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Atsuko Kudo at SHOWstudio: Dressing For Pleasure
Atsuko Kudo at SHOWstudio: Dressing For Pleasure@atsukokudolatex via Instagram

Is fetish latex becoming mainstream?

Fresh off her new campaign for Mercedes-Benz, we talk to Japanese designer and latex enthusiast Atsuko Kudo

Japanese designer and latex provocateur Atsuko Kudo is probably the kinkiest person in fashion. An unrivalled specialist in the fabric, she’s crafted unimaginable clothes from it; from lingerie to dresses. Naturally this hasn’t gone unnoticed – Kudo’s designs have garnered attention from some of the music industry’s greatest fashion icons including Lady Gaga, who famously wore one of the designer’s dresses to meet the Queen. They’ve also caught the eye of Nick Knight who created a film – Atsuko Kudo at SHOWstudio: Dressing For Pleasure – around her work.

Now she’s collaborated with Dazed contributor Jeff Bark, who photographed Beth Ditto for the Winter 2015 issue of Dazed, to create the new Mercedes-Benz Fashion campaign Obsession with an Icon, showcasing the new SL. For the shoot they headed to a giant gravel pit in the everglades just outside Miami where they filmed Russian model Natasha Poly in one of Kudo’s custom-made dresses. Here the designer gives us an insight into the Atsuko Kudo world.

What was your first encounter with latex?

Atsuko Kudo: My first encounter with latex was whilst studying fashion in Tokyo. I fell in love with the super shiny second skin quality of it. Then, when I wore it I felt like a super woman. I started working with it after I moved to London – I moved here specifically to work with the fabric. I like working with it because I want to empower women with latex. I believe both women and latex don’t need to stay in a dark place. 

“I want to empower women with latex. I believe both women and latex don’t need to stay in a dark place” – Atsuko Kudo

Why do you believe latex empowers women?

Atsuko Kudo: Maybe because it takes you out of ordinary life. Great latex makes you look and feel extraordinary. The Atsuko Kudo mission is to achieve that with women of all shapes and sizes. Latex gives magic to a woman’s shape if it is cut correctly. It works like a super shiny shape wear. Latex will sit tight and smooth on the skin – but, as I say, only if it is cut correctly.

How do you think the perception of latex is changing? Is it losing its subcultural connotations and becoming more mainstream?

Atsuko Kudo: It is a very interesting time for latex at the moment. Obviously it has a strong connection with fetishwear and things like that, but it is also becoming a fashion fabric. One key illustration of this was when Lady Gaga met the Queen wearing a red Atsuko Kudo latex gown. We were told it was going to happen but we didn’t believe it until we saw Gaga and the Queen in the same shot – and the Queen was smiling! Maybe latex has now got the Queen’s approval!

This year we have been working on pieces for films, promos, commercials, and of course for the bedroom too. This shows that latex can and is worn for all sorts of occasions by all sorts of different people. We have been very fortunate to dress some very interesting women who are very well known – Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Grace Jones, Miley Cyrus, Gaga and Kim Kardashian and others – but what demonstrates latex’s appeal is all of the people who are wearing it who you never hear about, but who love it as well.

What inspires you?

Atsuko Kudo: I am big fan of classic Hollywood glamour from the 1930s and 1940s. I love mixing elements of the old and new together. I don’t do too much ‘futuristic’ fashion as latex already does that as a fabric. The project with Mercedes-Benz is just on the right side of where I’d like to be. 

How has Japan’s attitudes to fashion and sex influence your approach?

Atsuko Kudo: I think both Japan and England have very unique approaches to fashion and sex. Sex’s influence on the Japanese culture is very powerful – it impacted me from a very young age. When you think about it a lot, it becomes like a special recipe and I have added English or Western ingredients for a good few years which hopefully gives it a unique flavour.

You've previously recommended Rubber Cult, the rubber-only club in London. Why do you recommend it? 

Atsuko Kudo: Nowadays there are lots of places you can wear and see latex but it is very special to find a place where everyone wears latex because it’s the house rule! This rule of wearing latex seems to make everyone more friendly – the overall experience is quite something.

What other clubs or club nights do you recommend?

Atsuko Kudo: London has many great night clubs but Torture Garden is a very good monthly club night where you can dress up and go wild!

Watch the new Mercedes-Benz Fashion campaign below: