It’s not every day you get the opportunity to question someone at the helm of their given specialism, but by interviewing the award winning Latex designer Atsuko Kudo, I have been granted just that. Quite rightly, the diminutive designer is lauded for her innovative and revolutionary designs by those immersed in the fetish scene as well as the high fashion devotees. She consistently strives to take advantage of the unique qualities of her chosen medium – the garments and accessories showcase it’s high shine finish to greatest possible effect, and her intelligent tailoring makes positive use of latex’s constrictive nature. She also manages to challenge preconceptions aligned to the ‘alternative’ material.
It is undeniable that her professional relationship with reigning queen of pop has not only aided her notoriety, but brought broader attention to a material that has long been considered only suitable for the most daring of dressers. This continuing and ever blossoming relationship is also one that constantly pushes the designer, whether its through the sheer mass of garments needed, or a brief which requires her to challenge her current techniques and the capabilities of her beloved material. Lady Gaga and her creative team Hause of Gaga’s epic treatment for the video for ‘Marry The Night’, proved to happily stretch Kudo’s couturier skills, particularly when it came to the stunning nude ballerina looks. From the incredible results you can see that she excells under pressure.
Her niche talent has also earned her great respect within the country she works, and seen her hand picked by curators Oriole Cullen and Sonnet Stanfill to join other UK dwelling designers in the V & A exhibition – Ballgowns, British Glamour since 1950. This is one of many exciting things celebrating her work in 2012. With the likes of outlandish style icons Nicki Minaj capturing her curves in an Atsuko kudo, and numerous magazines including her work in their main fashion shoots we will have endless sighting of her work to enjoy this year.
Read on to find out more about her relationship with the chamealion songstress, working with legendary Fashion creative Nicola Formichetti, and what exactly makes her completely devoted to latex….
Can you tell me what you are working on in the studio today?
We are working on new collection. We are planning to do a shoot soon so working on that today. Really exciting.
Are you finding that there is an influx of orders in time for Valentines?
Valentine is a not long away – it’s normally very busy for Valentines. We sell lots of our red latex accessories – chokers, eye masks and heart shaped pasties. Love is the answer to all!
Last time I interviewed you for Stylebible you had a very small team in the studio producing the work. Have you had to expand to cope with the increasing demand for your designs?
We are still a small company. I run the company with Simon Hoare, who is my business partner and husband! And we have some great staff both in the design studio and in our shop. All latex products are still hand made by our fairies in London studio. We have a small but great team!
You had produced a few pieces for Lady Gaga including her Elizabethan costume for the Royal Variety performance. How has your personal and professional relationship with LG progressed since then?
I think we are building a trusting relationship which is very nice. We have been working together for long time now. We just made all of the latex ballet looks for her last video – ‘Marry The Night’ and she wore our Crystal suit (in Jade green!) for the Jonathan Ross show – we made a matching leash for the sheep she was with!
As you have said , some of the pieces have been made for performance. What amendments do you make to ensure Gaga can move in them and feel as comfortable as possible?
She is fantastic performer, so she can makes anything work. But of course we make sure garments are checked properly before leaves studio, especially when we make custom designs with a short deadline. Even though she has house of gaga with her all the time, it’s difficult to fix latex items if there are any problem once the garments have left our studio
Do you think part of the point of wearing latex is to feel constricted and slightly uncomfortable?
For me, Latex is clearly not for every day. There are way to
It’s fetish! Beauty doesn’t come easy.
People can suffer little bit because the resolute are very big!
Latex empowers women. When you wear latex you feel special like a super woman. And good latex will get you attention in the right way.
Your work will be showcased at the V&A Ballgowns exhibit. This must be an extremely proud moment for you all?
Yes. We are really thrilled to be displayed alongside great names Norman Hartnell and Alexander McQueen in the V&A Ballgowns exhibition. V&A was the first destination for my trip to London. It really means a lot to me and team.
You are really trying to champion Latex to the masses. Do you worry that if it loses all of its taboo it may lose some of its unique appeal though?
Latex makes a woman look amazing! It’s the beautiful gloss, and if you are fitted properly to fit your body it works as the ultimate shape-wear. Nothing can change that. Latex is very sensual and empowering to wear for fetish or fashion. I think that is very unique and individual appeal, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think latex as same as other fetish items – Corset, High heels. They are beautiful to watch. Latex is a special item for a special occasion, therefore will never loose it’s unique appeal. It’s great that more people are start accepting latex as another fabric. I heard that latex used be so taboo that some people committed suicide over it. That’s nonsense!
Your pieces are commissioned and called-in for all sorts of shoots. Do get more excited seeing it used in a sexual/fetish style or in a more unpredictable or high fashion setting?
I love seeing our latex in both sexual/ fetish style and the more unpredictable/ High Fashion settings. They both excite me. Also I love seeing the latex garment on any type of people. We have so much fun with our customers. The range of our customers are so wide and they are great! We get lots of challenges and we try our best to make them all work.
You’ve dressed idols like Gaga and Grace Jones. Supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi have worn your accessories. Olympians like Jessica Ennis have worn dresses for photo-shoots. Who would you like to dress next?
One day, I’d love to see the queen wearing our latex – something smart and glamorous! I never thought the day will come to see Latex and the queen at the same place before seeing Lady Gaga meet the queen…so we might have a little chance to dream?
If you could create a uniform for something, what would you choose?
You don’t just create purely fashion pieces, you created a curtain for a Swing Project 3 (art display) and mermaid tails for some promo for Pirates of The Caribbean. Are you always looking for new challenges to take on using your beloved material?
The idea of what you can do with Latex excites me. So I’m enjoying every project every minute!
Have you ever thought about producing a home furnishings range? It is wipe-able after all!
We have made some Latex bedding and so on before on request. So it can be done.
You created some pieces with Nicola Formichetti for the Thierry Muglers A/W 11 collection. Obviously his work is greatly admired, but what is he like to work with?
He is extremely sharp and free, also nice, so he’s very inspirational to work with.
Did you learn anything from him that has informed your work since working with him?
Focus on the right things at the right time. And be nice.
Do you ever find collaborations stifling or do you enjoy having access to someone else s creative ideas?
I love collaboration. We collaborate with many creative people like designer, stylist and customers. Every collaboration brings something you never have done with out other party so that’s inspiring. But it’s nice to do our own projects too. There is a talk of doing Fashion show again this year so that’s exciting.
Latex is a lot about empowerment, strength and sexiness. Do you think you could create very soft, delicate, romantic pieces?
Being feminine in the way you wish is empowering. It doesn’t matter which direction you approach it. What does matter is what is inside your mind. The power of glamorous women enjoying themselves is very strong. Nothing can replace that in any time or place. I think some of the pieces we have already produced are quite soft and romantic and we may produce more in the future!
A lot of people will believe that their figures are not suitable for latex garments. What would you suggest for certain body shapes?
I am designing clothing for everyone who wants to feel feminine, beautiful and strong. I believe you can achieve all of that without looking hard core. It’s all about how you want to feel. We are working hard to make our clothing to be glamorous, functional, affordable and for all shapes + sizes + age of woman! We are lucky to have dressed so many women who are special. We have so many ladies who tell us that they have a strong emotional reaction with this feeling. We recently had a client who was in tears because of how she felt about the difference it made to her self perception.
How do you maintain and look after your latex pieces?
Latex is new fabric to almost everyone on this planet. We learn about other fabrics as part of growing up, but not latex. As with other fabrics, you have to treat and look after the latex in the right way. If you follow the instructions (See our product care on website) it will last for long time. Also latex garments can be fixed. Do come to see us if you have any problems so we can help you.
My personal Atsuko Kudo experience…
Style writers (and mothers) often remind us of one particular dressing rule…that you show either legs or chest, but never both. In my case it is generally neither. I don’t know whether it’s down to my parents old-fashioned views and rules when it came to my dressing as a young teenager, or whether I am just naturally relatively reserved when it comes to flesh flashing. Despite remaining covered-up for the most part, I am not averse to donning a figure-hugging dress( if I”ve had a non bloating dinner), and I will always opt for a skinny jeans over a boyfriends fit. However, an Atsuko dress takes body-con to the next level.
When I visited the store to meet Atsuko, it soon became clear that I was going to be one lucky clothes horse and be given the opportunity to try on one of her amazing creations. Momentarily considering a Jessica Rabbit-eque red number with an alluring split up the thigh, I decided to opt for a reliable LBD. After feeling an initial thrill at the prospect of channeling my inner Gaga/ Dita, panic set in when I realized a poor member of the team would have the task of encasing me in the latex piece. I thought it only right to give the poor girl prior warning of my unkempt legs – which were likely capable of penetrating through the latex, as well as her flesh, as she helped me squash into the dress. The skin that the dress would have to slide over was then talced up to make the process more manageable, a new aspect to the routine of getting dressed. After a bit of breast manipulation and squashing in of excess back fat, the zip tickled up my spine and reached the top of back. To complete the look I squeezed me flat-loving feet into some rather sexy platform latex shoes. I would say I sauntered over to the mirror to admire my new look, but stumbled would be more appropriate given my eneptidity when it comes to walking in heels.
I will admit to being a bit shocked at the reflection I saw in the mirror… but in a good way. After the usual critical self analysis, I actually felt that my predominant hips were positive characteristic, that I’d created an hourglass shape I’d never achieved prior. My boobs, which have already started to wilt with age, were hoisted together, looking plump and perky, and the little stubborn doughnut of chub that surrounds my belly button was sucked in, giving the appearance of a flat stomach.
What was most notable about my AK experience was the new straight posture adopted as a result. As a youngster I would stoop, embarrassed by the obvious protruding of my ever-increasing chest. Over a decade on and I’ve never quite regained the perfect upright stance.On a particularly lethargic or insecure day, I would go as far to say that I don’t look all too dissimilar to phase 2 of ape evolving into man. I don’t know whether I was merely proud of the new figure I was cutting and wanting to show it off as best as possible, or whether the constrictive nature of of the material and it’s design ensured it. Either way, I could see that this confident looking person reflecting back was a far more appealing sight than I am used to seeing.
Despite my inner naughty I have always fallen into the ‘safe’ category when it comes to fashion, so I never imagined I’d be someone who could wear or pull off a latex piece. Although it’s not exactly everyday comfort lounge-wear, I enjoyed every sucked in moment of wearing the dress… and even more how it made me feel. I now find myself constantly trying to come up with an excuse to return to the jam packed store on Highbury Road, and seeking out an event which is suitable/worthy of me wearing a showstopping Atsuko piece.
Whatever addition I eventually make to my wardrobe, I urge each and every one of you to give a piece a spin. You may find you have a new appreciation for your body, you might find it causes you to unleash your inner raunch, or you may simply enjoy wearing something created by the best in the business….
While I mull over which of the array of stunning outfits I should add to my wardrobe I will be dropping some serious hints in time for Valentines gifting. I am thinking that a red assecories would be a perfect first AK acquisition….
It would appear that the fashion gods have been listening to my request with news of Atsuko’s pairing with cult beauty brands Illamasque, in perfect time for Valentines Day. They have collaborated to offer up the following accessories collection, which features the designers pioneering filigree….
Joseph Corre – Illamasque joint MD
‘ Atsuko represents the pinnacle of quality and design in latex fantasy and couture wear. These are qualities that Illamasque share and therefore it is a pleasure to collaborate with them on this super sexy accessory collection for Valentines Day.”
Heart Shaped Pasties with filigree lace £64.00
Filigree lace choker £52.00
Kitty collar with filigree lace £72.00
Knuckle gloves with filigree lace £72.00