection of superb outfits?
The Carebear shoot was the result of maybe one too many glasses of wine, and me scribbling down a design and deciding that it needed to be done. I love doing characters and kitsch things, but I am also conscious of the massive influx there has currently been for this type of product. I thought “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it big - not just 1 Carebear but 8 of them, in a rainbow of colours!” Which is what I did. I also wanted the pictures to go forward to be used in a charity calendar that would benefit MIND. The whole idea and concept of the shoot was to be light hearted and fun. I decided to use the ever talented Twisted Pix as the quality of there photography is outstanding. Although they usually favour the more dark and fetish based themes, they totally embraced my crazy Technicolor notion. I cast the bears from a collection of models I had worked with before and who didn’t mind giving up there time in return for being in the charity calendar. In total, it took about a week to make the 8 costumes which consisted of braced knickers with tail and appliqué detailing, pasties, heart paw mitts and bob wigs with integral ears. After the shoot I sold them off and donated 20% of the proceeds to MIND.
Finally could we please conclude with Bernard Pivot’s questionnaire?
What is your favourite word? Poppet - I use it continually!
What is your least favourite word? I don’t really have one… I suppose it depends on its intent.
What turns you on? I like a well kept Mohawk on a cute chap.
What turns you off? Bad personal hygiene.
What sound or noise do you love? My little dude giggling.
What sound or noise do you hate? My little dude crying.
What is your favourite curse word? Bollox.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Architect.
What profession would you not like to do? Bin Man.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Shine me up monkey, I’m ready to go!
Massive thanks to Rubber Monkey for taking the time to answer my questions. It was a real joy being able to feature the company and the incredible product it puts out. For more information please head to the links below, and keep up to date with the wonderful creations coming from the mind of a truly talented designer.
All images used in this piece were taken from Rubber Monkey’s websites. They feature the modelling talents of: Ruby True, KayKay Sakura, VioletEyes, Collette Von Tora, Sophie Gwyn-Smith. As well as the photography talents of: Joseph O’Brien, KayKay Sakura, and Twisted Pix. I think I covered everyone, if I’ve missed a name out, let me know and it will be gladly added.