Madeline Warren launched her latex clothing label Anatomic Bomb in 2004 with designs that quickly established a distinctive character for the brand.
She pioneered the use of decorative latex appliqué, and her heart-bedecked dresses and lingerie sets became instant classics that continue to be among her best-sellers today.
However, one of her biggest selling items also is one of the most basic (as is often the case in the world of latex fashions). She reckons her Belle Watling plain hipster pants are popular because they were “worn by Kate Moss in British Vogue a few years ago”.
The fact that they fit right in with the current high street trend for wearing big knickers on the outside can’t be hurting sales either.
While we’re name-dropping, Anatomic Bomb! have also made the dresses for the last three Chopard's Jewellers catwalk shows in Paris, which is quite a coup. So you may well have seen Madeline’s designs out and about and in the media more than you realise!
When she was starting out six years ago, her creations were often described as “cute”, “girlie” or “flirtatious” — all ways of saying they were more feminine than a lot of the women’s latex that was available at the time.
Since then, several newer latex labels, also started by women, have followed a similar path, choosing more nuanced femininity over the overt sexual styling of traditional fetish garb. Madeline is mostly flattered by this trend.
“I’m pleased that I’ve helped to influence latex labels old and new,” she says. “And I do get credited by many people as being the first with this new image, so I am proud of that.
“I think the latex scene is thriving at the moment. There is a lot of new blood in it and designs have become fresh and exciting again.”
From the start, there has been a noticeable “vintage” influence in Madeline’s work — the vintage period in question being the 1950s. This was, of course, the period when busts, hips and narrow waists were accentuated.
So it’s not too surprising when Madeline says Anatomic Bomb! clothes are designed to “focus on the ever popular breasts and curvy waists” but also to “bring attention to the female bottom, with designs that accentuate peachy roundness and butt cleavage”.
It was her desire for a complete life-change from working as a qualified nurse that led Madeline to a job in a fetish boutique in Soho
But where did her interest in all this stuff begin?
“Long before I got into fetish I kept a scrapbook and had pictures of things I liked in there and there we are quite a few latex creations,” Madeline recalls. “I loved them because they were so candy-like, cartoonish, suffer-for-your-beauty glamour.”
She has loved latex and worn latex clothes to clubs for a long time, she says. But before getting involved in the fetish industry, she had been a qualified nurse, and it was her decision to seek “a completely different life change” that led to her first involvement with the industry: a job in a fetish boutique in Soho.
She loved the job, and from there, she went to work in a latex studio, then started her own business. But what persuaded her that she could make a go of her own label?
“I just felt that I had so many good designs in my head, I was sure there would be people out there who would like them too. I wasn't keen on the way designs were going at the time — it was all getting a bit too ‘Star Trek uniform’ for my liking.
Madeline quotes numerous other inspirations for her designs, such as 18th century aristocracy, film noir, classic fetish art like Eric Stanton and Vince Ray, the brothels in early French photography, Technicolor, Barbie, and designers such as Erté and Travilla.
But, she says, she is also influenced by the theatre world she works in, where she is better known as burlesque performer Bunny Warren. So which came first for her — latex or burlesque?
“Latex couture came to me before burlesque,” is her reply. “It’s hard to believe now but the burlesque revival has only been around in the UK since 2003. It seems like it has been around forever.
“My then boyfriend, David Wilson, started the first popular club, Whoopee, then The Flash Monkey, which I had a big hand in producing. I am now producing my own shows, Yes,Yes,Yes!, where you will often see latex clad lovelies on the stage or in the crew.”
Just how evangelical is she about combining latex and burlesque? Could it be that she sees latex as the perfect way to reinvent burlesque costume design for these modern times?
“I don't like burlesque to be like a re-enactment society,” is her response. “I have to keep putting in new, modern ideas to keep it fresh: the best of the old with the best of the new.
“Latex is a great fabric but most users would have to admit that it isn't the most graceful stuff to get off, so for striptease it isn't that useful. I’ve made a couple of dresses for stripteasers but they need to be of a specific design, with extra long zips, and special buckles on the straps.
“But for performers who don't have to peel off the rubber, I encourage them to wear rubber — singers, dancers, etc. They are often sceptical at first but then they love it.”
The burlesque influence can be strongly detected in the style names Madeline chooses for Anatomic Bomb! garments. These names, such Marilyn Moron and Fifi Fantouche, all come from the stage names of burlesque performers and striptease artists.
Every latex garment sold by Anatomic Bomb! to website customers is made to order, with fittings done by email.
“Some people seem to be scared of a tape measure,” says the designer, “but I give guidance on what parts to measure and between us we always manage to get a very well-fitting garment.”
She says she’d like her own bricks ’n’ mortar shop at some point, but at the moment she’d rather focus on expanding her overseas wholesale business.
Ms Warren happily admits that her fetish interests extend to models, fetishists, whips, heel worship and slaves.
“Yes, in clubs I do like a bit of pervery — with me in charge of course. I think it’s fun,” she says. “I know I'm supposed to be madam-like and take it seriously and not say it’s fun, but it is, isn't it?
“When I go to fetish clubs, I like a bit of heel worship from slaves — a stiletto looks its best in someone's mouth.” But perv-play is also good research, she reckons.
“If a designer understands how sexy her clothes make people feel, then she can design better. I always imagine my creations spread over the behind of some bent-over lovely. I do like a good female bottom.”
‘As a designer, I always imagine my creations spread over the behind of some bent-over lovely. I do like a good female bottom’