Sex-shop chic is in

From harnesses to corsets, fetish wear has infiltrated the runways

NEW YORK • This has been a year in which sex-shop chic infiltrated the runways.

Lightly veiled, domesticated variations on fetish wear emerged last September on the spring 2016 runways of unlikely designers such as Carolina Herrera, where a faintly recognisable harness embellished an otherwise pristine white dress, and Marissa Webb, who showed an airy spring dress with a curious hybrid of leather porn-shop harness and fishing vest.

Webb likes to wear that harness herself, usually over a black blazer. "But here's to anyone who wants to wear it over nothing at all," she said.

Kink returned in force for fall 2016 shows this year, with lace-up corsets, wet-look bodysuits and leggings, corsets, fishnet hose and pole-dancing pumps shimmying their way into the collections of Alexander Wang, Hood by Air, Prada, Balmain, Marc Jacobs and Vetements, to name but an influential few.

"Women are more aware than ever of the implications of leather harness choker necklaces, vinyl skirt or platform boots," said Ms Connie Wang, the fashion features director of Refinery29, a shopping site that recently offered a pair of velvet bondage cuffs.

If customers are for the most part unfazed, Ms Wang said it is because "porn and its related aesthetic have become mainstream, full stop".

Kinky wear appeared last September on the spring 2016 runways and returned in full force for the fall 2016 collections, with items such as lace-up corsets, wet-look bodysuits and harnesses. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

For the filming last year of Bad Blood, her racy girl-power music video, pop idol Taylor Swift laced herself into a clam-coloured latex corset from a high-end Los Angeles sex shop.

Not everyone, of course, is entirely on board. When Swift was photographed last summer wearing a harness to a Hollywood lunch, Twitter virtually imploded, reactions varying from sputtering disdain to unconcealed hostility. Nonetheless, for many young women, the sex-shop look has become "a kind of classic", said Mr David Wolfe, a creative director of the Doneger Group, the New York trend forecasting firm. But some are rarely aware of the lineage of fishnet hose, tight T-shirts and pole-dancing shoes.

"People only get as far back as tracing this to rock 'n' roll," he said. "They don't realise that the rock 'n' roll look had its roots in a period when rock people started raiding porn shops for their wardrobes."

And that is to say nothing of Madonna, who, in earlier career incarnations, embraced fetish wear as a second skin.

Many now turn to naughty lingerie boutiques, hard-core leather outlets and upscale fetish specialists for their vinyl skirts, cage petticoats, bondage bras and PVC leggings.

"Harnesses are probably our biggest sellers," said Mr Max Gregory, the owner of the Leather Man, the venerable sex shop in Christopher Street. "A lot of women, especially models and stylists, come in and put them with whatever they're wearing."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Sex-shop chic is in'. Print Edition | Subscribe