Summer 2008 has seen the culmination of a remarkable couple of years for Japanese-born, London-based latex couturier Atsuko Kudo.
Always highly regarded by those of us whose love for latex extends into an obsession for the finest styling, detail and fit, Atsuko is now being firmly embraced both by fetishistas and fashionistas.
As previously reported by us, May 2008 saw Kudo receiving the inaugural European Fetish Award for Designer of the Year, which was presented to her at the German Fetish Ball in Berlin. She was chosen for this honour by a panel of judges drawn from across the European fetish press and industry.
Atsuko and partner Simon have been quick to acknowledge the contribution towards winning the award that they feel was made by everyone on their team, and also by their numerous creative collaborators. Atsuko has made a point of paying tribute to “all the photographers, stylists, models, make-up and hair artists and other creatives” who had worked with her over the years.
And it’s the range and calibre of those creative collaborators, as much as the work of the designer herself, that this feature sets out to celebrate. Great designs and high quality manufacturing are only ever part of the story in fetish fashion; without talented people to model the clothes, style the models and capture the style on camera, the images the world sees will rarely convey the full potential of a brand.
This has never really been a problem for Atsuko Kudo because she has always had strong ideas about how her clothes should be presented in the media. And her determined control of her brand image is now paying off in a level of interest from the world of mainstream fashion that few fetish labels achieve.
The first half of 2008, for example, has seen Kudo featured heavily in the pages of Vogue’s Italian and French editions. The May ‘08 issue of Vogue Italia features several pages of super-sultry Hollywood actress Eva Mendes, resplendent exclusively in Atsuko Kudo trademark lace print latex.
The pictures were shot by Steven Meisel, who is particularly known for his work in US and Italian Vogue and (in)famously for his photographs of Madonna in her 1992 Sex book. Meisel (who began his career as a stylist) and fashion editor Andrew Richardson have created some beautiful images combining the allure of Mendes with the femininity of Kudo’s designs, producing work which shows why both women are very much stars in the ascendant.
Steven Meisel has created beautiful images for Italian Vogue combining the allure of actress Eva Mendes with the femininity of Kudo’s designs
“Though latex has increasingly been used in fashion editorials over recent years, it's highly unusual for such an established title to publish two double page spreads of exclusively head-to-toe latex fashion,” says Simon. “But it’s very encouraging to see a mainstream magazine really pushing the rubber boat out!”
Hot on the heels of Eva Mendes in Italian Vogue and proof positive that she is truly ‘en vogue’ comes the news that the designer is featured across 12 pages of editorial in the June/July issue of French Vogue! This shoot uses Kudo’s lace-print pencil skirts, berets and cincher belts alongside items from Prada, Commes des Garçons, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs in a pictorial extravaganza that beautifully mists the boundaries between fetish fashion and haute couture.
Shot in moody Mont St Michel by ace photographer Patrick Demarchelier and styled by Carine Roitfeld, Editor-in Chief of Paris Vogue and widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential and ‘fashion forward’ women, the clothes are selected and styled by a lady who not only talks the talk but also knows how to walk the walk. Enchantant!
This latest round of mainstream press attention has marked an extraordinary couple of years which has seen AK blossom from what was (even within the latex industry) a small and specialist brand into one of the best known and most influential latex labels on the planet, with an ever-expanding celebrity client list.
During this time Atsuko has seen her clothing worn by Kate Moss for iD magazine and selected for the Paris runways by Hussein Chalayan and Vivienne Westwood. Her designs have graced the cover of new fashion bible Tank and she got ‘the call from Hollywood’ to make clothing for hit US TV show Nip/Tuck.
Pop stars Gwen Stefani and Roisin Murphy have used her latex in their shows and the Sugababes caused ‘a Holloway Roadblock’ when they turned up en masse to get fitted for a video shoot.
Added to this Lily Cole has worn her clothing on an underwater catwalk for Water Aid, Helena Bonham-Carter just for the hell of it (and we hope for Tim Burton!) and Pete Burns for Big Brother’s Big Mouth! Artist Sam Taylor-Wood had Atsuko’s models host a party; so too did the Barbican for Japanese photography legend Araki, while Max Factor had Carmen Electra clad in AK for a make up ad.
Needless to say, an outfit by Atsuko Kudo outfit is either in the wardrobe or on the wishlist of many a pervy girl too, suggesting that the old restricted notions of what is or isn’t fetishwear are being broken down as women warm to the softer, more feminine silhouettes Kudo designs and move over to ‘embrace the lace’.
Old notions of ‘fetishwear’ are being broken down as women warm to Kudo’s softer, more feminine silhouettes and ‘embrace the lace’