“Always be yourself… unless you suck.” ~ Joss Whedon
Great ideas – along with great people – are born of strong personal beliefs and convictions. The quote above isn’t exactly the kind of “corporate rallying cry” one might expect to see printed in 10-foot tall letters on billboards, let alone trumpeted loudly via mass-media marketing vehicles such as radio, television and even the Internet. Yet, there is simplicity in the statement; one that must surely resonate with most of us who have any kind of self-importance.
Be honest: we all have an ego to satisfy. Some of us (quite obviously) need to be vetted and fussed over more than others. For instance, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend is quite comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you all love me.
Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that our focus for this episode of “Kardynyl SynysTyr’s Fabulous Fetish Fancies” features an up-and-coming design studio whose very name just so happens to literally refer to the cold, hard death of one’s smug self-assuredness.
You may have heard of them. You may already love them. There is no question, if you’re even the slightest admirer of all things ‘latex’ you’ll be wanting a piece from them at some point. They’re known in latex enthusiast circles as Ego Assassin, and all tongue-in-cheek references to anyone’s sense of “self-importance” aside, what they do is nothing short of astounding.
Their friends know them as James and Slinka. Both of them are the brains, the passion and indeed the very industriousness behind what (I believe) is sure to be a revolution within the latex fashion world. Sure, there are certainly other designers out there who are (for now) far more known, publicized and patronized. Your Humble Narrator says this in all solemnity: I have been around latex fashions and latex wear for a very, very long time. These eyes have never beheld the artistry and the workmanship that is so expertly exhibited in the work of the Ego Assassin duo.
So, what’s in a name, anyway?
“Our name and our concept come out a personal belief that our personalities are not fixed,” James told me during a visit to their studio recently. “We all have the ability to adjust and change, if we want to. Anyone can set their ‘ego’ aside and go completely into a different head space.”
“Basically, when you wear one of our pieces, we want you to feel like you’re literally slipping into another skin. You can be anything you want to be; an entirely different character,” James said. “If you believe you’re a goddess or an alien creature (wearing one of our creations), then you’re a goddess or an alien. The medium and the philosophy can fit together really nicely.”
In essence, then, the combined words “ego assassin” are meant to emulate a personal attitude: to wit, a positive, sensual transformation as opposed to any negative, assumed verbal evisceration usually associated with the haughty and self-indulgent club crowd.
In point of fact, James and Slinka are somewhat “obsessive”, if we’re telling the whole truth. They’re both absolute perfectionists when it comes to their work. Simply put, the hand-crafted, painstaking detail that is put into each one of their creations ensures that each and every customer is going to get a truly, unique and exceptional piece – regardless of whether that particular piece is part of their design inventory or not. It is this industrious dedication to quality (very much like their good friends and symbiotic partners, Elastica Engineering, who supply Ego Assassin with a superior quality of high-tensile sheet latex) that somewhat sets Ego Assassin apart from any other latex garment design studio.
I say “somewhat” for good reason, here. There is another aspect of James and Slinka’s work that puts their craftsmanship on a whole other plateau when compared to their peers in the industry.
While James is very clear in stating that “they really don’t have any trade secrets” that he feels needs protecting, it would be a serious disservice to describe in detail the one area of perfection in which Ego Assassin has definitely developed a loyal and dedicated clientele. Friends and customers who have been fortunate enough to have been offered a “sneak peek” at the line-up being currently constructed for Toronto’s Torture Garden Weekend (May 21 – 24) have been amazed at the quality of the images printed onto the rubber material as a signature feature of their collection for the Fashion Show. One such piece, which has been photographed and posted on a few fetish-related websites already, features a near-flawless, ‘color-favorable’ copy of The Great Wave by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) across the front bodice of a latex corset. It is but a small and yet staggering taste of the artistry that is so integral to the reputation of James and Slinka as truly formidable garment designers.
Naturally, there are dozens of other printed patterns and designs that have been produced by Ego Assassin over the past several months (“Through a hell of a lot of trial, error, anger and heartache,” James recounts with a half-smile). Once the process and procedure for creating the designs, images and patterns on the latex had been perfected, naturally the rapid interest in their product lines began to grow. The one thing James and Slinka refuse to compromise on is the commitment to quality through patient design, printing and construction processes. “We don’t hide our process, and while it’s really pretty simple it’s also very labor intensive,” Slinka said. “We have no interest in mass production. We’re in an industry where customers are extremely passionate about their clothes. We want them to know that we’re equally as passionate about making them as they are about wearing them. ”
There are certainly other successful latex garment designers throughout North America – and Europe, for that matter. Some entities (specifically in the New York and Montreal areas) have been in business for years, if not decades. However, the universal truth here is that many of those companies tend to produce product that has become somewhat “standardized”. In short, the variance in artistic style, and even quality, has varied little from company to company. Many of those “more established” design houses rely on repeat business from loyal customers merely due to the simple, convenient fact that competition for “name brand” product isn’t exactly fierce. Very few latex garment enthusiasts are 100% completely loyal to one particular brand, for instance.
It is exactly the very uniqueness of the Ego Assassin product that sets distinguishes them from the competition. While they too will build garments for “everyone from hardcore fetishists to soccer moms”, it is their momentous decision to commit to the superior formula being produced exclusively by Elastica Engineering combined with their own without-peer design and artistic skills that truly will make them (if they aren’t regarded as already) the absolute best in the business. That’s quite an accomplishment in such a relatively short period of time.
Their personal story, about how they came to be as a couple, couldn’t be exactly billed as “typical”. As it happened, they met while doing some modeling work. “My first thought of him was, ‘that boy spends way too much time on his hair.” Slinka said of James with a smile. “I mean, boys don’t wear make-up, right? I wasn’t sure I wanted to date a boy who might spend more time in front of a mirror than I did.” A chance meeting at a fetish event a short time later, some shared beverages and a mutually enjoyable conversation led to the discovery of a mutual interest in fetish wear – and specifically, latex. James, who had for years been employed as a professional artist in some capacity, was given the task of making his new lady-love a “one of a kind rubber dress” in the way of a somewhat playful challenge from Slinka herself. Little at that time did either of them realize that a white latex one-piece dress that featured a large “handcuffs” motif across the chest area would quickly lead them both toward the design adventure of their young lives. “It was really quite crude compared to what we’re doing now,” Slinka laughed. “But I wore that dress until it was eventually no longer recognizable as ‘white’, and it was falling apart.”
The white “Handcuff Dress”, as they called it, garnered a tremendous amount of attention at the huge annual Northbound Leather fetish extravaganza that year. “So many people were asking us ‘wherever did we find that dress,” James said. When fellow revelers were informed that James had, in fact, crafted the dress himself, the requests for product started coming immediately. “We even took a couple of orders while out on the dance floor,” he said. That fateful Northbound Leather event (titled, somewhat appropriately ‘Climax’) was five years ago. Ego Assassin, for all intents and purposes, has therefore been “in business” for a little less than five years.
Both James and Slinka credit the immensely popular and respected “Fetish Diva” Midori and Toronto promoter extraordinaire Craig Galbraith of Subspace and Torture Garden fame with being amongst their first true champions of their work. “In the first few years, there wasn’t a real lot of interest in us, especially in our own back yard,” James said. “But thanks to word of mouth from Midori and Craig especially, we really started to develop a loyal following and customer base.”
The quality of their product line has obviously and dramatically improved. Some of their more popular pieces – printed tops, their in-demand “Reverend” Bondage Skirts and a variety of mind-boggling dresses – have garnered attention in some very high profile camps. Their designs have been featured prominently in the Japanese edition of Vogue (Vogue Homme) magazine, and thanks to the enthusiastic endorsements of an admired and in-demand fashion stylist named Nicola Formichetti and the highly-respected fashion photographer Stephen Klein, orders have been placed for no less a talent than Lady Gaga for product that was to be seen in one of her over-the-top popular music videos (Bad Romance). Some of the Ego Assassin pieces were even targeted for use in some of Lady Gaga’s live stage performances.
Good stories about good, talented people usually end with a typically cliché commentary about the past. It cannot be said, though, that “the rest is history” in this particular instance: Ego Assassin is still revolutionizing the latex fashion industry and have started making history. You’ll be hearing about them for a long, long time to come.
(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)