She has relaunched her website sianhoffman.co.uk, finally elevating what was originally a basic showcase for her work into a thing of remarkable beauty, and a must-see for connoisseurs of opulent fetish pictorials.
The transformation has been achieved in no small part by Sian’s use of stunning imagery by fashion and commercial photographer Tim Bret Day.
Day’s distinctive style, developed through shooting for the likes of The Face, Elle, Harpers, Marie Claire and Agent Provocateur, perfectly complements Sian’s designs, which are always sensual and often explicitly kinky.
The designer says the new combined site representing both her brands “has been many years in the making, and is the first time my corsets have been easily available to purchase.” She confesses she often thought it would never happen, and even now, is “still in progress”.
“The process has been very slow because everything I have done is self-funded and my standards are high,” she explains. “But with enough dedication (some may say obsession!) you get there in the end.”
Hoffman clearly has a great sense of what makes an eye-catching image for a website or editorial page, so she must have been delighted by the opportunity to collaborate with someone of Tim Bret Day’s calibre. How did this partnership come about?
“It is really important for me to work with likeminded individuals who I can trust in creating my artistic vision. I was very lucky to be approached by Tim as we have a great respect for each other’s work.
“As well as being a very talented and successful photographer, he is also extremely open-minded and a pleasure to work with. We hope to work together again.”
I imagine more than a few other folk out there will be nursing similar hopes!
So how did it all begin for this woman who is regarded today as one of corsetry’s most outstanding exponents?
As a teenager, Sian says, she had already developed “quite a strong interest in fetishism and provocative dress” and had experimented with her own style and ways of transforming herself.
She recalls: “When I was around 14 or 15, I came across the book Story of O completely by accident, in a bag of old books my mother had from her employer that she’d offered to take to the charity shop.
“I discreetly took the book for myself, having no idea how much effect it would have on my future work.
“Around the same time I was discovering vintage BDSM illustrators such as John Willie and his original Bizarre magazine, and researching into the Modern Primitive movement, a group who explore their bodies through extremity to reach new levels of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment.
“I would travel into London solely to purchase the new Skin Two magazine, and was excited by this underground world of the fetish scene and crazy experimental fashion. I was dreaming of the day I’d be old enough to attend Torture Garden.”
Subsequently she decided to study fashion at university, although, she admits, “fashion didn’t really interest me.” She had originally decided to pursue a career in costume design “but my tutor during my foundation course persuaded me to choose fashion because I was apparently good at it”.
“So I went to Middlesex University to do Womens- wear. It lasted a year. I hated it but didn’t regret doing the one year as I learnt valuable sewing skills that allowed me to teach myself the skills I have now.”
“They encouraged unconventional style,” she explains, “but I think it was the attitudes and environment I couldn’t cope with. I always felt a stigma associated with the fashion world as being superficial and lacking intellect, which I found difficult to fit into.”
SIAN HOFFMAN portrait by Paulina Otylie Surys
Having abandoned any thoughts of completing her university studies after a year, Sian admits she was uncertain about what her next move should be.
So she got herself a job at then well-known, now defunct fetish boutique Paradiso in Soho’s Old Compton Street.
“It was during this time my corsetry skills started to show,” she says. “I’d been designing outfits for myself as a hobby and had no desire to make them for anyone else.
“But I started getting recognised for my corsets, and gradually, I began to be approached by burlesque girls and performers for commissions.
“When the store saw my pieces they exclaimed ‘What are you doing here! You should be out of the shop making corsets for us!’. So that’s how it all began.
“Although I am very open minded and attracted to the unconventional, working at Paradiso was a wonderful place to experience different types of people.
“It taught me how to deal with customers on an emotional level with the utmost discretion, especially with the crossdressing males who often have to hide their fantasies from their families.”
One of the first retailers to stock Sian Hoffman corsets when she started making them more than ten years ago was Coco de Mer, in Covent Garden’s Monmouth Street.
“I was completely blown away by the store when I first visited it during college,” she remembers. “So I was thrilled when the proprietor Sam Roddick approached me about stocking my designs.
“The Coco de Mer ethos is something that I very much associate with. They were more than just a luxury lingerie boutique and had a great selection of art, photography and erotica books as well as rare antiques and art.
“Everything was exquisite and beautiful down to the design on a bottle of lube or carrier bag, all with antique erotic illustrations that appeared as pretty pictures at first glance, but were downright filthy on closer inspection.
“It was the first boutique of its kind to promote luxury erotic artisans, and has inspired many boutiques worldwide to open up erotic emporiums since.
“For a couple of years we collaborated on the Coco de Mer own-brand lingerie. I designed and made corsets and girdles to match the underwear, which was fun because for the first time one could buy a complete set with matching corset.”READ MORE QUICK LINK:
Click previews below to open galleries of Tim Bret Day photography and selected Press photography
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