If launching a new latex-orientated weekend in Germany in the current climate seemed like a pretty crazy idea, then launching it in Hamburg, so soon after the modest turnout at the German Fetish Fair there, and in August, a terrible month for most latex businesses, seemed even crazier
But Secret Sins’ Sven Gensike, the man behind Latexpo, probably felt that being a local promoter gave him considerable advantage over organisations like the GFB coming into Hamburg from outside. And it probably did — though whether it was enough to make up for choosing one of the least latex-friendly months to stage it remains to be seen.
The three days of the weekend (August 20-22) started with a Friday evening of socialising (with a harbour boat trip, pre-party and fetish dinner), followed by an exceedingly long Saturday in which the first day of the expo ran without a break into the evening’s latex ball at the same venue.
Sunday was a second and final sales day for the expo — seemingly added as an afterthought well after the originally plans for the event had been announced.
Unexpected schedule changes were something of a characteristic of this event, and a particular bugbear for some of the exhibitors.
Imagine being an exhibitor who is travelling a great distance to be there, who has budgeted to attend the original one-day expo and who then discovers some months down the line that there’s double the stand hours and an extra night’s hotel costs to stump up for. What can you do but bite the bullet?
Or imagine discovering on the very day that the published opening and closing times of the expo have been changed and you’re supposed to run your stand for two extra hours at the end of the evening, leaving no chance to get cleaned up, eat and dress for the Ball. Unless, that is, your stand has its own built-in kitchen-diner and bathroom.
But if organisational glitches like this were indicative of a promoter who had not staged an expo weekend on this scale before, then equally, other aspects of the weekend demonstrated his strengths.
Although I missed Friday evening’s festivities (the long journey by road from London taking hours more than expected), I heard only good reports from those who did attend them.
One of my model friends, a veteran of international fetish events who is not overly prone to flattering those who don’t deserve it, told me she’d been mightily impressed by the organistion of the pre-party and dinner, and the trouble Sven took as host to meet and greet people during the course of the evening.
The overall effect was to present latex fashion in a cooler, classier way than in clubs. And the classiness made it media-friendly
And when it came to the presentation of Saturday’s fashion shows, well other fetish promoters cold certainly draw some lessons from how Latexpo did it.
It may seem a little unfair to make direct comparisons between fetish fashion shows presented in a night-time club environment and Latexpo’s shows staged to a seated audience during the afternoon and early evening.
But the problem with designing fashion shows to meet the expectations of a nightclub audience is that proper visibility of the clothes usually comes second to spectacle and “atmosphere”, and insufficient thought is often given to making sure that all the hard work the designers have put in can be properly photographed by attending professional media.
Latexpo’s afternoon schedule avoided these problems. Its proper, professional fashion show-quality backdrop and stage/catwalk lighting ensured great visuals both for the live audience and for photography and videography.
The overall effect was to present latex fashion in a much cooler, classier way than we usually see in clubs. And the classiness made it media-friendly — an investment that seems to have paid off handsomely in terms of mainstream coverage.
The six fashion show participants were split into three segments of two designers each. Bodycult and Rubberluv took the first show, Rosengard and Velvety had the middle spot and Latexline and Savage-Wear provided the final segment.
The shows were proof that if you really understand what the mainstream media wants from a fashion show and you actually give it to them, the fact of its being “fetish” or “latex” matters not a jot.
So I’m betting that Latexpo will have no trouble getting into the news media’s shooting schedules next year!
However, a problem arising from so much focus being on Saturday’s fashion show presentations was that the other elements of the day’s programme could hardly avoid being a bit of an anticlimax.
This held true, I suspect, whether one was an exhibitor, a visitor, or a hybrid of the two, as in my case. For the first time at a big weekend outside the UK, I was on an exhibitor’s timetable, trading my usual freedom to breeze in at whatever time I like with camera and photopass for a free ride in Rubberluv’s people-carrier.
Not that there was much room for people in it, with all the stand display equipment and latex clothes, the latter in boxes that had a tendency to fly through the air when the bus did anything unexpected — like moving, turning or stopping.
London to Hamburg via Dover and Calais and a lot of service station stops to help keep the driver awake – what an adventure it was!
London to Hamburg via Dover and Calais and a lot of motorway service station stops to help keep the driver awake — what an adventure it was! Reminded me of my music journo days and an early road trip through Germany with XTC.
Except this time, there was no Andy Partridge going on about rubber cockerel masks or his ingenious use of a rubber toy shark jammed into a toilet seat as a teenage masturbation aid.
Instead, there was Rubberluv’s Chris Bellamy in the driving seat, designer Chris Anderson sharing co-pilot and navigator duties with me, and our stand model/interpreter Anne “Blondie” Bengard in the rear — a position that soon earned her the title of Lovely in the Back. God knows what names she had for us!
When we got to Hamburg, there was really only time to check in at our hotel, drop all the stuff off at the venue and try to find somewhere that was still open for food.
It was hot and we were very tired, and it didn’t help that when we finally found Rubberluv’s designated corner of the venue, it was not the size they’d been told it would be, so their carefully-designed display didn’t quite fit.
Fortunately the shell scheme had been provided by an affable Dutch exhibition specialist who does fetish and erotic expos all around Europe, and he helped us find a solution.
But not before Chris B had demonstrated talents that could easily win him first prize in the All-Europe Mister Angry contest.
We weren’t staying in the official Latexpo hotel but had found another four-star place quite close to the venue and 20 euros a night cheaper. So we had hotel rooms with minibars, phones in the rooms, a proper restaurant and room service — all the things not provided just down the road at Motel One, the slightly too basic official hotel offered by the German Fetish Ball in May.
An early start for stand set-up on Saturday kept everyone too busy to really take in the way Latexpo’s organisers had divided up the Edelfettwerk venue to accommodate both daytime and evening events.
I was impressed by how cool the black and chrome shell-scheme made things look, but this couldn’t disguise the fact that the expo stands were dotted around several different areas of the venue rather like neighbouring islands in an archipelago system.
The black and chrome expo stands looked cool but were dotted around several areas of the venue like islands in an archipelago system
Such a layout does little to create the feeling of a homogenous event. And the way the fashion shows sucked customers away from the stands and then pitched them back into the exhibition areas in waves, creating congestion at some times and almost total emptiness at others, only added to the overall sense of “bittiness” of Saturday’s expo.
I don’t have the daytime attendance figures but to me the footfall seemed modest. But that’s also the best I could say of May’s German Fetish Fair in its posh exhibition hall on the outskirts of the city. Perhaps Hamburg is a good place to put fetish fashion on the catwalk but not so great for selling it an an expo?
If the expo part of Latexpo, other than the fashion shows, was a bit of an anticlimax, then so too, unfortunately, was the evening’s Fashion Ball — a misnomer if ever there were one.
The gamble seemed to be that providing people with a big fashion extravaganza during the day on Saturday should mean they’d be happy with modest onstage fare in the evening, because by evening-time they’d be largely making their own entertainment.
But sadly, the Rubbersisters show and Rubberdoll contest that constituted the official entertainment at the Ball were, despite everyone’s best efforts, just not a big enough bang to go out on.
Admittedly, things weren’t helped by the fact that when the organisers rebuilt the afternoon’s catwalk as a stage, they didn’t move the sound system from the back of the hall to the front.
This meant that, for anyone near the front, the sound of performers’ heels on stageboxes was louder than the music — a guaranteed atmosphere-killer.
The first part of the Rubbersisters’ contribution was a performance featuring the legendary Pupett, which was as enjoyable as any Rubbersisters show I’ve seen, and went down well with the audience, as they usually do.
But the Rubberdoll contest was a rather different story. However “interesting” the whole rubberdoll phenomenon is, watching a handful of dressing-up enthusiasts delivering home-grown pastiches of Lady Gaga and the like is no substitute for actual professional entertainment.
Nevertheless, Katja Lynx, who won the contest, was a deserving winner: easily the best performer and, in her pink ensemble, the only contestant who seemed aware that rubberdolls do come in colours other than black.
With refinements, a contest like this could work well as part of an evening of fetish entertainment. But as the headline attraction? I suspect that would only work for an audience composed almost entirely of rubberdoll enthusiasts — which this audience obviously wasn’t.
So, does Latexpo have the potential to be a big, annual, international event? Well yes, it probably has as much potential as any weekend debuting at this size and level of sophistication, especially given the media interest the first one has generated (even without compering in English).
The posh afternoon fashion show may be the obvious unique feature on which to build and promote the event. But the rest of Saturday’s attractions need to be brought up to the same level if Latexpo is to appeal sufficiently to the international partying crowd.
f you are going to give your events names like Fashion Ball and Expo, then they need to live up to the expectations people on today’s fetish scene rightly have of such labels. Otherwise, use terms that may be more appropriate — like fetish market and after-party.
For me, having both these events in the same venue was a compromise that didn’t work well. So I hope it was a compromise dictated primarily by what was economically viable in Latexpo’s start-up year, rather than something seen as the best way of doing things in the future.
The dates for next year’s Latexpo have already been announced: Friday and Saturday August 19-20. So for 2011 it has reverted to its original two-day schedule, and is still in that deadest of months for selling latex.
But what’s bad for sales is good for media: August is a good month for getting mainstream news coverage of frothy, sexy stories because little else is happening. Not for nothing do we journos call it the silly season.
Our thanks to Alexander Horn of Latex News for the gallery of Latexline and Savage-Wear fashion. More galleries from backstage, expo and ball to come!
Katja, in pink latex, was a deserving winner: the only contestant seemingly aware that rubberdolls do come in colours other than black