A lot of London’s fetish folk probably first noticed Miss Miranda in 2009 when she started to model in Torture Garden fashion shows.
A leggy blonde with the refined features of an English debutante, she was an obvious fit for the ‘TG tall girls’ crew who give the club’s fashion performances their distinct and classy character.
But fetish fans who have seen see her sporting latex by Lady Lucie or corsetry by Bibian Blue may not be aware that this relative newcomer to fetish modelling boasts a much longer history as a burlesque performer.
Or that she actually began her modelling career not in latex but as a lingerie model for What Katie Did — a position she still occupies to this day.
I first spotted her among the models on the Lady Lucie Latex site when we ran a Fetishistas fashion portfolio on the London designer in October 2009.
That article features her in two latex outfits photographed by Alastair Richards: one a 50s-style full circle skirt with gigantic white bow, the other a figure-hugging leopard pattern dress well suited to her Hollywood-glamour looks.
This, it transpires, was one of her “first proper latex shoots”, and the start of an enjoyable and productive working relationship with Lady Lucie.
But at this point she had already been regularly modelling What Katie Did’s retro styles for a couple of years — a result of being talent-spotted by Katie’s regular photographer Tony Nylons (Tony Rusecki) performing burlesque at London’s legendary Whoopee Club.
“I was pretty young. I was 16,” Miranda tells me over daiquiris in Soho’s Bar Americain. “He said he really liked my look and asked if I’d like to do a test shoot with him. I said, ‘What’s a test shoot?’
“He explained a bit, and said he liked pin-up style photography — an aesthetic that really appealed to me and had done for ages. It was something I’d really wanted to try doing but I didn’t really know anything about how that stuff worked.
“For a long time I thought that to become a model, you had to wait for someone to ask you to do all these things. I didn’t realise there’s a lot of work involved and you have to put yourself forward for things.”
Miranda’s first paid modelling work with WKD came at a time when she was finishing off her A-Levels and applying for art college.
She graduated in 2009 with a degree in graphic design. As a student, she had been content to fit some modelling and performing around her studies.
But now — as a result of giving herself a year after graduating to see how far she could take things — she fits in some freelance graphic work around her career as a model and performer.
She had been interested in latex for quite some time before she had the chance to model any, describing herself as “one of those annoying people who went into shops and tried things on but didn’t buy them”.
For her it was definitely “a fetish rather than a fashion thing”. She knew about the fetish scene, bought magazines like Skin Two and Marquis, and followed the modelling exploits of Dita Von Teese, Masuimi Max and Emily Marilyn.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was an even earlier inspiration. “Certainly it was the first fetish look I remember finding really fascinating and appealing. I think I was seven when I saw that film and I remember being really affected by it and thinking, I wanna be like that when I grow up!”
Fittingly, quite some years later, a student project finally enabled her to dress up like her heroine. For her first ever latex shoot, she wore a Catwoman outfit she’d created by customising a Libidex catsuit with latex-paint stitches.
‘We had to choose a movie poster to recreate, and I thought, I’ve always wanted a Catwoman outfit and this would be my excuse’
“We had to choose a movie poster to recreate with ourselves in it, and I thought, I’ve always wanted a Catwoman outfit and this would be my excuse to buy one using my student loan! So the first thing I ever bought in latex was a full catsuit from Libidex!”
Miranda’s first Torture Garden show was for Rachael Freir in April 2009. After her second TG appearance that year — in Lady Lucie’s Christmas show — she “kept being asked to do all of them” throughout 2010.
Many fetish models dream of the chance to tread the boards for TG. So, I ask her, what does it feel like to be one of the chosen few?
“I always really love doing the shows,” she says. “You get the best of everything really. You get to enjoy the club as a punter for part of the night, but I love that feeling when you come out after the show and people recognise you from being onstage.
“And I just love doing the shows. I’ve loved doing performance for my whole life really, and I love that they’re not just fashion shows, but performances.
“We’re all encouraged to put as much personality into them as we can, and lend something to the outfits and really express something, rather than just walk up and down and show what they look like.
“And because there’s this group of models that are used a lot, designers often know what our personalities are like, and they match our outfits to us. I think that’s what makes them such great shows.”
I tell Miranda that I sometimes think, with such an experienced ‘in-house’ model crew, TG could give breaks to more new designers who don’t necessarily have fashion show organising skills.
“But you still need someone to direct the show who knows what they’re doing,” she points out. “I’ve done shows where David TG has had to step in and direct it because the designer hasn’t really known what to do.
“I’ve been in situations where I’m really frustrated because I know I could choreograph it for the designer if they wanted me to — I have a lot of experience, so I can do that.
“But obviously I’m not going to just step in and be like, ‘Right, everyone do this, do that’, because I’m going to look really arrogant and horrible.”
We chat about the way the latex scene has evolved to the point where today, women are far more likely to be the creators, motivators and prime movers, in contrast with the days when rubber fetishism was very much a male-dominated activity.
But, we agree, many self-appointed ‘purists’ still have issues with women like Miranda whose glamorous looks and interest in modelling are taken to indicate only the most superficial interest in their favourite fetish fabric.
She says she has little time for people who dismiss the great variety of colourful ways latex is worn by Torture Garden audiences as not authentic fetishism.
“I find that whole attitude really upsetting because I feel like the whole point of a place like TG is that it is somewhere you can get away from being judged like that, which is what happens basically everywhere else in general society.
“It’s supposed to be somewhere you can relax and let go and not bother about what other people are thinking of you. What does it matter what someone’s fetish is?
“You’re there to enjoy yourselves and to meet other people who have probably had to put up with people telling them they’re a freak their whole lives. That’s what I see it as — I don’t go there to judge whether people are the right kind of fetishists or not.”
‘I feel like the whole point of a place like TG is that is is somewhere you can get away from being judged like you are elsewhere in society’
With Miranda’s well-documented interest in retro-style underpinnings running in parallel with her liking for latex, it’s no surprise to learn that she’s also a Bettie Page fan.
“I discovered her when I first got internet at home and went through a period of really, really obsessively researching all the designers and everything, mostly to do with finding places to get costumes for my acts.
“I’d looked at American companies like Versatile Fashions and Dark Garden for corsets, and through them I saw a lot of Dita’s modelling. I guess I found pictures of Bettie through looking for classic pin-ups, fully-fashioned stockings, stuff like that.”
Ah, fully-fashioned stockings. They are, I discover, a subject close to Miranda’s heart (and, frequently, her legs). So, being a fully-fashioned aficionado is a point of honour for her?
“Yay!” she confirms with a big smile. “It fills me with joy!”
When I confess to perving over women wrapped in modern powernet versions of ’50s foundation-wear as purveyed by What Katie Did, she says she’s heard that some of WKD’s customers are apparently not willing to struggle enough to get into the stuff.
“The manageress there told me that these ‘regular ladies’ come in and say they want the vintage look, but they just don’t have the dedication for it!”
This talk of vintage style and dedication leads us rather naturally to the topic of burlesque performance, which if you recall, was Miranda’s first love before she got into modelling.
Does she think it’s good that modern burlesque seems to be using more latex, as a consequence perhaps of more fetish models moving into burlesque performance?
“Actually I’d say there aren’t many real burlesque performers who use latex. Most of the performers using latex are doing fetish performance and most of it is really, really bad.
“It does irritate me a little bit when people assume that because they’re good at modelling they’ll be good at performance too, because it doesn’t work the same way. Some of them are. Some of them are great, but it’s a separate skill — a related skill but separate.
“I guess that’s been an issue in the burlesque world as well,” Miranda continues. “When I started doing burlesque performance, it was a really small scene in London.
“The only people involved then were really interested and really passionate and prepared to devote a lot of time to it. But it’s become more and more popular and has become this little zeitgeist style thing that people try to emulate on their hen nights.
“It’s become a fashion look, and it’s quite nice that it’s easier now for all the performers to find nicely-styled things for cheap.
“But the backlash is: there’s a lot of girls at uni or whatever who decide it would be fun to do burlesque as a hobby, and they’re doing really shit performances for free, bringing down the prices for everyone that’s been performing for a long time.
‘None of us can make as much money as we used to. And people go to burlesque clubs and say: What is this shit? Burlesque is bollocks’
“So none of us can make as much money as we used to. And all these people are going to burlesque clubs and saying, ‘What is this shit? Burlesque is bollocks’. And I’m like, it’s only bollocks because you’re seeing some stupid 21-year-old who’s only been doing it for six months and is happy to do a show for free.”
I can only agree. But promoters looking for a cheap deal are partly to blame for this state of affairs. As long as there are promoters who would rather have some girl — any girl — get her tits out for free than pay for a professional show, it will be a problem.
On the fetish scene, I observe, this has already engendered quite a lot of audience cynicism, with people asking, “Have I not seen this a thousand times before?”
“And they really have,” reckons Miranda. “It’s given it a bad name. There’s just so many crap performers, there to satisfy this fantasy of their own to get up on stage and take their clothes off.
“And d’you know what? This isn’t a hobby to me — this is something I’m really passionate about, that I’ve devoted years of my life to learning about and getting better at. And there’s people who come along and say to me ‘Oh I’d really like to do what you do, just for a bit of fun’.
“There was this girl I used to go to school with, who contacted me on Facebook and said ‘I was really inspired when I found out you did burlesque and I’ve decided to like do a couple of performances while I’m studying at Oxford’. Great. Have fun with that.”
Oh well, these things are sent to try us, eh? But on the subject of things Miranda feels very passionate about, we cannot conclude without a mention of her love affair with Fabulously Fetish, the London shoe label featured on our January Fetishistas cover. How did it start?
“I had been conducting one of my regular searches online for extreme arch heels, which I did a lot — less so now only because I work with them (FF) and they satisfy my need for that.
“I was searching and searching to find somewhere that makes proper fetish heels with a proper six-inch elevation on them without a platform. And I found this amazing picture of this perfect fetish shoe with this really tiny gap between the heel and the sole and this amazing arch on them like proper John Willie shoes
“The caption said it was made by this company called Fabulously Fetish, and I tried to contact them through their website but it wasn’t working, then through their Facebook page but that didn’t work either.
“But then their website went live, and it was around the time I was organising the promotional video for What Katie Did that I made with my partner. We really wanted it to have that slightly Irving Klaw look to it, like you’re making a dirty home video but at the same time it’s a fashion movie.
“So I e-mailed FF to see if we could borrow some shoes for the video, because they were very much the right kind of style, and they were just really excited about it and said they really loved WKD and they’d love to be involved.
“I went to meet them, tried on loads of their shoes and got really excited. The owner, Cos, was really impressed that I could walk around so comfortably in all of them.
“They didn’t have a lot of stock in the right size so they just made a lot of stuff for the video — eight pairs for us to use — and I’ve been working with them ever since.”
Right now, Miranda is waiting for Fabulously Fetish to put their new pony boot (designed by Harriet, the firm’s Cordwainers graduate) into production so she can do a pony show with Elegy Ellem, with whom she’s performing as part of Torture Garden’s return to Electrowerkz on Friday September 7.
“I’ve been talking to them about it for over a year but they’re just so busy, I don’t know if they’ll have time to do it this year. But if not this year, next year. Cos’s shoes are amazing — I’m so happy I’m working with them.
“I went on this quest for so many years to find someone who makes shoes with that kind of silhouette and I find a shoemaker with exactly the same aesthetic in his head as I have.” Truly, then, a marriage made in heaven.
‘I was on this quest for years to find somewhere that makes proper fetish heels with a proper six-inch elevation on them without a platform’