On the surface, Rubberluv is a very new entrant to the UK’s latex clothing market, having launched properly not much more than a year ago, in November 2008.
However, since the man designing and making the Rubberluv range is Chris Anderson, this “new” British label actually has a fetish pedigree stretching back to 1984. That was when 17-year-old Anderson started making latex clothes for London’s famous gay fetish outlet Expectations.
By 1990, Anderson had left Expectations and set up on his own, and for the next 15 years he did his own thing, albeit in a low-key way. During this time he worked with and trained some of today’s best known British latex fashion names — a tribute to his reputation here as a latex guru with first-rate technical knowledge and tailoring skills.
In 2004 Anderson, living at this time in the Richmond area, met Chris Bellamy — now his Rubberluv business partner — at a Club Wicked party. Bellamy, a longtime perv scenester, saw the work Anderson had done for a latex collection Wicked was launching, and recalls thinking:
“Here’s someone who’ll make rubber in Richmond, and make it cheaper and better than anyone else.” He became one of Chris’s regular personal customers.
In 2005 Anderson lost all his patterns, stock and materials in a workshop fire, leaving him without the means to continue running his own business.
But Bellamy stayed in touch and, in the latter half of 2007, managed to persuade the designer that he should relaunch his career — with a new brand, and with Bellamy running the business side of the new venture for him.
“After what had happened to him, it took a bit of work to persuade him to get going again,” Bellamy recalls. But after some 18 months of “tinkering around”, Rubberluv was formally launched on November 1 2008, operating out of Bellamy’s Bagshot home.
Although Anderson had made his early reputation with men’s clothing, the partners agreed that women’s latex would be the main focus of Rubberluv’s endeavours.
Signature styles in its current women’s range include the Marilyn catsuit — it seems to fit everyone, says Anderson — and Saskia contrast-seamed stockings.
The latter, made in two different gauges of latex, are a real work of art and a prime example of the manufacturing quality you can expect throughout the range.
“I’m also doing a good basic range for men,” says Anderson, “but the sad truth is that if you give men a lot of choice, they don’t take it.
“When couples shop with us, most of the budget will go on dressing the woman, and whatever’s left will be spent on the guy. The only male customers who spend real money on themselves are the crossdressers and the serious rubberists.”
As a result, Anderson is currently considering introducing a “male fit” option in his women’s styles — something that will surely go down well in the trans community.
After Rubberluv’s launch, Bellamy spent six months ‘doing the fetish markets’ – an experience he initially found depressing, but educational
After Rubberluv’s official launch, Chris Bellamy spent six months “doing the markets” — taking clothes to the various weekend fetish fairs around the country. He found those six months a “pretty depressing” experience — but also an education.
“The first time we did Bristol, for example, all my stock was too small. The next time we went, I took a load of larger sizes, and got a much better reception.”
Why do the markets at all, when internet retailing is now so well established for fetish fashion? “I work on the odds,” says Mr B. “If you have enough stock, you should be able to sell something. Also, at the markets, you are meeting people and selling to people.
“Personal contact — getting to know your customers and enabling them to get to know you — is so important. People buy from people.”
Since last September, says Bellamy, Rubberluv’s fetish fair business has really picked up, and he’s delighted that the firm has now acquired a regular spot at BBB — Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar, widely considered the holy grail of fetish fairs. He also currently sells at both of London’s monthly fairs — London Alternative Market and London Fetish Fair.
He observes that customers at fetish fairs will often try a garment on, like it and want to take it away with them immediately even though the fit may not be perfect.
“We have pride in what we do and I would always rather we alter a garment than let people take away something that doesn’t fit properly,” he says.
“Often someone will try something on that they like, but perhaps the body length is wrong for them. Well, we can regrade patterns to fit different body lengths, and when I tell customers at fairs that we can alter something to fit and they’ll have it the day after, we get a very positive response.”
Focus on fit is an aspect that the pair feel distinguishes Rubberluv from many other labels. Take a look at the website and you’ll see that the company now offers three levels of fit to suit different pockets and deadlines.
First, there is In Stock And Ready To Ship, which gives instant access to a selection of men’s and women’s garments from the £20,000 worth of stock Rubberluv reckons to carry at any given time.
At the other end of the scale is Rubber Made 4 Me, the full custom-fitting service available both online and to personal visitors to the Bagshot HQ, which adds 25 percent to the standard website prices and may take up to 28 days.
In between the two is Made 2 Fit, a service just being introduced that offers a degree of custom fitting without the 25 percent extra cost, with garments based on four customer measurements and up to three fitting tweaks.
And as you might expect, the label also offers a bespoke design service aimed at taking individual costume fantasies and turning them into “rubber and latex realities”.
After 15 months of formal existence and a fairly steep learning curve, running Rubberluv is at last becoming fun, says Chris Bellamy.
He’s already working on version 2 of the website, which will be designed around new photography and will incorporate numerous refinements in layout and functionality to make it more customer-friendly.
“Our customers want quality stuff,” he says, “and we want people to have a good shopping experience.” So keen is Bellamy to ensure this that, with Rubberluv v.2, he plans to start guaranteeing the clothing.
“Nobody else does that,” he claims, “but I’m so confident of our quality. Our policy will be: if it can’t be repaired, we’ll offer replacement at a substantial discount.”
Messrs Anderson and Bellamy will be off to Essen this Easter to see if their brand of British rubberwear finds favour with the international crowd at Germany’s Fetish Evolution Weekend.
In the meantime, if you think a visit to Bagshot’s Rubber Towers might be in order, then they’re ready to make an appointment for you. Just bear in mind that you’ll be visiting an early Victorian house that used to be a brothel and is currently, apparently, haunted.
Nothing supernatural occurred during my visit, so I can’t vouch for any ghostly presence in the house. But it’s a verifiable fact that Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex live across the road, and that’s a scary enough thought for me.
Anderson and Bellamy will be off to Essen at Easter to see if their British rubberwear finds favour with the international crowd at Fetish Evolution