This week, more than 40 years after Vivienne Westwood first opened her SEX shop, Kim Kardashian and Madonna were both shocked by fetish outfits. Madonna appeared at the MTV VMAs wearing an Atsuko Kudo latex ensemble, leather gloves and a cap, while Kardashian wore an all-black Balenciaga look at the Met Gala (an intentional nod to the style recent by Kanye West). At the same event, Gossip Girl actor Evan Mock wore a studded gimp mask by Thom Browne. So why have these niche outfits become mainstream?
Historically, fetish clothing emerged into the light of day after economic downturns or major events, such as the premiere and the secworld war wave, and Lou Austin, co-owner of fetish site MegaPleasure, thinks it's linked to a collective trauma. "I wouldn't be surprised if this pandemic sparks a resurgence of the wearing of masks both in bedrooms and on the runways as a nod to the shared tedious trauma we have all been experiencing for about a year," she said.
"The re-emergence of fetish fashion is in part a reaction to the lockdown," says Professor Andrew Groves, who organized Undercover , an exhibition that looks back on wearing of the pandemic mask in public spaces. “Over the past 18 months we've all been in a weird BDSM relationship with the government,” he says, “that has controlled our bodies, requiring us to wear masks and told us who we can kiss or touch. Adopt fetish clotheshistes like fashion can be interpreted as a desire to change relationships, to regain control and to show t hem who really is in charge. "
The term" festival "was first defined by the French author Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne in the 18th century. "(It ') became popular in the 1920s with French company Yva Richard selling hats, lingerie and shoes " says Jennifer Richards, tutor at the Royal College of Art. "They were also known for their creation of a studded steel cone bra " she says, a precursor to the Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra made famous by Madonna . Richards adds that the work of fashion designer Rudi Gernreich in the 1960s had a great influence on designers such as Helmut Lang who popularized the fetish look. "Gernreich's work was a reaction to the overt sexualization of the body of the day," she says, "he sought to eliminate the stigma of shame and embrace the body as a whole.
The specter of fetish fashion is part of our modern visual vocabulary, whether it is the outfits in WAP or Billie Eilish Walk Vogue cover. Groves believes that our continued exposure to such objects makes them less shocking. "[Their] meaning is diluted," he said, pointing to the gimp mask. “[His] transition from fetish to fashion object by Westwood in the 1970s, then reinterpreted by [fashion designer] Margiela in the 1990s and now worn by Kanye West illustrates [that]its strength has been weakened due to its endless spread. ”
Nonetheless, Richards believes there is an important message to be taken from wearing these clothes. "These clothes enabled both transformation and empowerment," she says. "If we go back to Freud's original theory, then fetishism is about control. At a time when we are trying to try to control it. being more open and transparent around sex, these clothes can be a way to start taking back control for ourselves. ”