Northbound Leather: Twenty Years of Fetish Night Finery

Quick: Who amongst you can tell me which is the longest-running continuous Fetish Night in North America?

Hint: The operative term here is “continuous”. Other organizations (Society of Janus, The Eulenspiegal Society, Black Rose, Leather Rose, etc.) certainly could lay claim to being “long-running” in the planning and execution of various events and fetish parties. Here’s another hint: The answer … isn’t located within the United States. Unless you aren’t the type to take notice of headlines, the answer should be fairly obvious. There has been no other regularly scheduled and (regularly and punctually-produced) fetish event in North America other than those scheduled by Toronto’s Northbound Leather. Over the past twenty years, host locations certainly have changed, but one thing has remained constant: a great time has generally been had by all, without fail and without interruption. In the event that you’re a “numbers person”, that’s 240 straight months without interruption.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The iconographic and legendary emporium of leather fashion and fetish finery has long been one of the most visible suppliers to any number of fetish and SM enthusiasts, worldwide. The tireless “First Family of Leather”, George and Anna Giaouris, have spent a near-lifetime not only outfitting tens of thousands of satisfied customers (including some very “big names” in the entertainment industry, as an example), but have been enthusiastic supporters and sponsors of dozens of fetish-related events across the continent.

 The very first Northbound Leather Fetish Night, twenty-some years ago, attracted approximately 60 total admirers and enthusiasts. The 20th Anniversary Party that was held at Toronto’s newly-renovated Club Revival on February 20th had advance ticket sales in the high-hundreds alone. My beloved – the extraordinary and alluring beauty known across the continent as the incomparable Lady J – and I were amongst the first ten or so people to have arrived. We were greeted immediately by a gaggle of close friends, and we secured our spots close to the performance stage along a far wall.

It wasn’t long before the crowd started pouring in – dressed in some of the most amazing, colorful and extraordinary fetish wear this town hadn’t seen since the triumphant debut of Torture Garden in Toronto last summer. There is something about a “special event” (be it a debut or a celebratory anniversary) that brings out the absolute passion that lovers of all things “fetish” so feverishly love to exhibit. The atmosphere was hectic, eclectic and definitely electric: the growing, pulsating crowd was further whipped into the heights of fetishistic frenzy with some unbelievable performances by self-bondage artist (and sure to be, if not already, the next great sensation within our collective SM-related realm) Lotuslily and a stirring musical treat from Baron Marcus of the popular genre group The Vampire Beach Babes. Baron Marcus was “accompanied” by a bevy of leather and latex beauties, each wearing modified miner’s masks outfitted with stark white lights, whose gyrations and salutations were an absolute delight to the assembled throng. George Giaouris, the rightly-designated “Godfather” of the Toronto Fetish and SM Community, has long been an advocate of showcasing and helping to develop new talent.

The 20th Anniversary Night was certainly no different. While Baron Marcus has been somewhat of a staple and known presence within the Goth community for several years, it was refreshing to have his hypnotic, exceptional and mesmerizing vocal talents showcased before an appreciative “new” audience. It goes without saying that Lotuslily’s performance resulted in the usual jaw-dropping appreciation for her speed and her skills – but several folk in the crowd (who beforehand had no idea who she was) were heard to be whispering their respect for her, amongst their peers, long after her performance had ended. In an original “twist” to her performance, one of her suspended moments was captured for all time: not on film, but on paper. Northbound Leather had hired the services of a pencil artist to produce an exceptional and original piece of art, live on stage, while Lotuslily continued to weave her suspended webs. It was an exquisite, elegant and thoroughly classy touch.

Northbound Leather’s fetish nights have long succeeded where other events have either failed, or have never dared to venture. The invisible line that seems to divide the Gay and Lesbian leather events (from coast to coast, for that matter) has never been a metaphorical ‘line in the sand’ at a Northbound Leather event. In a word, the Northbound Leather Fetish Nights have (for years, if not for over a decade) could best be described as pansexual: different sexualities, different preferences and expressions and indeed, entirely different identifiable communities have been able to come together and meet on Northbound’s common ground, and feel truly united (and comfortable) under a common umbrella. The Northbound Leather Fetish Nights, over the years, have not been dominated by one identifiable social group: fetish folk from all walks of life (gay, lesbian, transsexual, heterosexual, queer, etc.) have been able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and openly express themselves without derision, contempt or hostility.

That’s rare: and it’s the one single reason as to why the Northbound Leather Fetish Nights have been so successful, and have exhibited such uninterrupted longevity, for the past two-plus decades. It simply doesn’t matter if you’re gay or Goth, there is always a welcome spot for everyone at a Northbound Leather Fetish event. While there has been some grumblings heard within (predominantly) Toronto’s large gay leather community regarding the “melting pot” atmosphere of the parties, the vast majority of Northbound loyalists seem genuinely thrilled to participate in such an open, and accommodating, environment.

The other factor that separated this particular Northbound Leather Fetish Night from any other is the patronage of some of the more prominent Community leaders, and seasoned SM professionals, that came to enjoy the carnival-like transpirings on a cold Saturday evening. Many of Toronto’s best-known and most respected SM professionals were in attendance, and all seemed to have an incredible time. One memorable moment (captured in the photo at left) showcased four of Canada’s best-known and respected Dominas: Lady J, Mistress Katina, Ms. Marina Black, and Baroness V. While this photo was being taken, an adoring and appreciative crowd of acolytes – male, female and transgendered alike – gathered around and gaped open-mouth in appreciation of the moment. “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be on the floor and in front of those eight beautiful legs”, one reveller was heard to whisper. Just off to the right, while this photo was being taken, the brilliant organizer behind Torture Garden Toronto, the extremely affable, approachable and popular Subspace Craig, could be seen on the dance floor with more than just a few “fans” vying for his attentions. Just across from him, and on the other side of the four Dominas linked arm-in-arm, another popular event organizer, Sir Alex Dark, was seen smiling appreciatively while holding his girl (a thoroughly engaging and beautiful woman simply known as Dollface) tightly to his side. All of this was happening on the main floor of the nightclub, while on stage yet another well-known event organizer (Lady Viktoria) was just finishing up a scheduled performance of her own. Without question, it is rare that such a collection of influential and admired SM Community figures are seen enjoying each other’s company within the same sphere and space.

The point simply is this: For the past twenty years, Northbound Leather has provided a sanctuary for everyone who professes either a deep love or an idle curiosity for our lovely, self-expressive lifestyle. It’s the “secret formula”, the very “glue” that binds us all together. Northbound Leather, the store, is the common link and their 20th Anniversary Fetish Night (especially) was certainly the common ground in which all fetish people, from all walks of life, could joyously express themselves in a truly unique setting and atmosphere. The night, celebrating the past twenty years, was perfect: here’s hoping the 20th Anniversary Fetish Night was also a fitting way to usher in Northbound Leather’s next twenty years.

(All photos courtesy of Northbound Leather)