Twenty years ago, Skin Two’s Debbie Pickford, Michelle Olley and Tim Woodward met up with Chris Anderson to plan the famous rubber hood which featured on the cover of Skin Two issue 11. That’s still many people’s favourite cover. Since then, few people have had as much experience as Chris in making rubber fetish fashion. From Expectations through Kim West, Westward Bound, Centaur and Wicked, Chris’s story is a personal history of the UK fetish fashion scene. As Chris launches his own new business, Rubberluv, he chats with Tim Woodward on a sunny early Spring afternoon…
“I started working for Expectations when I was very young – only 17. We first met when you did the cover of Skin Two issue 11. I knew Debbie Pickford and Michelle Olley, who worked for Skin Two – you had the Skin Two Warehouse at Kensal Rise then. It was through Debbie and Michelle that I made that pony tail hood. Kim West made the dress.
A group of us went to one of Steve and Sadie Beech’s Westward Bound private house parties. You were there! That was a fun weekend. I was hanging out with a girl called Melanie then – she’s a nurse now. I dressed her brilliantly as well – I dressed her in a catsuit. Keith Wynne did all the stuff with the breast clamps hanging Heather up, using stinging nettles, all that kind of stuff. Tranny maids wandering around. Then, the next day, Keith rigged Heather up onto the pony cart with all the reins and rode her through the middle of Launceston. This is in the middle of the day!
Round that time as well, I did a load of TV work. I did Kilroy, the Clothes Show, just about every regional chat show and the naked Chat Show as well. That’s about twenty years ago, in the late ‘eighties.
I had my own shop for a while. It was called Centaur. Funnily enough, it was very near Brian Sheridan’s Wicked club, next to Southwark Cathedral. It was mostly made to order – you made an appointment and came to see us. It’s a sandwich bar now! I knew the then Bishop of Southwark – he’s a really nice guy. There’s a lot of dressing up involved in what they do. Same as us, really!
Centaur was a bit tucked away – we got burgled three times in three weeks at one time. It was drug related – they didn’t take the rubber clothes. We didn’t do it for long, though – I was working so many hours, plus all the going out and socialising, which is part of the whole thing.
After I left Expectations, I spent some years working independently. That’s when I met Brian and Caroline Sheridan of Wicked – they wanted a small collection designed. That was when they had premises next to Southwark Cathedral! Really I ended up making outfits for Caroline, using as little material as possible! It kind of went nowhere and everyone lost on that, but that’s how I came to meet Chris Bellamy, who is now my partner in Rubberluv. His friend Rowena worked for Brian and Caroline – that’s how Chris and I got to know each other.
Then I moved down here to Kingston on Thames. I was in Whitechapel before – a bit different.! We had my partner’s Mum living with us here. She’s not with us any more now. We became her principal carers – she was very elderly. I love it here. I’m so involved with the community – I make the cake for the royal jubilee party we had in the street.
I still carried on making rubber though. It was just very different. I worked from the garage, had a small workshop there. I supplied a shop in Amsterdam called Diabolo – it’s on Oude Zijds Voorburgvaal – and I had some customers who had been with me for years.
We all cross paths, don’t we. I have had a bit of influence. Atsuko Kudo worked for me at one time. It was just before she went to Zeitgeist, when she was pretty much new over here. I knew she was good. I had her sewing crystals into a rubber corset with transparent thread. She was probably the only one who could do that. I had to give her sunglasses to work, because the light was bouncing off the crystals. Her nose is so tiny that the sunglasses kept sliding down. I supplied quite a lot of rubber to Libido, Tina Shaw and Debbie Pickford’s shop in Camden and I was also very involved in the shows that Submission put on. I have really good memories of that. I still know Rubber Ron, Steve Cassidy, Soledad and Tina Shaw. Pigalle worked for me for a while, too.
After all this time, I think one of the reasons people enjoy the fetish scene is still because there’s an element of risqué about it. When I did an interview on The Clothes Show, Kim West was on it and Karen from Pure Sex. Caryn Franklin asked me whether it would ever be anything else apart from naughty. I said I hoped it wouldn’t. The whole thing about buying the garment should be as exciting as wearing it, really.”
Now, Chris Anderson and Chris Bellamy have set up Rubberluv and have collections for women and men. Check out their new model, called Dinah Might! They will make to measure and also do bespoke designs. You can call at their Surrey workshop or meet them in person at London Alternative Market (www.londonalternativemarket.com) and Swamp in Bristol (www.swampinbristol.org.uk). If you are going to these events, you can even call them first and they will bring along the garment you fancy on their website, for you to try on.
Rubberluv is at www.rubberluv.co.uk
Images by Robert Babylon www.robertbabylon.com
Dinah Might www.dinahmight.net