MMSCENE: When Fashion Meets Fetish

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MMSCENE’s Fashion Features Editor KATARINA DJORIC investigates the influence of fetish gear both in men’s as well as women’s ready to wear, but also the unconscious embrace of the subculture trends as the new norm.


Fashion’s flirtation with fetish is no doubt as old as the fashion craftsmanship itself, yet in the recent year the hush-hush of the underground scene has seen its mainstream momentum. One of the first to massively bring kink and fashion to the forefront was Marc Jacobs with his Louis Vuitton Fall Winter collection inspired by Charlotte Rampling in The Night Porter. The 1974 erotic and psychological drama directed and co-written by Liliana Cavani, is more than forty years later still controversial for its sadomasochistic sentiment but also the nazisploitation. The narrative while celebrated for its bold take on the sexual transgression is also criticized for its place within the context of Nazi Holocaust narrative. Nevertheless, the film inspired fashion and art creatives since the day of its showing.

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While liberating the moment connecting the inspiration to that nazi past is the criticized part of the picture, as well as all the later inspiration coming from the same. Such criticism faced Jacobs as well for his designs, in addition to a slew of other designers following the trend going through the following 2011 collections. Nevertheless Marc’s portrayal of the Night Porter has undoubtedly appropriated the fetish subculture to a new plain of commercial mainstream. When it came to menswear, the element of fetish with a premise of the army uniform (predominantly Nazi inspired) was present throughout a slew of top brand and high street collections starting with year 2011. High-top leather boots, belts, and military caps were suddenly back on the runways followed by a myriad of fashion editorials and covers of all the fashion glossies.

This time the Wehrmacht uniforms were far more than a moment of Nazi fetishism, the designs behind the same have indeed taken the mainstream. However, the fetishism of the uniform survived through the decades in subculture layers of gay community. Where in fact the uniform gained its own power on the pedestal of admiration. However in the era when the metrosexual is dead, a fine line between inspired by a skinhead moment and inspired by fetish elements is masterfully walked by a few designers.

Many of these designers are still underground, yet there’s already a few favourites of globally acclaimed stylists. For many known as leather or latex designers, they are often sourced for top fashion shoots on pages and covers of major fashion glossies. Called up by fashion directors to add up the element of surprise. One of those designers is the Berlin based fetish designer Butcherei Lindinger, featured in our corresponding fashion shoot. We ourselves have sourced fetish wear on a number of occasions, recently for our cover story starring supermodel Trevor Signorino, NYC gear brand Nasty Pig loaned sweatpants and trousers, while targeting the gay community this fashion label already found its place on the pages of mainstream magazines along with a follower count of over one hundred thousands on social media.

While metrosexuality was test marketed on gay men to a massive success, it ran its course, undoubtedly fetish wear is heading on the same appropriation path. Leaving the classification of gay subculture and finding its life as part of contemporary menswear appeal. If the metrosexual symbolized the placation of a man’s power, than the domination behind the fetish wear is certainly resurrecting the machismo of the fashion foyer.

While connected to skinhead culture (discussed on the earlier pages of this issue by our Deputy Editor Ana Markovic), boots undoubtedly get special attention. Among gay skinheads boots are massively fetishized.  A pair of Dr. Marten boots is a prop that completes the skinhead uniform (as Ana mentions on pages 40 to 45). Funny fact, comes to light when comparing gay and Nazi skins, who no doubt look more like each other than any other category within the subculture. Both go for entirely shaved heads, tight fitting tshirts and denim rolled up to showcase the knee high Dr Marten boots (now that is confusing!).

When it comes to ready to wear menswear, in the seasons behind us Jacobs is not the only designer who toyed with the momentum. Designers Riccardo Tisci and Raf Simons have both taken on the fetishistic moment of skinhead culture as inspiration for their menswear collections. If anything the sentiment of a skinhead reached its comic book interpretation for both of them. Tisci’s past collections for Givenchy celebrated the ‘bad boy’ always with buzzed heads, muscled and often tattooed body, the models would wear black boots, while ladder lacing formed the outfits. Today, following these steps designer Gosha Rubchinskiy is fetishizing the skinhead subculture with an East European take.

The contemporary menswear does not shy away neither from the skinhead or the gear premises of the fetish wear, instead one hand thanks to the Tumblr culture the gay art is now hybridized in a contemporary fetish for the youth culture.

Fetish itself joined the mainstream thanks to a pages of a bestselling trilogy, the never not-criticized Fifty Shades of Grey. At the same time, gay community played no part in this aspect of creating the new normal. Instead it was the erotic novel by E. L. James, an English author who turned her Twilight fan fiction into a worldwide phenomenon, culminating in a major motion picture trilogy as well as the additional book versions following the main title. The Harry Potter generation has indeed switched from Twilight to the Fifty Shades of Gray Mania.

After fashion and the fifty shades trilogy hitting the big screen, the taboo is no doubt lifted. While numerous critics have noted that the book and movie franchise are glorifying abuse and sexual violence, adding up to the change of pace in today’s era of the fast changing sexual and therefore social values.

Just as the leather harnesses and pieces from sex shops and latex wear designers found its place in the contemporary menswear, so did the inspiration sourcing from the widely popular books. The trend no doubt comes in waves, firstly after the books initial success already in 2013 ready to wear runway collections – instantaneously undressed became the new dressed up and skin baring once again took the spotlight.

Designers such as Jason Wu as well as BCBG Max Azria both had their share of playing with the idea, where leather and sheer were mixed to shape the lingerie inspired daywear outfits. While then Calvin Klein Collection designer Francisco Costa brought to the table a trend still dominating womenswear runways – garments with exposed conical bras. The tremor was also felt in Paris in collections by then Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz but also Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen. The occasion to bring back lace and lingerie of course did not escape the eye of Dolce & Gabbana as well as Roberto Cavalli.

If Fifty Shades of Grey is far from a referral point for you, have no doubts the trend has affected both men’s and women’s design. Still, the gear oriented trend is celebrating strong, sexy and indeed dominating. However you describe the fashion scene’s latest erotic mood certainly many are already eyeing the latest garments and accessories influenced by the same.

Originally published in MMSCENE Issue #019
Words by Katarina Djoric

Photographer Pascal Triponez
Stylist Chantal Drywa
Hair & Makeup Artur Galeno
Retoucher Konstantin Klimin
Photographer Assistant Philip Scholl
Model Pedro P. at M4 Models & Elite Barcelona

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