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[whitespace] Beyond Rubber

Londoners Murray and Vern up the panties on fetish gear

By Katy Bell

'Develop your legitimate strangeness." A 6-foot, nude, pregnant, gun-toting model sporting a gas mask offers this advice in an ad for fetish purveyors Murray and Vern, and I'm inclined to comply.

For 15 years, the London-based designers have been producing fashion a la fetish, corsetry and bondage styles using conventional (that's rubber!) and unconventional fetish materials. But their activities are not as fringy as you might think. The folks who shape U.K. fashion are known to keep an eye on the sleek, shiny styles coming out of F.U. Baby, Murray and Vern's London shop, and the crossover influence into mainstream fashion has been noted locally on the runways and in the streets.

Murray and Vern recently debuted online (www.murrayandvern.com) and now you too can snatch up a bit of rubber to complement your wardrobe. It's a great site with an illustrated catalog complete with quality photos, useful details, conversions of size and dollar, and a generous return policy. Plus, the company offers a 10- percent discount to students. The rubber corsets are amazing, as is the "Sybil Syren" dress, in all its high-necked, long-sleeved, floor-length, neck-to-heel-laced glory. The current catalog features all-rubber hobble skirts, stockings, knix (panties), extra-long gloves, dresses, bras and neck corsets. Whether mistress or slave, you can wrap yourself in non-breathable constrictive splendor and feel the power.

In addition to the catalog, the site includes a column by Murray, photos documenting S/M ritual and performance, games, and some great archived Murray and Vern advertising campaigns from the past. One ad features the nude sexual terrorist described above, mingling with a line of male customers at McDonald's. The site also includes links, the best of which is Dollywood--an association of three Finnish women who appear at fetish trade shows selling their used, unwashed panties.

Incidentally, there's global fashion in San Francisco's own backyard: "FASTFORWARD: Fashion in the Media of the '90s" is a gallery show at the CCAC Institute. The exhibition originated in Vienna and features a mix of 15 European and American designers--including Viktor + Rolf, ORFI, Hussein Chalayan, and Wendy and Jim--who cross the line between fashion and artmaking .

California College of Arts and Crafts, 1111 Eighth St., 415.551.9210; runs Jan 22-March 4.

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From the February 7, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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