In stark relief, Kim Kardashian West showed off her husband Kanye West’s show in a mustard-colored latex bodysuit while wearing a face mask at Paris Fashion Week in the wake of Coronavirus. The organization, from Balmain, was typical Kardashian: the body striking for Congress and social media.
Latex has dominated the runway and pop culture this season. Lady Gaga’s new video features her in a power ranger pink latex two-piece. Latex leggings in Saint Laurent were paired with boxy suit jackets, while pictures of inflated latex trousers compared to Aladdin’s pants from London College of Fashion graduate Harikrishnan went viral on social media. He says he chose the fabric because “it is quite a statement. It comes with embedded fetish imagery … most people have not experienced this and will often be a latex ally for costumes and hypersexuality.”
For Professor David Tyler from the Manchester Fashion Institute, latex’s shock ability is simple: “It’s the ability to be a second skin and reveal shape,” he says. Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe caused resentment after featuring latex bodysuits in his work. In essence, his 1979 Joe / Rubberman, for example, features a man in a latex outfit, lying on his back, possibly sleeping, a renaissance. In-esque currency.
Designers such as Alexander McQueen, Versace, and Gareth Pugh have also riffed on latex’s associations with subcultures and decadence.
And yet, despite its synthetic and futuristic appearance, latex is actually a vegetarian and organic substance, derived from tree sap. This is one of the reasons that vegetarian designer Stella McCartney has used leather instead of leather in her footwear.
When worn best, the oppositional qualities between the natural world and the artificial fetish – are displayed to full effect. Think of Lady Gaga walking the Mate Gala red carpet in 2014 in a red, pink bloated latex dress, Queen meeting, and Beyoncé in soft pink, floral, Atsuko Kudo x Givenchy latex dress. Madonna wore it in her “S&M Hollywood Squares” video in 1979 as a way to get her mouths out of people who embarrassed her for the sex book and erotica. It was a deliberate sanction to the subversive and shocking nature of latex — and sexual freedom also exemplifies this. Tyler states, “Good design evinces an aesthetic response.
This is what latex does: disrupts the normative norms and creates controversy. And now thanks to the Paris runway and Kim Kardashian West, it is once again a rebel cloth.
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