Daniel James

The original rubber baron rides again

Text by Naomi Bikis

Givenchy, McQueen, and Louis Vuitton are but a few designers who sent models slinking down the AW11 catwalk in kinky creations. Slick bondage belts, shiny latex and leather harnesses signaled the fetish trend. But this isn't fetish's first foray into fashion. Contemporary fetishism owes its success to a dank basement in London's Soho back in the early '80s. There, Daniel James was the first to stitch rubber into one-of-a-kind dresses. Together with David Claridge, they ran Skin Two, a club night that attracted the dressed-up and diverse, including Marc Almond and Steve Strange. "Dave was in New York and saw these fetish clubs opening up. He returned saying, 'My God this fetish thing is really taking off. It's heavy and it's gay. We should do it but make it less seedy.'" James recalls. The club became the go-to for boundary-pushing fashion and taboo subversion - with James' creations leading the way. With a background in costume design, he worked latex into tight oil slick dresses for his then girlfriend. "At the time everyone was amazed. No one was doing this. She was asked where her dresses were from. Everyone else had the usual naughty nurse's uniforms. So I started to sell. It just grew and grew." It was his collaboration with photographer Bob Carlos Clarke that proved a turning point for rubberwear. They created the iconic MAID in London, a 15-piece all black lookbook. Models wore structured LBDs and full arm latex gloves, heavy leather trench coats and the sleek jet-black Pirelli mermaid tail. Fetish and high fashion had finally met. Now, 22 years later, James with daughter Solo, is launching Daniel James London with a collection for February 2012. "I went to Italy to design, ran a chain of high-end T-shirt shops and now I'm returning to rubber. We're including new fabric mixes and tights - more wearable, not so sweaty. And the little rubber dresses are due another appearance."

  • Daniel James - 2012 Rubber Collection
  • Advertisement: Advertisement: Nude