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’