Jane Doe Latex seems like it’s been around as a brand for a lot longer than the label’s mere three years or so of existence.
The name (which, though pretty-sounding, comes from American police slang for an unidentified female corpse) crops up so often when browsing through model profiles and recommended designers that you know there has to be something special about it.
To find out more, I set off for London to interview Nina Kate, the designer behind the label. Arriving for our meeting, I was greeted by a slim, blue-haired woman who looked far younger than I had imagined her to be.
But Nina’s career began early — at 15 she had bought her first latex outfit and at 18, was already working for a latex clothing company. She broke away to form Jane Doe in 2005 and has since collaborated with some of today’s most prominent names in the fetish design world.
Some of her best images come from her work with Hyperion Photography and with avant-garde hair stylist Robert Masciave, both of whom are represented in our gallery on the right. As are her collaborations with artists Rachael Huntington and Stuntkid (see also info panel).
The Jane Doe website describes Nina’s designs as “rubber clothing like no other; removed from the clichéd outfits using overdone imagery of the wayward nurse or the stern policeman”. This is obviously something Nina feels strongly about. When I brought the subject up, it was clear that while she does not exactly have a hatred of fetish clichés, she is weary of them.
“Obviously, they work,” she says. “They’re clichés for a reason but they’re not for me. Not at all.”
But this designer has done more than merely steer clear of fetish clichés — she has created her own genre. Jane Doe style seamlessly merges fetish and high fashion — something that is becoming increasingly popular.
Unlike some other latex ‘fashion’ labels, Nina does not include pervier accessories such as hoods in her range, but her style is still immensely appealing to fetish people. Models such as Darenzia wear her clothes with pride, they are popular with many kinky clubbers and are especially striking on the tattooed models this extensively tattooed designer often uses on the catwalk.
Nina has many sources of inspiration. Unsurprisingly, haute couture plays a big part; so also do taxidermy and dolls
Nina has many sources of inspiration. Unsurprisingly, haute couture plays a big part, but so also do taxidermy — and dolls! While Jane Doe styles have become recognised for their clean lines and use of appliqué, the minimalist designs found in the label’s online shop are in marked contrast to the decadence of Nina’s fashion shows and photoshoots. Her work has already been been the main focus of four fashion shows and has featured in many more.
She has also pulled off an elaborate Japanese-inspired photoshoot with some of the best creatives in the fetish scene, and a decadent Jane Doe wedding. The wedding outfits — matching appliquéd kimonos for the bride and groom, five high-necked mini-dresses for the bridesmaids and four groomsmen’s kimonos — sound like the stuff of celebrity fantasy. But the couple were, says Nina, “just an ordinary couple that wanted something different”.
In common with various couture designers, Nina has come under fire for her use of real fur and feathers in fashion shows, and her position on this was something I wanted to clarify. “I only use vintage fur — recycled materials,” she stressed. “Personally, I do not see a difference between the use of leather in shoes and the use of fur in clothes.”
Though her showpiece items are for sale, none of the standard lines on the Jane Doe site incorporate fur or feathers, and whatever your stance on animal rights, it is a relief to hear that “nothing has been killed in a dingy warehouse” and no living creatures are mistreated for her shows. Unless they volunteer, of course...
I’m reminded of a particularly infamous fashion show at the 2007 Torture Garden Birthday Ball in which men were paraded around on chain leads attached to flesh-hooks in their backs. “That was a chance good idea,” she told me. “I was inspired by French fashion and wanted to use small dogs, but they weren’t allowed in the show.” Men may have been her second choice, but they clearly sufficed.
Asked about what she has coming up next, the designer’s answer was tantalising:“I’m planning another fashion show, and I’ve begun to make some new items.” “Clothing items?” I asked. She shook her head. What could she mean?
Over the time we spent drinking raspberry beer and discussing weddings, fur, and men on leads, it became clear to me that Nina Kate has only just begun!