Since they began running the Barbican events, Cathy and Paul Norris have made a point of giving a break to fresh fetish creativity by providing stand space for a particularly talented new young artist or designer. And this year is no exception.
For 2007, the undoubtedly deserving recipient of the Xpo’s largesse is a young designer from Edinburgh called Heather Meikle. Heather has just finished a degree in Fashion and Textiles at the renowned London College of Fashion. There, she developed an interest in latex as a clothing fabric, and the end result was an extremely original final year collection of women’s garments which got her noticed by the mainstream fashion press, including Vogue.
Her designs now form the basis for the debut of her Overt Clothing label at the Xpo in October. Overt Clothing is, she maintains, “a new take on how latex can be used in fashion but at the same time staying within the alternative scene”. She describes her designs as glamorous, sophisticated and understatedly sexy. “The dresses have a modern look,” she explains, “with touches from bygone eras. The focus is to create beautifully detailed garments in bright colours with prints, appliqués and rhinestone details to add that extra bit of sparkle.”
However, these words alone don’t fully explain what makes Overt Clothing so different from other kinds of latex fashion. While a number of modern designers use coloured latex to achieve a softer and more feminine image than the traditional in-your-face dominatrix look, and vintage influences are often employed to add glamour, it’s pretty safe to say that no one else is using rubber in quite the way Heather Meikle is using it.
The ’50s-influenced full skirts that feature in many of her designs add a sense of carefree opulence that is not normally associated with latex fashion. And even when she does opt to exploit rubber’s more familiar body-encasing properties, she does it with colour combinations that take the fabric off bedroom duties and put it centre stage at a summer evening cocktail party.
Like German designer Katja Ehrhardt (who will also be at the Barbican this October), Heather Meikle is creating latex clothes that pervy girls will love — but you don’t have to be a fetishist to lust after. She has found a way of taking rubber further out of the sex clothing ghetto than even the most imaginative established designers have managed, making it even more appealing to women in the process. We’ll wager that any fetish model with half an ounce of taste and an eye for something different is going to be all over this stuff.
For the record, Heather pledges to use all the skills she gained at the London College of Fashion to create a ready-to-wear range as well as offering bespoke designs. The emphasis, not surprisingly, will be on woman’s wear, but, she promises, there will be some designs for men too.
‘Any fetish model with half an ounce of taste and an eye for something different is going to be all over this stuff’