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“It sounds snobbish, but it was always about alienating people,” says Dave Edmond, the self-proclaimed second designer of goth latex fashion. “It was like a secret society.”
Edmond’s telling CREEM about the London punk and goth scenes in the '70s and early '80s, because he is the authority. Like his peers, Edmond thrived on any opportunity to break conventions—and dramatic outfits worn on the London streets worked every single time.
Once designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren began appropriating the bondage wear of the fetish community—with its textures of latex, leather, and the like—for their shop SEX, counterculture fashion began taking cues from taboo articles of gear, ones that had previously been worn within the confines of dungeons and boudoirs.
But everyone knows that history, anyway. (We all watched that biopic series about the Sex Pistols—you know, the one where everyone was obviously way too hot to actually be punk.) But what about goth, punk’s cousin who lurked in the candlelit shadows? Well, Edmond can tell that story. He worked for the infamous BOY London fashion brand and owned Pure Sex, a shop and clothing label. “We mixed together remnants of punk with gothic stuff, latex and PVC stuff as well,” explains Edmond of Pure Sex. “Also with fetish stuff like shoes, boots, gloves, hats, sunglasses. It's very much a kind of latex goth dominatrix look that we went for.”
“It sounds snobbish, but it was always about alienating people.”
Inherited from punk’s give-no-fucks attitude, the blasphemous camp of horror b-movies, and the gender bending stylings of glam music, goth came about quite effortlessly as a decoupage of subversive influences. But while some say goths are simply born this way, meaning there’s an inherent affinity for darkness, death, and eternal gloom—black is not a learned favorite color, it just is—the same could be said for the relationship between goth and fetishized materials. It’s unexplainable, but goths are innately attracted to rubber and leather, lace and fishnet, velvet and silk.
London’s original goth sanctuary, the Batcave, which opened its doors in 1982, became the place for goths to galavant such outfits of textures and tactile surfaces. In the strawberry-scented fog of the Batcave, the blueprint for goth’s fashion was cultivated—and Edmond was there. On a call over WhatsApp, he tells CREEM about London’s burgeoning goth scene by way of latex, as he firsthand witnessed that pivotal transition from “God Save the Queen” to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
CREEM: Let’s get right to the point. How are you involved in this magnificent cataclysm of goth and latex?
DAVE EDMOND: I had a shop in Birmingham, [U.K.], a punk shop. But I was dealing [designing] a lot with BOY London and with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Seditionaries store, so I spent a lot of time in London.
I ended up going to work for BOY right at the very end of the punk movement [in the late '70s]. So in London, after punk was over, there were a whole load of kids that wanted something else to do; they wanted a new thing to get into. They came out of Bowie and Roxy Music, they got into punk, and then as punk got absorbed by the mainstream or by people that we didn't really like, we wanted something different. So goth was mostly the next thing. I mean, you could call it post-punk, you could call it new wave. But really, in the U.K., it was goth.
Why do you think punks originally gravitated towards latex and fetish gear?
The reason that they gravitated towards latex was because before Malcolm and Vivian had Seditionaries with all the punk clothes that the Sex Pistols wore, their shop was called SEX, which sold latex. Later, they changed [their brand] to sell punk stuff and bondage trousers, but they still had some latex. So one thing led to the other.
Also, when we were doing early punk clubs and goth clubs, we liked having the fetish people there because they were decorative. There was some guy who stood there in the corner with a leather hood on [and] somebody who was tied up on the floor. It was good. It had a good shock value. And it scared the shit out of ordinary people. They didn't like it.
And after punk, you were right there at the beginning of the goth scene?
Yeah, when I was working for BOY as a designer, they wanted to do a whole load of Batcave T-shirts. But the Batcave hated BOY because BOY was just one of those kinds of shops that people hated. So they asked me to go out and see the Batcave people.
What else were you working on during that time?
I'd been doing T-shirts for Adam and the Ants before they became poppy. And most of the Adam and the Ants imagery came out of a book by John Willie called The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline. It's all bondage and S&M and fetish drawings—if you see the drawings from the book, you'll probably recognize them. I was already doing the fetish thing, basically, because I was into the girls that look like that. I was already mixing goth and latex from a very early point.
Basically Adam Ant is a John Willie drawing that came to life.
Yeah, pretty much everything we did for Adam and the Ants onwards was derived from John Willie. And my clothing designs were derived from John Willie images. Sometimes I changed things, or put buckles on or adapted them, but most of it came out of there.
[But] the latex thing in London was started by a guy called Daniel James. He was the first person to do fashion latex and had a shop in Hyper Hyper [an emporium at Kensington Market]. He opened a one night club on a Monday, on the edge of Soho called Skin Two [in 1983].
Skin Two also became a magazine, correct?
Yes, they were very seminal in developing the whole latex thing in the U.K. Before that club and that magazine, latex was basically restricted to middle-aged people. And the middle-aged people weren’t into fashion—they just liked the feel of the latex. They wanted to wrap themselves in latex, put hoods on, put raincoats on. They weren't stylistic in any way. There was no fashion aspect to it and there were also virtually no young people involved.
I was working for BOY, doing the Batcave stuff. And then Daniel James decided he wasn't going to do Hyper Hyper anymore. So, because I was already a stallholder in Kensington Market, they asked me if I wanted to move into Hyper Hyper to start selling latex clothing. So, essentially, I was the second person to start doing latex clothing. I didn't invent it, but I was the second person to get involved. And I understood it because I'd already followed all the John Willie imagery.
Where do you think your love for fetish, latex, and the darker sides of life come from? Did the goth scene appeal to you right away?
I was very into it from the very start. Even when I was about nine years old, I was an odd kid. Looking back, I think maybe I was kind of, not exactly non-binary, but I just liked weird things. When I was a kid, I didn't like cowboys and guns. I wanted to dress up like the woman in The Avengers in latex and leather cat suits. And I liked girls' clothes when I was a kid without knowing that I wasn't supposed to. I also didn't like normal women; I only ever liked Morticia from the Addams Family or Lily Munster. So, you know, I was waiting for goth to come along, basically.
So latex found you.
Well, I think that probably myself and a couple of other people just made that connection between fetish and goth. So it was more fetish and goth than latex and goth. I mean, I think I could probably take credit for articulating what was there at the time. I wouldn't say I invented it because at the time, a lot of things were just in the ether and people were playing around with them and they were finding old comic books and just mixing things together.
Why do you think latex and goth are so closely related?
Several reasons. I think [the Batcave’s house band] Specimen were, like, the figureheads for the Batcave—they were always dressed in that stuff. [Keyboardist Jonny Slut] from Specimen was always wearing fishnets and PVC. And when [BOY] got involved with the whole Batcave thing, we started selling a Batcave goth look. We would always mix the two things together. They were just like a natural marriage, a bit like lace. You'd have two types of goths: you'd have the kind of Victorian dress goths and you'd have the sleazy, fetish goths.
The female thing was the goth dominatrix look—when Patricia Morrison was with the Gun Club and the Sisters of Mercy, she'd always wear that kind of stuff.
Sounds like it was a natural progression of latex fashion from punk to goth, something that was instinctive?
Yeah, I was waiting for it to come along. I was into the punk scene from the very start. And I was into the Bowie and Roxy Music scene just before that as well. The Bowie, Roxy Music scene made the punk scene possible. And the punk scene made the goth scene possible. [There’s] always a group of kids that turn around and say, “I don't like this, I want something different. Whatever the mainstream kids like, I'm gonna hate it, and I'm gonna like something different.”