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Fashion, Architecture, and BDSM


In an age with less excess and more stress, we're being encouraged to improve our mental health and let our freak flag fly. And nothing says "freaky" quite like seemingly inflexible exoskeletons and bondage. In the age of increased freedom, women are taking control of their wardrobe and (literally) flipping their skirts inside out. But what is it that makes boning cages and strips of leather decked out with chains and buckles so darn enticing in the fashion world?

50 Shades of Grey. Whether or not you've read the highly polarizing trilogy, no doubt an image comes to mind, most obviously that of whips, chains, questionable hardware, and a never-ending trail of shiny latex. While the myriad sexual preferences of "the kink" are slowly coming into light, bringing with it widespread dispersal of a multitude of misinformed stereotypes and assumptions, fashion, never one to be left out of the loop, has made it a little bit more socially acceptable to commercialize the BDSM lifestyle. Luckily, the ongoing (and never-ending, it seems) leather trend has made it easier to slip in body chains, harnesses, and various cage-like apparatuses as a means of accessorization. 

Personally, I take the point of view of a frequent art gallery attendee, in that I am not intrigued so much by the potential message a visible leather harness sends out to unsuspecting passersby, but rather in the use of the body as an canvas for which architecturally sound structures must be perfectly fitted. While I'm more than likely never going to use a harness to have my body suspended from a 6.5 foot titanium structure, the thrill of inviting a rigid frame to encase the human body in a way that is not in the least bit constricting to the wearer is, in and of itself, a testament to the ongoing discussion about the playing out of power roles in BDSM culture, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, an invitation to isolate and appreciate the architectural genius of the human body, traditional clothing garments, and natural vs unnatural silhouettes through minimalism and perspective. 

Two brands dealing exclusively and ingeniously with bodily structures, one from the fetishisation camp and the other from the purely architectural camp, are Zana Bayne Leather and Chromat Garments. I admit, I found out about Zana Bayne about a year after I discovered Chromat (so, last week) and at first, I was a little less inclined to Zana Bayne because of the sheer intensity of each piece. But if Prabal Gurung approves, I'm sold. 

Both create extremely minimalist, rigid-looking exoskeletons for the wearer, While Zana Bayne naturally employs the use of hardware, something Chromat uses sparingly, we see that every rivet, every buckle, and every D-ring plays a vital role in keeping the piece together. Where Zana Bayne Leather emphasizes power roles (as depicted in its Collection VI video), Chromat Garments strives for whimsy through shape in its pieces, with the occasional  hint of mystery. In addition, Chromat, and to some degree, Zana Bayne, defy the traditional usage of femme fetish attire, which is for the wearer, sub or dom, to be present for the visual consumption of the observer. Presenting a manipulated exoskeleton instead of a skin tight body suit makes the woman's true shape very visible, but also alerts the observer to the fact that the shape s/he is perceiving does not really exist.  

Genius, no?

P.S. Check out Garbage Dress, the blog run by Zana Bayne.

P.P.S. With a hefty price tag like that, I might be making my own BDSM/architecturally inspired pieces sometime.