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PORTFOLIOS|Fashion|Fantastic Rubber

STREET SMART: June cover star Kari Berg modelling Sarathustra catsuit in Berlin (photo: Marcus Gloger)

Fantastic Rubber: inside this year’s Best German Brand

Not that well known outside Germany until recently, catsuit specialist Fantastic Rubber has just won 2012’s European Fetish Award for Best German Brand, turning Tony Mitchell’s pre-award interview with owner Peter Pick into a timely piece of star-spotting

If you were to ask any group of latex catsuit aficionados which companies today make the hottest suits on the market, several names would be put forward, and one of them would certainly be Fantastic Rubber.

This German firm, based in Panketal, about half an hour’s drive north east of Berlin, may not yet have the international profile of the biggest names in the industry.

But in the last couple of years it has grown well beyond the domestic market that provided its early customers and made it, for a while, one of Germany’s best kept secrets.

Indeed, with half a dozen fulltime employees and sales of a thousand made-to-measure catsuits every year, Fantastic Rubber is a lot bigger and busier than its rather quaint web presence might at first suggest.

Fantastic Rubber doesn’t just make catsuits: it also has corsets, dresses and other latex styles in its repertoire. But it is for those body-hugging one-piece garments that the firm is, justifiably, most renowned.

You only have to look at a few photographs of them by the likes of Raymond Kerrin Larum (its chief photographic collaborator) or Marcus Gloger (who shot June’s cover- story images of Kari Berg) to understand their appeal.

Because everything is made to measure, the fit is amazing. This, combined with the extremely stretchy fine-gauge latex and designer Peter Pick’s minimalist seams and zipless, neck-entry construction, creates a second-skin effect that is pretty much second to none.

And if you think these garments look amazing in pictures, you should see them in (or rather on) the flesh.

I remember a couple of years ago at Fetish Evolution in Essen when two Fantastic Rubber models — one of them Larum favourite Alexandra Potter — made their entrance at the fetish expo.

Wearing matching catsuits that glistened with second-skin perfection, they strutted effortlessly and imperiously around the show in ballet boots. You could almost hear the entire expo’s collective jaw drop.

But though it’s his catsuits which are now most likely to turn heads, Peter Pick didn’t start out making the garments for which he is now so admired.

When he launched Fantastic Rubber in 2005, it actually marked his second attempt to produce latex clothes after an abortive earlier brush with the craft.

“There was no internet then and so marketing was the biggest problem,” he explains. But in 2004 there was, he says, “a strong will to make some handicraft”.

That was the beginning of Fantastic Rubber, and his initial goal was actually to create a strong corset made from latex, since available corsets didn’t impress him.

But, he admits, his first corset designs weren’t successful. So how did he progress from corsets to catsuits? Did he identify a gap in the market, and fill it with a suit that you had to get into through a gap in the neck?

“I’ve been a fetishist my whole life — and I have strong deviant and kinky thoughts,” he replies. “So I have an idea and try it. If it doesn’t work, nobody must know it!

‘Even though I’m dominant, I’m not sadistic. So I want all products to look very extreme, but be very safe and comfortable’ – Peter Pick

“I’ve always been inspired by the fetish books of Tom, Stanton, Gord and JG Leathers. There are many ideas I want to try. So I started with the corsets, and the neck-entry suits followed.

“But even though I’m dominant, I’m not sadistic. So I want all products to look very extreme, but be very safe and comfortable. I will never think about a new product only for business —that is not my philosophy.”

Pick says that in creating his distinctive catsuit style, he was never influenced by other products that he saw on the market. Nor did he have any conscious desire to build an international brand.

“The products from Fantastic Rubber are very unique and primarily they must stimulate me and give me a kick. My first neck-entry suits were made for the German Fetish Ball in 2006, and only many months later did I discover that I was not the first one to do them.

“All beginnings are hard work, and you are happy to have enough customers at the start. So I had no ideas about a strategic agenda.”

But with some years of experience in producing such garments, what does he now consider to be the essential qualities of the perfect latex catsuit, and how easy was it for him at first to turn his ideas into latex reality?

“It must be simply perfect. I’ve been a perfectionist all my life and that is not always easy for my co-workers. I’m a minor designer and a major engineer. I think about details that other labels forget.

“And the perfect catsuit is a perpetual evolution. So I must apologise — the first customers pay for that!

“It is never easy to turn ideas into latex. Any product needs its development time. From the first idea to a sellable product you must make a lot of steps.

“Development of pattern, prototype, first try-on and take a look how it fits, change the pattern, change the design in some areas and make a ‘version 0.91’…

“Then it’s the same again from the start. And you can’t sell those prototypes, because they are not good enough and customers who demand quality will be deeply disappointed.”

So has the whole process become any easier since he started?

“No, it isn’t easier after all these years, because the measuring rod is always going higher. By which I mean that customers want more, even when the product is getting better through evolution.

“Bear in mind that a good shirt made from cotton may not be a good shirt any more after washing it 20 times. But a shirt made from latex must be almost new after five years — and without any damage or repair.”

‘A good cotton shirt may not still be good after 20 washes. But a latex shirt must be almost new after five years, without any damage or repair’

When I visited my first major German event — the 2005 German Fetish Ball in Berlin — there were not many visible German latex brands, especially on the “fashion” side. Now there are plenty, but I wonder how Peter thinks the German scene has changed since his start-up that year.

“There are a lot of labels you will never see at a fair or a party,” he says. “Most labels are very small — less than three workers. And a big name doesn’t mean a big company, or vice versa.

“The first reason for the change is the people themselves. Society has changed and latex is fashionable. Young people give it a try without any prejudice.

“My own generation was the loser. We are too young for what we call in Germany the 68th — the flower power generation — and too old for now. So we have to pay very hard for our fetish.

“The scene has changed too. There is a party, a fair or some other event every weekend here in Germany. And with the help of the web, people come into contact. Last but not least, customers take more care over quality. They look twice before they buy something.”

To me, it seems part of Fantastic Rubber’s move into the spotlight can be attributed to the appeal its catsuits hold both for pure fetishists and the more fashion-orientated wearers of latex.

Even if made for fetish, they are seen more and more in glamour/fashion photography. So does Peter see his label today appealing more to fetish or fetish-fashion people?

“I don’t know what my customers do when they wear my products,” he laughs — adding, however, that he believes a lot of them do wear his creations while having sex.

“But in reality, does it make a difference why you and your partner love or like latex?” he asks.

Does the designer have any strong views about latex worn in the pop music scene by the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé? Are such celebrities helping to create a whole new generation of latex-loving people?

“This is not to dismiss what they do, but many times when you hear ‘latex’ spoken of, what you see is Spandex, PVC or other materials. On television in England, they usually speak of ‘latex’ when it shines, but in the US they talk of ‘PVC’.

“But when I think about the past — let’s say the 1970s — many women couldn’t imagine having a dishwasher. Now there is almost no kitchen without one.

“So looking in my crystal ball, I will say: In 2020, in every home where people under the age of 45 live, there will be some latex clothing!”

‘It is my firm conviction that a catsuit should be made to measure. If you have your own suit from Fantastic Rubber, you will know why!’ 

As mentioned earlier, everything Fantastic Rubber sells is made to measure. But will this always be essential to its brand identity, or would Peter consider adding a ready-to-wear range at some point in the future, if he saw a big enough market for it?

“It’s not the market,” he says. “It is beneficial to produce by measure. When you produce in standard sizes, you must spend a lot of money on clothes to hang on the rail, if you want to offer all colours and combinations of colours in all sizes. And as time passes, latex clothes in shops degrade.

“And it is my firm conviction that a catsuit should be made to measure. If you have your own suit from Fantastic Rubber, you will know why!”

Acknowledging the growing international interest in its products, the company has recently been updating its website to offer English versions of all the pages that were originally only in German.

But the site still has a rather old-fashioned look, with lots of text where people these days expect lots of pictures.

(The site does feature product pictures, but you have to plough through quite a lot of verbiage to get to them. Consequently, more visually-orientated types might find the firm’s Facebook page a rather easier-on-the-eye introduction to the brand.)

Peter, however, is not bothered too much by criticism of his online presentation.

“Let's say: my website is very ‘familiar’. There is much to read, and a lot about me and my view of the world.

“But my experience with this kind of website is very good. People who take the time to read it gain a lot of confidence from it and feel assured that they’ll get what they want.”

At the time of our original interview, Peter’s main concern was readying everything for his imminent show at the German Fetish Ball in Berlin — his first GFB fashion show.

He was planning to put several new designs into the show, such as the Diamond Catsuit (with asymmetrical pattern in bi-colour), Space-Girl and Sarathustra (Kari Berg’s June cover outfit) for women, and the Commander for men.

These join popular styles like Atlantis, Barbie, Big-Boobs and Amazone in the ever-increasing range of designs on offer from the firm.

I caught up with Peter for a quick chat on his stand at the German Fetish Fair just hours before Fantastic Rubber was due to hit the catwalk at that evening’s Ball.

He was in an ebullient mood, partly no doubt because the stand was getting plenty of visitors and he had been busy measuring lots of people up for new outfits.

Partly also, I suspect, his high spirits stemmed from learning that his label would be receiving that evening’s European Fetish Award for Best German Brand.

Given how recently Fantastic Rubber began taking a serious interest in international marketing, that award is a measure of just how much a genuine top-quality product line can do for a designer in a relatively short time.

‘My experience with our type of site is very good. People who take the time to read it gain a lot of confidence that they’ll get what they want’

Monday, 4 June 2012

 




About our June 2012 cover
Kari Berg – photo by Marcus Gloger

Several large servings of synchonicity led to our June edition cover shoot by Marcus Gloger, featuring Kari Berg (above) in one of Fantastic Rubber’s brand new latex catsuit designs
— writes Tony Mitchell.

Back in May I had selected Fantastic Rubber as a good candidate for our June cover story. Normally, I would have chosen a cover shot from the images supplied for possible use in the article, but on this occasion another possibility presented itself.

I knew that both Fantastic Rubber and Bonn-based photographer Marcus Gloger would be in Berlin for the German Fetish Ball Weekend towards the end of May. Gloger’s beautiful work had been featured on previous Fetishistas covers for latex label Rubber55 and French model Marie-Kalista, and both those images had been shot by Marcus on location during previous German Fetish Ball weekends. One — of Latex Lucy in silver Rubber55 bondage dress and hood — had actually been shot at the German Fetish Fair in Hamburg as I had looked on.

So I floated the idea with Marcus that, even though time would be tight, he might like to shoot a Fantastic Rubber cover for us while we were all in Berlin. He quickly agreed, as did the designer, so then it was “just” a question of finding the right model. It needed to be someone Marcus wanted to shoot, and he suggested Kari Berg, the Swedish musician and model who was booked to MC this year’s GFB proceedings.

It was a great suggestion, not just because Kari has the right look, but also because it would tie in with The Fetishistas’ later reportage from the weekend. So we agreed to go ahead.

I did wonder whether we’d be able to find a make-up artist for the shoot, but I shouldn’t have worried. At the Berlin Weekend’s Friday night cocktail party, I found myself in conversation with a friend of Swedish model Psylocke (aka Cat). Her name was Evelina de Nets and she was both a burlesque performer and Cat’s make-up artist. She happily volunteered for MUA duties the following day, and it was only later that I found out she and Marcus had already worked together.

So now this shoot, although very much a last-minute idea, was looking like it had always been meant to happen. And it went ahead as planned on the Saturday, with Kari looking fab in her Sarathustra catsuit against the black-tiled walls of the men’s loos at the Fetish Fair! Marcus willingly gave me the most important job on the shoot: holding a lamp to one side of our model to create highlights on her face and arms and on the tiles behind her.

After shooting indoors, we headed out to the street, where I performed another vital role: making sure none of Berlin’s enthusiastic cyclists crashed into our photographer while he shot stills and video of Kari against colourful graffiti on a courtyard door.

Mr Gloger’s favourite still from the outdoor shoot is at the top of this page, another is featured in the info panel dedicated to Kari below, and you can watch a video clip from it on YouTube — see link below. My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make it all happen, not least the lovely Asmondena, whose liaison efforts were much appreciated!


Fantastic Rubber (website)
Fantastic Rubber (Facebook)
Photography: Marcus Gloger
Model: Kari Berg
Make-up: Evelina de Nets





About our June cover star
Kari Berg

Although latex is a more recent passion — perhaps encouraged by hailing from Umeå, the northern Swedish city where Naucler Design is based — Kari Berg (photo above by Marcus Gloger) has been modelling now for eight years.

Of Norwegian and Swedish parentage, she mixes modelling with music, acting and writing. At this year’s German Fetish Ball, where she was mistress of ceremonies, she was able to showcase her multiple talents as a presenter, solo singer and model (walking for British latex label Am Statik).

Asked in a recent Fixe Magazine interview what excited her about fetish modelling, Kari said it was “that anything can be a fetish. Long nails, latex, Victorian clothes…” Modelling fetish styles was something of a challenge, she believed, “since fetish lies within the eye of the beholder”.

“It makes you think a lot about what really makes us human,” she told the magazine. “A good fetish picture is always something that means something, that touches people and also creates a tension — much like a really good song. I guess that’s why I like combining these two worlds.”

As a musician she currently performs with Swedish electro/alternative act Chaos All Stars, whom she joined after leaving previous band Ashbury Heights.

Chaos All Stars’ latest album I Need It All was released on CD recently to critical acclaim. The track list includes dancefloor smasher We Are The Sinners, in which Kari and fellow band-member Nik address people’s prejudices about deviants. Dystopic ballad Defenses and the dancefloor orientated Forget Them are also to be found on the CD along with a bonus section with remixes from Morlocks, Ad Inferna and Psy'Aviah among others.

Recent Chaos All Stars live gigs have included the support slot for legendary EBM band Front 242, for which Kari wore a custom-made Naucler Design latex dress sporting her band’s logo.

Movie fans may like to know that her album track The Iron Sky has been used as the music for the official Director's Diaries from the making of Iron Sky, the crowd-funded Finnish sci-fi film about World War Two nazis who escaped to the moon and plan to invade Earth, now out on DVD.

Meanwhile, Kari the actress has secured one of the female lead roles in the movie  Vi är som apelsiner [We Are Like Oranges], a film about racism in Sweden based on Folkoperan Remixed, out later this year.

Last but not least, she has just taken on the role of editor-in-chief for QLTR, a free magazine covering music, culture, art and events in Umeå, published quarterly in print and online.


www.kariberg.com
www.facebook.com/KariBergOfficial
www.chaosallstars.com
 
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