The first time I met Venus Prototype properly was backstage at a fashion show she was doing in downtown Los Angeles to launch the latex collection she had just designed for Syren.
She impressed me immediately not just with the fab clothes she’d designed, but also with the speed with which they were created — just two weeks for a complete collection. There were also, evidently, tremendous reserves of goodwill and energy she could draw on from everyone involved in the show, from the sound guy to the models to photographer Perry Gallagher who was there to document the event for posterity. Clearly she was one of those people around whom and for whom things happened.
Later she told me how as a longtime serious latex fan, but also a stylist and designer running her own successful mainstream fashion business, she had been paying thousands of dollars to get latex outfits she designed made by other people.
“I’m a designer,’ she said, “and I know how to make patterns, and I started making pieces for friends and for friends’ photography. When the pictures got posted on the internet, I started getting requests from strangers for me to design stuff for them.”
Then, in summer 2005, she went to Syren and proposed to owner Andy Wilkes that she design a new off-the-peg latex collection for his company that would brighten up the image of the brand. The way I reported this in Skin Two upset Mr Wilkes (who has since sold Syren to Stockroom.com) but, overall, the episode made me many new friends in LA, including the aforementioned Ms Prototype (whose odd surname was coined to identify her as the ‘original’ Venus on the LA fetish scene).
‘It seemed obvious that a woman with her skills was wasting her time designing latex for other labels when she could be doing it for herself’
It seemed obvious to me that a woman with her creative and business skills was wasting her time designing latex for other companies when she could be doing it for herself. So I was not too surprised when, the following year, she invited me back to LA to witness the launch of her own latex label at the Flesh Factory Ball, a Hollywood party staged by Miss Kitty’s, and starring Dita Von Teese.
The Prototypical talent was again very much in evidence, but unfortunately Venus collected a broken ankle from that same evening, which brought a temporary halt to her plans for world domination. Post-recovery, she has designed a new (non-latex) collection for Lip Service, gone through a second painful break of a different kind — with her longtime boyfriend — and taken a new high-flying position at a (straight) fashion company where her pervy alter ego is kept tightly under wraps.
But she hasn’t lost the desire to have her own latex label and is currently putting the final touches to new private production facilities that will allow her to run a latex couture business in her spare time. “I may work in mass market fashion but I would never wear the clothes,” she says. “What keeps me sane is making latex clothing!”
You couldn’t be too surprised if sanity is also quite a big issue right now for Philip Warner, aka Lithium Picnic, considering what he’s currently going through.
Warner, rightly regarded these days as one of fetish photography’s most gifted artists, was first brought to my attention in 2004 by then fetish model and Skin Two cover girl Helen Lane, who’d found his work on LiveJournal. I agreed that his was indeed a talent worthy of exposure and the introductory portfolio feature we gave him sowed the seeds of a friendship which grew every time we bumped into each other at events or I saw more of his outstanding work.
‘The introductory portfolio feature we gave Warner sowed the seeds of a friendship which grew every time we bumped into each other at events’
As we came up to launching The Fetishistas, I was planning to include a great series of latex fashion pictures Philip had shot for Venus Prototype. Then I learnt that the Houston-based artist, who’d been working as a contract photographer for the Suicide Girls website, had suddenly found himself, at the end of 2006, on the wrong end of a breach of contract lawsuit from SG’s owners. Apparently this was for photographing his own girlfriend and muse Apnea for her own website. We put our plans on hold, waiting to see how things would play out.
Sadly any hopes that the issue might be settled amicably have long since evaporated. Suicide Girls affect an intent to pursue their action to the bitter end, but Philip and Apnea are determined not to give in to what they (and many others) see as corporate bullying. This means the couple are having to go to extraordinary lengths to fund the defence in a case which SG, with its bottomless coffers, is threatening to drag out for several years.
Inevitably, this has impacted on Warner’s ability to carry on working, and the principal showcase for his work — his Lithium Picnic website — has gone offline, the URL taken over by Apnea to host an information and fundraising site until further notice.
So we feel that now is the right time to publish those beautiful Lithium Picnic images of Venus Prototype’s latex designs. We do so as a reminder of why we need people of this stature on the fetish scene, and why both are so important to fetish culture. This year, both of them have had lower profiles as fetish creatives than their talents deserve, so it‘s really important not to forget that they’re around.
We covered more of the background of the Lithium legal battle in a recent news story of our own (see link in left hand column Related Links) and you can use the other related links to find out more on the case and/or contribute to the fighting fund. We will continue to cover developments as we become aware of them.
Current information on Venus Protype’s latex line can also be found by clicking on the relevant link on the left.