photos by Regis Hertrich
interview by Teryal / Lakkshop.hu
When it comes to fetish and expression through various forms of BDSM, Hiroshima-strength eccentricity and an opportunity to check out when you're in London, your first and last stop will definitely be the Torture Garden. Our eager inquiries were kindly met by none other than David, the head of T/G.
T/G AS A FASHION LABEL
THE DOSE: How could you achieve to become a dominant BDSM fashion label?
DAVID: We'd call it Fetish * Fantasy * Fashion label, rather than BDSM. We formed Torture Garden Clothing as a label in 2002. The club had then been running for 12 years, and we had a big international name, and had pioneered radical fetish fashion at the club in fashion shows etc. We'd also had a very close connection to the latex scenes most innovative label - House of Harlot - for many years, and in 2002 their production manager / designer, and my then partner Kaisu Paakkola decided she wanted to launch her own label for TG. Her strong and original collection, combined with TG's promotion and fashion shows around the world, meant that Torture Garden Clothing quickly became ones of the world's leading latex brands.
THE DOSE: Please describe how fashion trends are formed within such a specific circle and how do you ‘control' them? Is it hard for you to offer more and more subsequent clothes to your customers?
DAVID: TG has it's own strong style and look, and regular personal themes such as militaria, medical, burlesque and oriental have been used reputedly in our imagery and clothing collections. Also the fetish scene has various fetish iconic images and fantasies that many of the designers use in their collections. Plus although trends in fetish fashion are generally outside of mainstream fashion, there are still trend changes that effect design. For example the popularity of burlesque in the last few years.
THE DOSE: How did the British society react to this fashion culture?
DAVID: Fetish fashion has been around a long time in the UK, and fetish style has effected the mainstream since the TV show the Avengers in the 60's, Punk and Vivienne Westwood in the 70's, and the big explosion of fetish fashion innovation in the 90's. We have found that every few years fetish style is seen as in fashion, or then out of fashion in the media. They need something new to write about, and mainstream designers are inspired by fetish fashion every few years. Sometimes they take ideas from fetish designers, and then other times fetish designers take ideas from mainstream couture designers. House of Harlot has made costumes for the couture shows of Thierry Mugler and John Galliano.
THE DOSE: How hard do you think it was for the society to accept this kind of self-expression?
DAVID: In the UK extreme street / club fashion (punk, Goths, skin heads, new romantic's etc) has a long history, and therefore fetish style of dress in clubs was just another step and another scene in the 80's. However, going to a fetish club and wearing rubber in the 80's did seem like an extreme and dangerous activity - you'd wear a big coat and take a taxi, and you wouldn't tell any straight people you were into it! But in the late 90's and in 2000, fetish sexuality and fashion is everywhere on UK TV, and it seems that everyone knows someone that goes to Torture Garden. It now seems very normal and accepted.
THE DOSE: How about your relationship with other labels such as Skin Two or Breathless?
DAVID: Before we had our own label, we had staged fashion shows by all the scenes most innovative labels, and we still work closely with, and stage shows by the best latex designers around. Some designers make great costumes for stage shows and some make more standard commercial items for sale.
THE DOSE: What are your plans for the future, especially the long-term ones?
DAVID: House of Harlot have now taken over the production of Torture Garden Clothing and they will produce collections for both labels. Although we will still oversee design, and both labels will retain their own individual styles. We will have a new mini collection out later in 2007, and also our first men's collection. Torture Garden is touring the world this year with guest events and fashion shows in LA, Dallas, Rome, Tokyo and South Africa so far confirmed.
T/G AS AN EVENT
THE DOSE: Please describe your audience, the ‘standard' party-face of your events. How far do they go in clothing? What are the fresh trends?
DAVID: The Torture Garden crowd is the most diverse you can imagine. But generally it mixes fetish / SM with various alternative sub cultures: body art, Goth/industrial, drag, gay, burlesque, electro freak, couture fashion etc etc. This is what makes the TG crowd the most mixed, colourful and dressed up in the world. We want a 1000 - 2000 people all exploring their own individual fantasies and being themselves and looking different.
THE DOSE: And how far do they go in their behaviour? Are there any restrictions, rules or norms?
DAVID: Torture Garden is an extreme club, but we have to work within the law, although we bend it as far as we can. There are strict codes of conduct within the club: no touching anyone without permission etc. Generally it is the safest environment you will find (especially for women, who can dress sexually without being harassed).
THE DOSE: What about demographic details? Which age group is the most represented one? Distribution of genders, social circles, etc.?
DAVID: The TG crowd is completely mixed from 18 to 60+ years old (prob average age is 20 - 35), very even 50/50 men / women, and a very diverse mix of backgrounds: young art / fashion students to older company directors. Generally we have more of an alternative and creative crowd, but one of the best things about the club is that it is so open minded and friendly and you could meet anyone from any background.
THE DOSE: I'm going to visit TG for the first time. How does an ‘ordinary' event look like?
DAVID: We try to make every TG a special event and occasion, and alternate venues and have various themes so each one is unique. Our year is now very seasonal and attendances drop in the quiet summer months, but reach peaks of 1500 - 2600 for our biggest events of the year: TG Birthday Ball in May, Halloween, Valentines and NYE. For an event to be a real Torture Garden it has to have 3 - 6 diverse rooms, mixed music, visuals and performances. That is the concept we started with in 1990 and it is still there now. Just bigger and better!
THE DOSE: Which music styles are represented the most?
DAVID: Again, the idea of TG is to have 3 - 6 rooms, as though visiting 3 - 6 different clubs in one night. So the music is very varied from room to room.
Club Arena: Hard-on Dance, Sexy Electro House,
Dirty New School Breaks Ballroom: Electro Clash, Disco Punk, Glamour Trash, Booty, Dark Drum n Bass
Cabaret: Neo Swing, Vegas Grind, Gypsy Punk
Boudoir: Burlesque, Lounge Exotica
Dungeon: Atmospheric, Ritual, Experimental, Film Soundtracks