The appearance at the end of January of the first 60-plus designs in the new Libidex Female Fantasy range marked the brand’s first significant collection for women since mid-2015.
Female Fantasy I starts the ball rolling with fresh takes on some classic role-play looks — many previously only available in latex as expensive custom items.
Cowgirl, racer girl, cheerleader and female cop are among the styles given a thorough makeover by the Libidex design team. Extensive colour combination options and laser-cut decorative trims and appliqués add substantially to customer choice — and all at no extra cost.
But the fact that this marks the first major new women’s range from Libidex for a few years does not mean that this London label — probably now the world’s largest producer of original latex fashion — has been resting on its laurels in the meantime.
After moving from Bloomsbury to Islington in the late summer of 2015, the company used the largest space in its new headquarters to accommodate a full-time Libidex design studio for the first time.
That studio was set up so that its creative team could be constantly involved with planning and producing designs for future latex collections. But Libidex chief Simon Rose wanted this new way of working to be applied first to substantially increasing the label’s range of latex for men.
So until summer 2017, the new studio focused on developing and launching, in three parts, a new range for men it called Hard & Heavy.
This range would eventually boost the Libidex catalogue by hundreds of new male items — styles intended to appeal primarily to gay rubberists and other men more into the hard fetish aspects of latex.
Simon says Hard & Heavy stuff has been very well received on the gay scene. “Although we did male clothing before, it wasn’t quite what the gay scene was after.
“When we did stuff that was more explicit — guys wearing cock rings and so on — we felt more confident about going to gay websites and magazines and showing our stuff there.
“In the past we’d been a bit hesitant, because our designs looked a bit wimpy by their standards. On the straight scene guys do like things like ruffled shirts. But on the gay scene, they’re much more direct — they want stuff they can have sex in.
“They’re not really about peacocking — they’re more about cocking!” he quips.
However, not yet finished with men and desirous not to ignore male fashionistas, Libidex followed Hard & Heavy with two Male Fetish Fashion collections.
Rose confesses to being particular proud of the second of the two Male Fetish Fashion releases — the main body of the collection. “We really put our backs into it,” he says. “I think we did a really good job of it — I’ve got it on the wall in the workshop and it looks fantastic.”
Having seemingly got it right for gay rubberists with Hard & Heavy, does Simon feel that the Male Fetish Fashion range has been as successful broadening horizons for straight men?
“I would think so, yeah, but it’s hard to say. When we do our pop-up shops, we get a lot of men coming in. They do like the funky stuff.
“We don’t watch the sale of each item that closely, but since we don’t make our patterns until we get an order, we can tell by how many patterns we’ve made which styles are sellers or not.
“It’s much easier than gathering stats from our website — a nice ready reckoner!”
He says that Libidex’s ability to cater for a wide range of body shapes and sizes without offering made-to-measure any more is something else that seems to be paying off.
“Because we now do sizes up to 6XL, we get a lot of larger people, and I think we’ve made a lot of people happy. On the fetish scene there’s a bit of an issue along the lines of ‘Oh they love their size 10s but what about me? I’m an 18 or a 22’.
“So offering the larger sizes at no extra cost has really taken off. We also do heights — petite, regular and tall — so you’ve got those three extra options across our range of ten basic sizes, so that means 30 sizes in all.”
And then of course there are all the colour combinations.
“There’s a choice of 60-odd colours. So when you see one picture of one catsuit on the website, it’s actually available in 1,800 combinations of size and colour. That’s not bad is it?”
I’d have to agree. And Simon’s contention that while Libidex doesn’t do custom work per se, that choice of 1,800 combinations gets you something that’s “fairly custom, just by colour and size” is hard to dispute.
“And when you add trim colour on top of that,” he continues, “that’s another 60 colour permutations. Sometimes you have three trim colours, so that’s another 60 times 60. So everything almost is customised because the choice is so large.
“The nice thing is that with Libidex, you don’t pay any extra for this. If you go to a small maker they’ll start piling on the price. Whereas with us, with a catsuit that you can get for £250, you can have it fairly customised off the peg.
“We’ve done this because we didn’t want to lose the sort of customers who wanted made-to-measure and as much choice as possible.
“What it means is that if you buy something from our site, and you’ve chosen colour combinations, you’re not going to walk into a room and find someone else wearing exactly the same piece. Two of the same garments made in different colour combinations look completely different.”
This principle is well demonstrated by the new releases launching the Libidex Female Fantasy range. And in fact this range further extends the ‘quasi-custom’ concept with the appliqué decorations many of its styles offer — a welcome consequence of Libidex’s recent acquisition of a laser cutter.
About two-thirds of the styles in the first batch of releases come with contrast trims as standard. But while these trims are generally in preset colours — for example the chequered racing trim is only available in black and white — they nevertheless have a ‘customising effect’ when teamed with the full range of colours available for the main garment panels.
So what was the thinking that led to Female Fantasy’s initial collection of role-play outfits channelling the likes of cowgirls, racer girls, cheerleaders and female cops?
“The first thing to say is that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Simon. “We tend to keep running and running with this stuff. Also, we wanted to make good creative use of our laser-cutter.
“It was nice to visit classics like the racer girl and make it reasonably ‘off the peg’. Because most of the time, if you want to be a racer girl, you’d have to go custom.”
So having custom stuff available almost off the peg (even though in practice it would be mostly made to order) is another part of the overall concept.
“A lot of this was classic stuff but we’ve re-imagined it,” Rose continues. “The cowgirl look is a good example — funky, with little bit of a fashion twist to it. And when I look at the whole range I’m always pleased to see what we’ve come up with.
To what extent was the Libidex Female Fantasy range a response to changing tastes on the scene? Did the label perceive a specific gap in the market for this kind of stuff or was a more internal creative process at work?
“I think it was more internal,” Simon replies. “We didn’t know whether people were ‘crying out’ for this sort of thing but there was a strong sense that people do like to dress up in ‘roles’.
“So it came from that. A lot of our stuff isn’t at all specific. Of course we do a few things like a maid’s outfit, but if you put our maid’s outfit in a different colour, it looks like something altogether different. And conversely, if you do something in black and white, it looks like a maid’s outfit.
“It was nice to play with classic role-playing looks. I don’t know everything we’ve got in line, but a maid is probably one of them, also fire women… and so on.
“It’s just nice, quite fun, and a bit of a challenge sometimes to make something new out of something classic. You don’t want to take it too far from what it is, but at the same time you want to take it some distance.”
Looking at the initial Female Fantasy releases, it seems clear to me that a lot of its styling and decorative touches would not have been found in anyone’s standard ranges before, and certainly not at Libidex’s prices.
Some of the outfits evoke the kind of custom designs you might well see major music stars wearing for stage performances or videos. (Taylor Swift immediately comes to mind — not a thing I ever imagined saying).
So perhaps this new collection has tapped into the zeitgeist more than its creators are conscious of.
“I think the sense was to start with classics — more what people wanted,” says Simon, “then move into more of our own designs that aren’t being inspired by tradition.
“It really is the tip of the iceberg, just to see what people like, a toe in the water, a chance for people to give feedback. People are never shy to do that, and then we get more of a sense of what people like to wear and we can endeavour to provide it for them.”
It’s always nice to get people into rubber clothing, thinks the Libidex chief. “And the more diverse we can be, the better.” In that very respect, he reveals, right now the team is looking at doing Hard & Heavy for Women. Now that’s going to be interesting…
“I always talk about the spectrum,” Rose adds, “where at one end you’ve got your ‘Diner Girl’, and at the other end, a woman trussed up with inflatable this and inflatable that.
“We’re always looking to fill the spectrum, to improve on the spectrum, to include everyone.
“I don’t want to sound like Mother Teresa [not much chance of that — Ed] but it’s genuine, a genuine feeling that there are people out there who won’t know they like wearing rubber until they’ve seen as much of the spectrum as possible.”
In celebration of Torture Garden’s two Valentine’s Balls in London this coming weekend (February 15 and 16) Libidex is hosting the second half of its Valentine’s pop-up shopping event at its Islington HQ between this Thursday and Saturday.
This off-the-rails sale of stock boasts reductions of 50–80 percent on latex, including items from the new Libidex Female Fantasy and Male Fetish Fashion collections. There will also be some preview items from the yet-to-be-launched Male Catsuit Collection.
The shop door at 3 St Albans Place, London N1 0NX will be open on Thursday February 14 and Friday 15 from noon to 7pm, and on Saturday 16 from noon to 6pm.
Bringing cash is recommended as these events are always very busy and cash will save you time at the checkout.
If, however, you can’t make it in person, there are still great bargains to be had online, where the entire Libidex Female Fantasy range is currently on offer at 25 percent off the regular prices.
A representative selection from the new range can be viewed in our galleries below. Note that the prices quoted in our captions include the current 25 percent introductory discount.