“I often imagine myself as a doctor,” latex specialist Atsko Kudo says, talking about how she personalizes each design from looking at someone’s measurements. If she were a doctor, her impeccably-cut creations could be considered prescriptions for feelings of empowerment and femininity (two benefits she attributes to wearing latex). Of course, there is also something very surgical about latex—gloves first come to mind when it’s mentioned—but Kudo has transformed the material into something sexy, rather than sterile, thanks to Kim Kardashian who has recently favored her shiny tops and pencil skirts.
Gaining the approval of Kim Kardashian (along with her husband Kanye West) isn’t Kudo’s only bragging right, though. Just over the past several years, she’s outfitted Lady Gaga to meet the Queen; dressed Madonna and Katy Perry for their bondage-themed V cover; decked out Rihanna for her “S&M” video, and, most famously, dressed Miley Cyrus for her memorable VMA performance.
We caught up with Kudo, who’s presently knee-deep in orders, over email to talk about how she discovered latex, how comfortable it actually is, and what goes into dressing pop culture luminaries.
MTV: Can you walk me through the history of the brand? When and how did it start?
Atsko Kudo: I discovered latex when I was studying Fashion in Tokyo while we had to do a shop research project. I choose to go around sex shops. I loved the super gloss look and second-skin quality.
I wore the clothes out to parties. I fell in love with latex because I felt it empowered me. Then I thought latex should be for every woman. I wanted to learn about corsets and period costumes–also I was into the nightclub scene so that's made me want to move to London. I started to work in a sex shop after I finished the Theatre Costume course, and I met Simon Hoare who is my husband and co-director there. It was my lucky moment. He is truly amazing and Atsuko Kudo is not the same without him. We are still here and still queer!
Your designs have become iconic in a relatively short period of time. When did you know you were onto something?
I had lots of support and feedback from many amazing people from the beginning so I knew there is something special going on here. We are a small independent company but have been very lucky to have a great team.
What we offer is very simple but unique. We just want everyone to feel beautiful, feminine and strong. I believe that latex gives you magic if it's cut well. We are always trying to achieve that. The first big moment in fashion was when Steven Meisel shot Eva Mendes in AK latex for Italian Vogue. It was so sexy and just amazed us.
Why latex? What are the challenges of working with it?
Latex is new as a fashion fabric. Everyone knows so much about regular fabrics such as cotton, wool, etc., but you have to start from the beginning with latex. So every day is a new challenge but it's rewarding. You do need patience!
Why does it make the body look so good?
Latex is like a very shiny skin. If it's cut correctly, it works like support wear. When we get orders we always look at the measurements and try to think what will be the best fit for each person. We want our customers to feel [like] magic so we take lots of time try to get the best fit. Many people have never worn latex before. We don't want to disappoint you, so we work hard to make sure it works first time! We want you to try it and have fun. You can have so much fun with our little shiny things!
Truthfully, how comfortable is latex?
Latex might not be the most comfortable fabric in the world. It's a delicate fabric–it should be compared to chiffon not leather! It will tear if you don't handle properly. You need talc or lube for dressing. Latex is a fetish fabric so it's like high heels and a corset. You have to commit some time and energy to it.
How did Kim Kardashian discover your brand?
We're not sure how. Of course a lot of people knew about Atsuko Kudo because of Gaga, Beyonce, and Kate Moss wearing the clothes, but it could also be from magazines. We're happy to see Kim celebrate her famous curves with our latex! And also she is wearing it a little more as day wear, which is interesting!
Did it surprise you that she started wearing these pieces during the daytime?
Probably not. We are so happy she took it in that direction. This could be another step forward for latex. We were surprised when Gaga wore our dress to meet The Queen and when Linda Evangelista wore our catsuits and hoods. Though natural latex is still not ideal in direct UV, we usually recommend to wear it for night of fun. But if you are going out under hot sun, there is a special liquid like a UV lotion so please contact us.
Do you collaborate on her looks or do you send her items? What is your process of working together?
So far Kim has worn our classic range which is available to buy online and from our store in London. We are working on special requested items too. Kim is very calm and very nice and she totally knows what works for her so it has been very relaxed and fun.
How much back and forth happens to get the fit just right?
It all depends on how much information we can get at the front-end of the project. Of course you need to make latex fit correctly as it is so figure-hugging. You need to have patience with latex but the rewards are clear!
Is Kanye involved at all in the process?
We heard feedback that Kanye loves Kim in our latex which we are so thrilled about.
You also made Miley Cyrus' now iconic VMAS outfit. Did you think her performance would be as talked about as it was?
We knew it was for the MTV VMA performance, but even so we were really surprised just how much attention it got. It was one of those looks which just went all over the world and everyone was talking about it. It was even a main story on the BBC News here in London, but it shows you how latex helps to create an extraordinary moment.
Was the inspiration for that look from the “Blurred Lines" video or Britney Spears' VMA outfit?
The inspiration was from Miley's response to our designs. She had seen the bra and briefs set she wanted, and we made it in a custom flesh tone color for her.
London has been churning out a lot of exciting designers recently. Why do you think the city is lending itself to this creativity in fashion at the moment?
I love London. People here are very innovative, open minded and creative. Openmindedness is the key, I think. Because London is very free, it is very inspiring.
There's so many standout moments in your career. Do you have a favorite one?
We are very thrilled to have the opportunity to work with all of these amazing artists and all the work we did has been so special to us, but if I have to choose one, it has to be Lady Gaga when she met the Queen. It was magical. I could not believe what I was seeing!
Who have you been most starstruck to see in your designs?
Madonna and Grace Jones! I love musicians. They can create magic and take you to a different zone.
What are your plans for the future? How do you want to grow the brand? Will you always stick to latex?
Our plan is to make the world a more shiny place. Watch this space. At the moment, latex is still my dream and there are many people still to dress–the Queen would be a lovely one!