With O-ring collars now commonplace, it’s impossible to ignore the recent rise of BDSM-inspired fashion – but the trappings of S&M style are far more than just a passing trend. For the past 16 years, the Dalston-based Fleet Ilya has been uniting the worlds of fashion and fetishism, lifting leatherwear from the shadows of our sex-shop associations and creating designs that are both beautiful and conceptual (think elaborate harnesses, corsets and suspender belts) as well as functional – if you’ve got plans to be restrained this weekend, that is.
Founded by husband-and-wife duo Ilya Fleet and Resha Sharma, the duo say they have witnessed a change in attitudes to fetishwear since they began the brand back in 2000. “When we started, bondage fashion was scarce and it was absolutely taboo for most, apart from within the subcultures,” they recall, citing nights like Torture Garden as staples of the scene. “Within popular culture there was still a clear division between the two worlds.” Tapping into a strong design language (with some help from Fleet’s skills of saddle-making and Sharma’s CSM background) “gave restraint a new language that could reach a wider audience”.
This month, that audience is set to get even wider with the opening of a new pop-up in London’s East End, a dynamic space where, along with products, exhibitions and installations are being put on and displayed. Dubbed The Ground Floor, the 10,000-square-foot industrial spot is located below their studio and atelier, and was previously home to a supermarket. When they moved out, Fleet Ilya moved in, gutting the space and stripping it back to its concrete foundations.
“We wanted to create the journey of the brand,” the designers explain. “For us it was a unique opportunity to view our pieces collectively, to see where we have been and where we want to go, allowing our visitors come face to face with the materials and the pieces, an exploration in leather, a fantasy land, with surreal objects and installations.” Inside, there’s a shop, exhibition of archive pieces going back to 2003, and campaign photography installation and film projections, as well as scheduled shibari performances. And if you were thinking of getting a leather look of your own, bespoke fittings are also available.
The Ground Floor is open 4–8pm (weekdays) and 12-6pm (weekends) at 25–31 Shacklewell Lane, London E8 2DA, until Sunday December 4