Ah Canada

So I got a run down where you can find Von Gutenbeg magazine in Canada. If you happen to be living in the environs north of me, our issue six cover-girl MiMi Cherry’s home country, then make sure you pick-up a copy of issue 6 (and what will soon be issue 7) at:

Does Your Mother Know (and I am sure she does!) at 2139 W. 4th Ave in Vancouver sell us, as does Mayfair News at 1535 W .Broadway and Zulu Records at 1972 W 4th there (not so far away from Does Your Mother Know actually). You can find us at the Daily Globe Newshop, 1004 17th Ave S.W. in Calgary and Billy’s News 206 7th Ave S. in the same city. In Winnipeg there are two places that sell us, Dominion News And Gifts, 262 Portage Ave and McNally Robinson Books 1120 Grant Ave #4000.

And in Toronto we are at Presse Internationale-Bloor, at 537 Bloor W.

I guess my point is that if you are looking for Von Gutenberg you are sure to find it. We are out there among you, tickling and teasing from or our most recent steamy red cover, just dying for you to peal us open and feast your eyes on our latex marquis words and pictures and reporting on kinky events.

I have a extensive listing of the Canada locations we’ll be putting up soon as well sneaking in the other locations around the globe where you can get your grubby hands on our pages.

All Hail Your Shiny New Ambassador, Latexians: Miss Rubber World 2011

“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears.”

~ Anne Roiphe, American Feminist and Author

 

The numeral “five” … is a very good number. It is one of the easiest for grade school students to ‘compute’ when doing their multiplication tables. It’s a convenient unit of currency – eclipsed perhaps only by a nice, round $10-spot or, in some cases, a fatter, newer $20 dollar bill. The number “five” holds significance in most of our daily rituals: everything from designations of degrees on cooking ranges to telling time on clocks are essential, if not completely taken-for-granted, everyday, natural occurrences. “Five”, or multiples thereof, is also an important designation when marking annual events such as birthdays, anniversaries, award ceremonies … and cherished annual events.

Naturally, a 75th Anniversary of a recurring event is a tremendous cause for celebration. Perhaps a 5th Annual Celebration may seem tame by comparison. That is, unless that 5th Anniversary happens to be celebrating the growth and continuous evolution of an exciting new event. Just such a circumstance transpired in New York City, during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend of January 14 – 16, 2011.

It was a little over five years ago, in New York City and in November 2006, that a small but dedicated group captained by long-time latex enthusiast, designer, promoter and New York fetish fixture The Baroness and an ambitious gentleman named Unit1421 decided that the time had come to create a competition that celebrated the allure and sensuality, and advanced the awareness of latex as a truly viable garment medium (and not just for Fetishists). Over the past five years, the competition has been fortunate enough to have had some stellar individuals compete for the title of Miss Rubber World – including such known latex personalities Steffy the Rubber Doll (2008 winner) and Jean Bardot (2009 winner).

According to The Baroness, the competition “really came of age” in 2010. That year was notable because it had “less attitude and more substance”, she said, and featured the work of (then) up and coming latex enthusiast Dawnamatrix, a well-liked and very well respected latex garment designer who calls Rhode Island home. Her journey into rubber life unto itself is incredible: Dawnamatrix spent years teaching in Japan and has become world-renown for her latex Kimono designs, and is viewed within the latex community as the “authority” on producing latex appliqués and overlays on her pieces.

It isn’t a stretch to suggest that Dawnamatrix brought some real positive attention, and some very welcome credibility, to Miss Rubber World in 2010 – she did, in fact, outright win the title. This year, she returned as one of the judges for the 2011 Miss Rubber World competition. Dawnamatrix, according to several sources, was the first contestant who clearly outshone her peers in all three competition segments: the Traditional Catwalk, Question Period, and the piece of latex performance art called Latex Fantasy.

Of the three components to the competition, it is the Latex Fantasy portion that the judges tend to attribute the heaviest opinion regarding their overall decision as to who will become Miss Rubber World. The Catwalk segment, as suggested, does include an element of fetish modeling – but what makes it unique is that it gives the contestants a chance to exhibit creations of their own making, and many Miss Rubber World competitors have manufactured many of their own outfits for the show. The Question Period is vital as it gives the competitors a chance to relate to the judges, and the audience, important answers as to appropriate latex-themed questions – and provides a valuable insight into each of the contestant’s attitude and comportment. The Latex Fantasy, however, is the segment that provides the best opportunity to impress the gathering. This point will become critical to our story a little later on.

The contestants this year for the crown, as outlined above, assembled in New York City amidst an icy, snow-filled cold weather snap. More than just a few of the participants had to battle the ill effects of a determined, and particularly nasty, winter virus. They came together from different parts of the world (mostly the United States) in order to vie not only for the coveted rubber sash traditionally given to the winner of the Miss Rubber World competition, but for an array of impressive prize packages that had been generously donated from admirable fetish fashion and accessory houses across the globe. The list of donations for the Prize Packages reads like a veritable “who’s who” within the global latex community, with corporations from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States all supplying lucrative and impressive prizes for the Crown Winner, as well as the First and Second Runners-Up.

Initially, there were supposed to be eight competitors for the Miss Rubber World sash. Sadly, due to a variety of reasons (mostly illness but in one case because of lost luggage), three of the contestants had to withdraw on the eve of the competition. That left five very beautiful and talented young ladies to figuratively tussle for the covetted Crown. One of the competitors, Toronto’s Archean, had more than just an ugly flu bug to battle. Traveling with her entourage, she had an array of competition outfits and items that she would later admit she was terrified was “going to give them some serious grief at the USA/Canada border.” Needless to say, Archean (and her travel companions Mad Scientist and their lovely and incredibly talented minion, Droidsy) had some anxious moments with Customs Agents once they arrived at the Border Crossing.

“The journey could generously be described as completely miserable,” Archean said. “Not only was I sick the entire way but it seemed like the entire universe was conspiring to make sure we didn’t make it to New York City.” The temptation to relate the entire, sordid details of their epic journey to New York City within this narrative is very strong – but it’s really too good a story for a third-party to relate. Truly, a more horrifying but hilariously-related travel tale related to Miss Rubber World 2011 simply doesn’t exist – but thankfully, Archean (and her beloved life and business partner, Mad Scientist) will be relating that story in its entirely within the pages of their new venture: a fantastic new latex-based website named Rubberlesque. Part of the new website, which will be devoted to introducing new enthusiasts to the joys of rubber life as well as taking an active role in educational opportunities and (somewhat) activist causes by expanding their highly-respected “Knockoff Knockdown” (wherein Archean and Mad Scientist aggressively take to task any number of so-called “designers” who very clearly steal the design ideas and techniques of others) and “Rubber Relationship Advice” concepts, will feature the video footage from Archean’s impressive Latex Fantasy competition segment.

Remember: earlier it was mentioned how important the Latex Fantasy segment was in determining who was crowned Miss Rubber World. It would be a serious disservice to reveal exactly what Archean’s Latex Fantasy performance actually consisted of – suffice to say it was definitely a “wow I didn’t see that coming” moment for all who witnessed it – but what we can say is that, in essence, her performance told her story of her growing interest, and eventual immersion into, rubber fetish expressionism. In short, it was polished, it was professional – and it was brilliant. (Note: The performance will be available for viewing in its entirety soon on the new Rubberlesque website. It will be well worth the wait!) Archean was aided in her performance by talented, well-known and respected rope and bondage artist, the incomparable Lotuslily, who graciously volunteered her time in the spirit of friendship, to render some much-appreciated assistance.

Her performance was also more than enough for the judges to crown Archean as Miss Rubber World 2011 – the first time a contestant from Canada’s largest city has won the sash. Popular New York latex performer Jade Vixen, for the second year in a row, was First Runner-Up and the irrepressible Lydia Lael was Second Runner-Up. The other contestants were Mistress Killspree, a popular club fixture from Boston and Sienna Aldridge, a classically-trained ballet dancer and fetish model/performer from New York City.

“Any of those girls would have been a worthy Miss Rubber World,” The Baroness said. “Lydia Lael was so incredibly cute with her performance! The combination of water with latex always has a lovely appeal. Jade Vixen’s performance was so incredibly intricate, so beautiful. She played to the crowd’s strengths – wearing a hood, putting on stockings, doing some simple things which crowds just love. It was a really close competition.”

“The political part of a competition like Miss Rubber World is unavoidable, but it’s also necessary and very important,” The Baroness continued. “That has been reflected time and again, during Miss Rubber World and in other important competitions. In order to be an effective ambassador – as any title holder is expected to be – you need to be able to play the politics game well. It takes a really exceptional person to overcome some of the solid connections that people can and do make in this life.”

“In the end, Archean might well have not won the sash, it was really that close – but she clearly won everyone over, especially with her performance in the Latex Fantasy. It’s easy to call the Latex Fantasy portion of the competition a ‘talent component’, and to a degree it is – but she showed us something very unique and certainly worthy of being Miss Rubber World. There was no question at the end of her performance, who rose to the top and who the real sash winner would be.”

This year undeniably was special. The Miss Rubber World Competition has evolved – and the bar continues to be raised each and every year. It is becoming one of the “Must Not Miss” fetish events on the annual New York City fetish calendar. The competition is drawing more talented and certainly more complete candidates. “The judges and I felt that this year, the competitors showed us a complete package,” The Baroness said. “Archean’s use of her equipment and her choice in color palette overall was really exquisite. She showed us something that, believe it or not, people in New York City don’t see a lot of especially at fetish events. People don’t want to sit and watch just a beauty pageant: they want to be entertained. Archean was absolutely entertaining.”

One of the most important aspects, and most significant consequences sure to come from Archean’s being awarded the 2011 pink latex sash as Miss Rubber World, is her awareness of the responsibility in becoming an actual ambassador within the entire latex community. “I believe what Miss Rubber World should be is a way to bring new creative people into the spotlight, and I think it’s a big stepping stone. It’s really important to give people an outlet like Miss Rubber World in order to showcase their own creativity.” Archean is also interested in helping to ‘coach’ other potential latex models and enthusiasts who may wish to follow a similar path and compete for such a prestigious sash. One of the things she and her life mate Mad Scientist plan to do to continue to raise a positive footprint and provide a comfortable roadmap for fellow latex fetishists is to continue to write about their own experiences and share their own knowledge with anyone interested. In addition to continuing her exhaustive work schedule as a full partner in Kink Engineering, the company she started with Mad Scientist that manufactures simply the most intricate and expertly-crafted Vac-Beds on the planet, Archean also plans to continue to put the pressure on those unscrupulous design houses who blatantly and unprofessionally expropriate ideas from reputable, good people. “I cannot tell you how impressed we all were, especially me, with Archean’s Knockoff Knockdown efforts,” The Baroness said. “That endeared her to me – it is such a welcome surprise, watching someone else want to take up that challenge.”

The Miss Rubber World 2011 competition was Archean’s first excursion to New York City – and she simply can’t wait to go back. “I knew no matter what happened, the outcome was going to be magical and an amazing story”, she said. While she and Mad Scientist didn’t have a tremendous amount of time to sight-see in The Big Apple, she did profess amazement with the myriad of Art Deco architecture and fixtures they were able to see. “New York is certainly the perfect city to be in and be in love,” she said. “Next time, I will get my carriage ride in Central Park!”

When she does return and claim that carriage ride, it will be as a Queen – and may her reign be spectacular, glorious … and indeed, memorable.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All photos courtesy of Miss Rubber World 2011 and Photographer Judith Stephens. All Rights Reserved.)

Shifting Perceptions: The Morpheous Bondage Extravaganza at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

“All art is quite useless.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are those who, out of some bizarre, delusional and grandiose vision of self-importance, write books about their art form – and then loudly insist that (because they’ve written a book or two) that they be recognized as some sort of “expert in the field”. These “artists” in turn demand certain rights and concessions, especially if it means they’ll somehow be perceived as superior to their peers, within their very own Community at large. In short, the demand to be vetted and recognized as both an “artist” and an “authority”, while clamored for long and incessantly, usually results in one thing: the “artist” soon finds he doesn’t get invited along to many really fun parties.

I’m speaking of Oscar Wilde, of course, author of the above quote and written in a somewhat autobiographical way in his shocking, landmark gothic thriller, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde cleverly manages to insert himself into his narrative – and brutally criticize himself relentlessly – as one of the main antagonists in his timeless tale of extreme arrogance, and self-destructive vanity. In the end, of course, Dorian Gray is done in by his own hand – and as a result of his own narcissism.

The real Oscar Wilde wasn’t much different from the fictional representation he portrayed himself as within the pages of his book. He was, however, intelligent enough to realize his shortcomings and even to provide entertainment for his readers by mercilessly deprecating himself. It was Oscar Wilde’s belief, as reflected within the quote above, that the realm of Victorian-era “Artists and their Art” was nothing more than a breeding ground of rampant ego, over-indulgence, and violent, self-destructive behavior. The quote above is, within the context of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an expression of envy towards a very non-talented man (the Wilde character) and a painter who has been commissioned to produce a portrait of “a most extraordinary, beautiful young man”: the title character, Dorian Gray. Those familiar with the story know very well that Dorian Gray is so taken and in love with his own image in the mirror, that he cannot bear the thought of aging and becoming less beautiful. He makes a deal – ostensibly with the Devil himself – to remain in appearance forever young, and to have the painting age through the years.

Despite what you may think, this isn’t a story about Oscar Wilde or his creation, Dorian Gray. It is, however, important to use this masterwork as an analogy. For in truth, “art” hasn’t really changed much. It’s been said that Art is an imitation of Life. It’s truly refreshing, then, when someone comes along who is successful at turning Life … into Art.

The all-night, gigantic artistic installation known as Nuit Blanche (“White Night”) started in some great European cities (there is a heated dispute as to exactly which city started it: Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin) in 1997 as a revolutionary idea to turn some of the world’s great cities into gargantuan art galleries. Since 1997, Nuit Blanche events have become an extremely anticipated and popular staple on the social calendars of several other world-class cities, including Lima, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Leeds, Atlanta, Los Angeles and, of course, Toronto. New York City played host to its first Nuit Blanche event (called Bring to Light) during the same night that Toronto held their annual event: October 2nd. The “movement” continues to grow – and the roster of talented artists wishing to participate continues to increase.

The Toronto Nuit Blanche event easily draws over 1 million people into the streets of downtown and West Toronto for one night. The event always begins at 7:00 pm and runs straight through until 7:00 am. Some of the installations – those that would have made Oscar Wilde himself cringe – are, as expected, over-the-top and self-indulgent in the extreme. The world of fine art, as per Wilde’s commentary in The Picture of Dorian Gray, rarely if ever takes advantage of collaborative efforts. Making “art” seems to be an exhaustive effort that ultimately will result in telling some deeply personal aspect of a story, or make an opinionated social commentary, based on the workings within the mind and the emotional investment of a single artist. It’s rare, really, to come across “art” where the credit for the success of the piece can be attributed to more than one man or woman.

This is where our story takes a sudden left turn. For the past three years, one man has been determined to educate and expose to the masses his art form during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event. He is a man quite well known within his own Community, and he is quickly making a name for himself within the mainstream as both an author, and a self-proclaimed “Guerilla artist”. He is known by the moniker Morpheous – and whether you are irresistibly drawn to his work, or don’t care to understand it, there is one universal truth: what this man does, make no mistake, is “Art.” He is responsible for one of the most viewed art installations of Nuit Blanche, very simply called Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza. It’s an almost embarrassingly simple, non-pretentious and easy-to-remember title for a revolutionary (some say controversial) art installation. It’s also easy enough (as Oscar Wilde so brilliantly managed to allude to in Dorian Gray) to dismiss Morpheous’s efforts as nothing more than “people being tied up in public”, and to question whether what the present audience is witnessing or not can be categorized as “art” – or whether its straddling a very fine line between art and commercialized pornography. Considering that, in point of fact, and after conducting a little research, no other art installation during Toronto’s event had a line-up to get into the venue to view the pieces (the lineups for the Bondage Extravaganza reached about half a block long at several points during the evening), it would be very hard for the haughty, self-aggrandizing “art critics” to merely dismiss the installation as “mere smut.” Anyone who witnessed the Extravaganza knows, without question, what they were witnessing was true dedication to a most difficult-to-master visual medium.

Morpheous himself was active (pretty much) for the entire scheduled 12 hours of the event. He took a few moments to conduct interviews, drink some much needed water, and speak enthusiastically and engagingly with both old friends and new visitors alike. Morpheous is an gregarious man, and he is always approachable. He is rarely seen without a smile, and he is well-known for immediately putting nervous new models for his photographic sessions and apprehensive new contacts immediately at ease. One needs to spend only a few moments talking with Morpheous, and they immediately are made to feel comfortable, and welcome. The man just doesn’t have the rampant ego that needs to be satisfied in the way that many “artists” and “authors” do – and this clearly sets him apart from his peers (both in the fetish/SM world and in the artistic community).

By rights, and by virtue of his long good-standing within the Toronto alternative lifestyle community, Morpheous could have taken the route that most other “guerilla artists” take, and claimed the spotlight for himself during his Bondage Extravaganza. But this wouldn’t be compatible in keeping with what everyone knows about the man: while he is proud of his accomplishments over the years (an argument could be made that Midori, the world-famous sex educator and fetish world presenter, for instance, may not have achieved that status were it not for Morpheous’s tireless efforts to promote her during the early days of her career; especially in Canada), he is quick to credit his friends and family with being the true contributors to his success. “I wouldn’t be able to even apply to do a project like this,” he said while doing some rather gorgeous and wicked looking knot work on one of his favourite models, “if it wasn’t for the other people in this room. I owe a lot to some of the people behind me.”

Some of those people are, in their own right, fairly well-known in the Toronto alternative scene. There is a lovely and engaging young dance instructor who goes by the name of elle, for instance, and there is little question that she is as tirelessly devoted to Morpheous’s triumphs as she is to her own. On the night of Nuit Blanche, elle somehow managed to keep the “riggers” (those who performed the actual bondage) and the “bunnies” (the bondage models) within a tight schedule – no small feat when you consider the display space was, from start to finish, literally filled with dozens of mesmerized onlookers. When she wasn’t making sure things were running smoothly, like Morpheous, made sure the gathered media was well-informed, made sure the guests were comfortable, and all through the night did so with cheerfulness and an engaging spirit that simply defied the coming pull of exhaustion.

Then, there were the other performers. It is impossible to pay appropriate respect and attention to everyone who volunteered their time during Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza, but it isn’t too far outside the realm of over-used superlatives to say that each and every person who volunteered their skills, talents and time succeeded beyond words in helping to make the entire evening truly a mystical, awe-inspiring display of sensual expression. There wasn’t a single “rigger” or “bunny” present that complained about their use, misuse, or aches and pains: there was this almost ethereal, admiring sense of a true Community being displayed within a relatively tiny space. Sure, the rope work and each individual case of “boy or girl human mobile” (as coined by one of the enthusiastic and eminently beautiful models, Ohhh) was mind-stopping to behold: but the ballet that the viewing audience was deliciously subjected to for twelve straight hours was nothing short of incredible.

There are three others that briefly need to be described for their singular contributions in making the Extravaganza such a unique and collaborative success: the displays continuously exhibited by bondage artists Daddy Aslan (who did a wonderful plastic wrap piece in a lovely departure from the main, traditional ‘rope work’ of the evening),  Lotuslily and a man named Ruairidh from Toronto and an immensely promising young performer named Cannon from Michigan turned an already enjoyable night into an evening of pure visual ecstasy. Lotuslily is already well on her way to becoming an international star within the alternative lifestyle global community, and she certainly didn’t disappoint at Nuit Blanche. But watch, in the future, especially if rope bondage is “your thing”, for these two men Ruairidh and Cannon. They have two unique styles; two distinct stories to tell.

Ruairidh works with rope the way that Jackson Pollack worked with paint: you’re just not sure what it is he’s doing or where he’s “going” and you simply have to continue to watch him work until he’s finished. When he has completed his tying, and his model is turned slowly enticingly in a wide arc for the audience to see, it’s shockingly beautiful to behold. All the pieces suddenly come together to form a single, stunning bound creation: it isn’t a stretch to say that it’s very much like a flowering vine wrapping itself around a gorgeous, statuesque female form, creating a truly timeless and classic image.

Cannon is no less proficient – but his strength lies in how powerful his ability to perform is. He holds both his soon-to-be-restrained subject and the audience completely under his spell. His movements are subtle, but oh, so sensual. When he begins to apply the ropes to his weak-kneed model, it is like watching the Phantom of the Opera himself seducing and enticing the hapless Christine to succumb and completely give herself over to the pleasures soon to be tightly restrained within. This young man is a joy to watch: there are few who bring such delicious, jaw-dropping theatricality to his rope bondage performances.

The people mentioned above were all vital and necessary contributors to the success of the exhibit – but in truth, every single person who gave of their time surely must receive credit for making the Extravaganza such an enormous success. No truer example of a “Community coming together for a common cause” could be as well illustrated.

In a somewhat experimental atmosphere and in a potential-for-explosive-ego-clash environment, Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza succeeded far and away in proving one very important thing: When the goal is the collaborative and mutual success of an entire Community of performers and practitioners, and personal ambition and ego are left checked at the door, astounding things can transpire. This installation was one of the most popular of the entire Toronto Nuit Blanche evening, and for good reason: the people from Toronto were able to witness the artistic elegance and beauty that can be expressed using living models and mere rope as a breathing canvas. There can be no greater accolades for Morpheous, or his fellow artists, than knowing he managed to simply make people think. That is the aim of all artists – and for twelve amazing hours, the Extravaganza unquestionably made rope bondage somehow seem more “accessible” and less daunting and frightening to several people who, like the masses, tend to stereotype and associate sadomasochism and fetishism with simple violence.

Oscar Wilde wrote his scathing, personal critique of the art world and personal vanity in 1890. Over a hundred years later, human nature really hasn’t changed all that much. There are still people who create art, or write books, and then just expect that because they have done so, the world should come crawling to their feet to recognize and worship their “genius”. Within the fetish community, there are certain individuals who have written long (and boringly dry) “how to” volumes about bondage. Then, there are people such as Morpheous, Lotuslily, Ruairidh and Cannon who actually do raise the level of perception of intricate bondage (especially utilizing rope) from “sensual foreplay” to “High art”. It’s a wonderful evolution, really: one very high-profile adult magazine editor tried, in vain, to argue in the mainstream media that bondage was, indeed, truly an art when he allowed photos of a reigning beauty queen to be published within the pages of his periodical. Ultimately, his efforts were ridiculed – and the queen lost her crown. Thankfully for both, each went on to much bigger and better things.

The age is different, now: thanks in large part to the development of large-scale art installations such as Nuit Blanche in the world’s great cities, the beautiful “human mobiles” that are created when a talented man or woman lovingly applies rope to a beautiful, semi-clad or naked body – and then effortlessly makes that body appear to float, twist and turn comfortably, alluringly, seductively in the air – can finally take their place as “High Art” within the consciousness of those who earn their living within the creative world. This isn’t pornography: this is a loving, personal expression performed by people who have a true passion for the psyche, sensuality and desire that is associated with the very-human need to turn trust and control over and into the hands of someone else; even for just a few minutes.

For that reason, Morpheous and his fellow bondage practitioners are, without argument, respectable artists. Due to the popularity of the 2010 Nuit Blanche Bondage Extravaganza, Morpheous is already planning for 2011. “It will be three times larger”, he said with a slight mischievous smile. “If you think this year was really sensual and spectacular, just wait for what we get to show Toronto next year. We’ll have lasers and everything!”

(All photos courtesy of Morpheous and Toronto Nuit Blanche, Photographer: Jeff George)

Shifting Perceptions: The Morpheous Bondage Extravaganza at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

“All art is quite useless.” ~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are those who, out of some bizarre, delusional and grandiose vision of self-importance, write books about their art form – and then loudly insist that (because they’ve written a book or two) that they be recognized as some sort of “expert in the field”. These “artists” in turn demand certain rights and concessions, especially if it means they’ll somehow be perceived as superior to their peers, within their very own Community at large. In short, the demand to be vetted and recognized as both an “artist” and an “authority”, while clamored for long and incessantly, usually results in one thing: the “artist” soon finds he doesn’t get invited along to many really fun parties.

I’m speaking of Oscar Wilde, of course, author of the above quote and written in a somewhat autobiographical way in his shocking, landmark gothic thriller, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde cleverly manages to insert himself into his narrative – and brutally criticize himself relentlessly – as one of the main antagonists in his timeless tale of extreme arrogance, and self-destructive vanity. In the end, of course, Dorian Gray is done in by his own hand – and as a result of his own narcissism.

The real Oscar Wilde wasn’t much different from the fictional representation he portrayed himself as within the pages of his book. He was, however, intelligent enough to realize his shortcomings and even to provide entertainment for his readers by mercilessly deprecating himself. It was Oscar Wilde’s belief, as reflected within the quote above, that the realm of Victorian-era “Artists and their Art” was nothing more than a breeding ground of rampant ego, over-indulgence, and violent, self-destructive behavior. The quote above is, within the context of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an expression of envy towards a very non-talented man (the Wilde character) and a painter who has been commissioned to produce a portrait of “a most extraordinary, beautiful young man”: the title character, Dorian Gray. Those familiar with the story know very well that Dorian Gray is so taken and in love with his own image in the mirror, that he cannot bear the thought of aging and becoming less beautiful. He makes a deal – ostensibly with the Devil himself – to remain in appearance forever young, and to have the painting age through the years.

Despite what you may think, this isn’t a story about Oscar Wilde or his creation, Dorian Gray. It is, however, important to use this masterwork as an analogy. For in truth, “art” hasn’t really changed much. It’s been said that Art is an imitation of Life. It’s truly refreshing, then, when someone comes along who is successful at turning Life … into Art.

The all-night, gigantic artistic installation known as Nuit Blanche (“White Night”) started in some great European cities (there is a heated dispute as to exactly which city started it: Paris, St. Petersburg or Berlin) in 1997 as a revolutionary idea to turn some of the world’s great cities into gargantuan art galleries. Since 1997, Nuit Blanche events have become an extremely anticipated and popular staple on the social calendars of several other world-class cities, including Lima, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Leeds, Atlanta, Los Angeles and, of course, Toronto. New York City played host to its first Nuit Blanche event (called Bring to Light) during the same night that Toronto held their annual event: October 2nd. The “movement” continues to grow – and the roster of talented artists wishing to participate continues to increase.

The Toronto Nuit Blanche event easily draws over 1 million people into the streets of downtown and West Toronto for one night. The event always begins at 7:00 pm and runs straight through until 7:00 am. Some of the installations – those that would have made Oscar Wilde himself cringe – are, as expected, over-the-top and self-indulgent in the extreme. The world of fine art, as per Wilde’s commentary in The Picture of Dorian Gray, rarely if ever takes advantage of collaborative efforts. Making “art” seems to be an exhaustive effort that ultimately will result in telling some deeply personal aspect of a story, or make an opinionated social commentary, based on the workings within the mind and the emotional investment of a single artist. It’s rare, really, to come across “art” where the credit for the success of the piece can be attributed to more than one man or woman.

This is where our story takes a sudden left turn. For the past three years, one man has been determined to educate and expose to the masses his art form during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche event. He is a man quite well known within his own Community, and he is quickly making a name for himself within the mainstream as both an author, and a self-proclaimed “Guerilla artist”. He is known by the moniker Morpheous – and whether you are irresistibly drawn to his work, or don’t care to understand it, there is one universal truth: what this man does, make no mistake, is “Art.” He is responsible for one of the most viewed art installations of Nuit Blanche, very simply called Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza. It’s an almost embarrassingly simple, non-pretentious and easy-to-remember title for a revolutionary (some say controversial) art installation. It’s also easy enough (as Oscar Wilde so brilliantly managed to allude to in Dorian Gray) to dismiss Morpheous’s efforts as nothing more than “people being tied up in public”, and to question whether what the present audience is witnessing or not can be categorized as “art” – or whether its straddling a very fine line between art and commercialized pornography. Considering that, in point of fact, and after conducting a little research, no other art installation during Toronto’s event had a line-up to get into the venue to view the pieces (the lineups for the Bondage Extravaganza reached about half a block long at several points during the evening), it would be very hard for the haughty, self-aggrandizing “art critics” to merely dismiss the installation as “mere smut.” Anyone who witnessed the Extravaganza knows, without question, what they were witnessing was true dedication to a most difficult-to-master visual medium.

Morpheous himself was active (pretty much) for the entire scheduled 12 hours of the event. He took a few moments to conduct interviews, drink some much needed water, and speak enthusiastically and engagingly with both old friends and new visitors alike. Morpheous is an gregarious man, and he is always approachable. He is rarely seen without a smile, and he is well-known for immediately putting nervous new models for his photographic sessions and apprehensive new contacts immediately at ease. One needs to spend only a few moments talking with Morpheous, and they immediately are made to feel comfortable, and welcome. The man just doesn’t have the rampant ego that needs to be satisfied in the way that many “artists” and “authors” do – and this clearly sets him apart from his peers (both in the fetish/SM world and in the artistic community).

By rights, and by virtue of his long good-standing within the Toronto alternative lifestyle community, Morpheous could have taken the route that most other “guerilla artists” take, and claimed the spotlight for himself during his Bondage Extravaganza. But this wouldn’t be compatible in keeping with what everyone knows about the man: while he is proud of his accomplishments over the years (an argument could be made that Midori, the world-famous sex educator and fetish world presenter, for instance, may not have achieved that status were it not for Morpheous’s tireless efforts to promote her during the early days of her career; especially in Canada), he is quick to credit his friends and family with being the true contributors to his success. “I wouldn’t be able to even apply to do a project like this,” he said while doing some rather gorgeous and wicked looking knot work on one of his favourite models, “if it wasn’t for the other people in this room. I owe a lot to some of the people behind me.”

Some of those people are, in their own right, fairly well-known in the Toronto alternative scene. There is a lovely and engaging young dance instructor who goes by the name of elle, for instance, and there is little question that she is as tirelessly devoted to Morpheous’s triumphs as she is to her own. On the night of Nuit Blanche, elle somehow managed to keep the “riggers” (those who performed the actual bondage) and the “bunnies” (the bondage models) within a tight schedule – no small feat when you consider the display space was, from start to finish, literally filled with dozens of mesmerized onlookers. When she wasn’t making sure things were running smoothly, like Morpheous, made sure the gathered media was well-informed, made sure the guests were comfortable, and all through the night did so with cheerfulness and an engaging spirit that simply defied the coming pull of exhaustion.

Then, there were the other performers. It is impossible to pay appropriate respect and attention to everyone who volunteered their time during Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza, but it isn’t too far outside the realm of over-used superlatives to say that each and every person who volunteered their skills, talents and time succeeded beyond words in helping to make the entire evening truly a mystical, awe-inspiring display of sensual expression. There wasn’t a single “rigger” or “bunny” present that complained about their use, misuse, or aches and pains: there was this almost ethereal, admiring sense of a true Community being displayed within a relatively tiny space. Sure, the rope work and each individual case of “boy or girl human mobile” (as coined by one of the enthusiastic and eminently beautiful models, Ohhh) was mind-stopping to behold: but the ballet that the viewing audience was deliciously subjected to for twelve straight hours was nothing short of incredible.

There are three others that briefly need to be described for their singular contributions in making the Extravaganza such a unique and collaborative success: the displays continuously exhibited by bondage artists Daddy Aslan (who did a wonderful plastic wrap piece in a lovely departure from the main, traditional ‘rope work’ of the evening),  Lotuslily and a man named Ruairidh from Toronto and an immensely promising young performer named Cannon from Michigan turned an already enjoyable night into an evening of pure visual ecstasy. Lotuslily is already well on her way to becoming an international star within the alternative lifestyle global community, and she certainly didn’t disappoint at Nuit Blanche. But watch, in the future, especially if rope bondage is “your thing”, for these two men Ruairidh and Cannon. They have two unique styles; two distinct stories to tell.

Ruairidh works with rope the way that Jackson Pollack worked with paint: you’re just not sure what it is he’s doing or where he’s “going” and you simply have to continue to watch him work until he’s finished. When he has completed his tying, and his model is turned slowly enticingly in a wide arc for the audience to see, it’s shockingly beautiful to behold. All the pieces suddenly come together to form a single, stunning bound creation: it isn’t a stretch to say that it’s very much like a flowering vine wrapping itself around a gorgeous, statuesque female form, creating a truly timeless and classic image.

Cannon is no less proficient – but his strength lies in how powerful his ability to perform is. He holds both his soon-to-be-restrained subject and the audience completely under his spell. His movements are subtle, but oh, so sensual. When he begins to apply the ropes to his weak-kneed model, it is like watching the Phantom of the Opera himself seducing and enticing the hapless Christine to succumb and completely give herself over to the pleasures soon to be tightly restrained within. This young man is a joy to watch: there are few who bring such delicious, jaw-dropping theatricality to his rope bondage performances.

The people mentioned above were all vital and necessary contributors to the success of the exhibit – but in truth, every single person who gave of their time surely must receive credit for making the Extravaganza such an enormous success. No truer example of a “Community coming together for a common cause” could be as well illustrated.

In a somewhat experimental atmosphere and in a potential-for-explosive-ego-clash environment, Morpheous’s Bondage Extravaganza succeeded far and away in proving one very important thing: When the goal is the collaborative and mutual success of an entire Community of performers and practitioners, and personal ambition and ego are left checked at the door, astounding things can transpire. This installation was one of the most popular of the entire Toronto Nuit Blanche evening, and for good reason: the people from Toronto were able to witness the artistic elegance and beauty that can be expressed using living models and mere rope as a breathing canvas. There can be no greater accolades for Morpheous, or his fellow artists, than knowing he managed to simply make people think. That is the aim of all artists – and for twelve amazing hours, the Extravaganza unquestionably made rope bondage somehow seem more “accessible” and less daunting and frightening to several people who, like the masses, tend to stereotype and associate sadomasochism and fetishism with simple violence.

Oscar Wilde wrote his scathing, personal critique of the art world and personal vanity in 1890. Over a hundred years later, human nature really hasn’t changed all that much. There are still people who create art, or write books, and then just expect that because they have done so, the world should come crawling to their feet to recognize and worship their “genius”. Within the fetish community, there are certain individuals who have written long (and boringly dry) “how to” volumes about bondage. Then, there are people such as Morpheous, Lotuslily, Ruairidh and Cannon who actually do raise the level of perception of intricate bondage (especially utilizing rope) from “sensual foreplay” to “High art”. It’s a wonderful evolution, really: one very high-profile adult magazine editor tried, in vain, to argue in the mainstream media that bondage was, indeed, truly an art when he allowed photos of a reigning beauty queen to be published within the pages of his periodical. Ultimately, his efforts were ridiculed – and the queen lost her crown. Thankfully for both, each went on to much bigger and better things.

The age is different, now: thanks in large part to the development of large-scale art installations such as Nuit Blanche in the world’s great cities, the beautiful “human mobiles” that are created when a talented man or woman lovingly applies rope to a beautiful, semi-clad or naked body – and then effortlessly makes that body appear to float, twist and turn comfortably, alluringly, seductively in the air – can finally take their place as “High Art” within the consciousness of those who earn their living within the creative world. This isn’t pornography: this is a loving, personal expression performed by people who have a true passion for the psyche, sensuality and desire that is associated with the very-human need to turn trust and control over and into the hands of someone else; even for just a few minutes.

For that reason, Morpheous and his fellow bondage practitioners are, without argument, respectable artists. Due to the popularity of the 2010 Nuit Blanche Bondage Extravaganza, Morpheous is already planning for 2011. “It will be three times larger”, he said with a slight mischievous smile. “If you think this year was really sensual and spectacular, just wait for what we get to show Toronto next year. We’ll have lasers and everything!”

(All photos courtesy of Morpheous and Toronto Nuit Blanche, Photographer: Jeff George)

Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“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.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Slipping into An Alien Skin: The Magic of Ego Assassin

“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.

Kardynyl SynysTyr

(All Photographs courtesy of Ego Assassin)

Dia-TRIBE: An Incredible Twenty Year Odyssey with Northbound Leather

5 - The Six - 1“Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.” ~ Ira Gershwin

The more things change in twenty years, the more they also (sometimes) remain the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Bear with me for a bit, Gentle Reader: this “diatribe” (pun intended, as you’ll see) does indeed have a point.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to twenty years ago. The year was 1989. It was a landmark year, full of world-shattering events that brought both tears or anguish and tears of sheer joy to several million across this globe.

The last remaining major world leader from the Second World War era, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, died in January that year. Solidarity, as a movement and a political entity, became legal in Poland as a result of the tireless efforts of a relatively unknown dock worker named Lech Walesa – a legal move that would have an unbelievable global impact before the end of the year.

1989 was the year that author Salmon Rushdie had a price put on his head for “deeply offending” one of the world’s largest religions. The man who angrily posted that bounty was dead himself within the year, the much-lionized Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During a particularly warm Asian spring, a man (who may or may not have been known by the name of Wang Wei-Lin) defied the largest armed force on the planet by defiantly standing in front of an imposing row of oncoming tanks in one of the world’s largest public gathering places. The fate of that man is, twenty years on, unknown – but the image of him refusing to give up his ground in front of five very, very large Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Square has been called the single most famous photograph of the entire 20th Century.

7 - The Spike Boys - 1Later that year, of course, the long-despised symbol of world-wide Communist dictatorship – the very concrete tumor that for nearly thirty years had separated and plagued one of Europe’s great ancient capitals into “Western” and “Eastern” Zones – came crashing down. A common, great but twice-vanquished people, separated by artificially-created ideological borders, collectively stood up, and in a singular voice cried, “No more!” Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s never thought we would see West and East Germany reunite in our lifetime – let alone the entire final rotting and disintegration of Eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes.

If you’ve managed to read this far in our little trip down a two-decade old Memory Lane, you are probably wondering: “What the hell does any of this have to do with the Fetish world, anyhow?” Other than opening up shiploads of delicious German latex to the rest of the world (a given), what’s the message here?

1 - Iron Xena - 1It’s simple, really. The year Nineteen-Hundred-and-Eighty-Nine was a year of great turmoil to be sure – but it was also a year of great hope and unrequited optimism. There was a spirit of change in the air, and people were eager to embrace the coming end-of-millennium decade of the 1990’s with a renewed spirit of ambition and promise. From 1989 to 2009, countless fetish events have come and almost all of them have gone. Even some famous institutions of alternative lifestyle “expressions” that promised to “stand the test of time” in the 1970’s and 1980’s – ultimately disappeared from the fetish map. All, that is, except one.

In the past two weeks, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend had been attempting to locate and confirm the existence of a regular monthly fetish event that has been running, continuously or virtually continuously, for at least twenty years. I found one – right in my own backyard and right on the heels of what simply had to be this particular corporation’s best large-scale event, ever. I’m talking about Northbound Leather, of course. Twenty years ago, a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur took the heart of a small family business, started a small-scale series of Fetish Nights in order to partially promote his products but mostly just to have fun, and ran with it. He’s been doing it ever since.

4 - Spikehead - 1Your Humble Narrator has focused a lot of attention in the past few weeks on Northbound Leather and their various efforts – and quite deservedly so. In February 2010, right around the same time Canada is getting set to host the Winter World during the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, George Giaouris and his staff at Northbound Leather will be celebrating the “official” 20th Anniversary of their monthly fetish event, all this time simply referred to as the “Northbound Fetish Night”, in downtown Toronto. There is no other event (that I could find, at least) that has been routinely scheduled and executed meticulously and faithfully, once a month, for 20 straight years. Sure, the venues for Northbound’s monthly gyrating shindig have changed – but the party remains the same and continues to roll ever stronger as it enters its third decade of existence. This is quite an accomplishment for a company that began as a small little leather shop, in Greece no less, over 40 years ago.

Much has already been written and said about Northbound Leather’s events over the years, some of it good, some of it … well, not quite so good. It’s all a matter of perspective and personal taste, after all – but by and large the words “Northbound Leather” have been synonymous with “quality”, if you’ll pardon a terribly over-used marketing euphemism – and that doesn’t just apply to their wide array of merchandise. You just can’t please everybody one-hundred percent of the time: but George and his staff have managed to come “oh-so-close.”

2 - Ballerina - Corset - 1Thirteen years ago, Northbound Leather made a decision to organize and host a Fetish party on a grand and unprecedented scale (at least for North America). Deciding from the outset to give each annual event a unique and somewhat unusual theme and name (“Thrust”, “Decadence”, Bento”, “X-Pose”, etc.), the annual event has become by far, and as previously reported, the single largest gathering of fetish folk under a single roof anywhere in the world. This year’s massive event, given the moniker and theme of TRIBE, simply had to be the ultimate, spectacular culmination of twenty years of unprecedented excellence provided to North America’s fetish populace in the way of both actual “product”, and “atmosphere”.

Allow me to describe the latter first: The atmosphere was, from start to finish, nothing short of scintillating and euphoric. Hosted in a two-level, gargantuan entertainment complex known as The Sound Academy (but previously and more well-known as “The Docks”), the large crowd had plenty of room to walk, talk, prance and dance to their twisted little heart’s content well into the dawn-breaking early hours of morning. My beloved Lady J, her devoted Handmaiden Angelically Depraved, and Your Humble Narrator were, in fact, three of the last half-dozen non-staff members to exit the premises around 5:30 am. The fashion show/stage performance was something this writer had never expected, let alone ever witnessed before (and in over 30 years as an ardent SM practitioner in several American and Canadian cities over the years, I’ve seen a lot), and there are simply no words to describe it. The only negative thing that can be said about the fashion show is that there were whisperings that the choreographer was being somewhat of a “slave-driver” and over-the-top “diva” – how apropos can you get though? – towards the performers, models and especially with the usually cool and accommodating DJ for the event, Toronto’s popular Jimi LaMort. This resulted in a few unpleasant grumbles from some patrons who apparently were curtly denied when trying to approach the DJ booth and attempt to request a tune or two. Jimi and all the performers obviously had had a very long day – but when it came time for the TRIBE stage show, everyone’s professionalism and showmanship clearly shone through. Our dear beloved friend Ms. Marina Black did an jaw-dropping “catwalk” down the stage in an eye-popping custom designed leather-and-chain ensemble that simply has to be seen in person to be believed. If that wasn’t enough, she topped off her moment under the stage lamps by doing a piercing demonstration – completely in character – with an array of bright, large feathers.

3 - Marina Black TRIBE 2009 - 1I say “in character”, because although the choreographer (whom I’ll spare naming) may have acted a little too much like a diva from some reports, this particular stage show had simply … everything. Astounding, one of a kind leather costumes and pieces, all made from Northbound Leather’s industrious facility (located onsite, by the way, in case you’re curious) and all from the minds of head designer Marty Rotman and the enthusiastic staff at Northbound, paraded in a mind-bending array of music, sight and sound; intricately woven into a storyline that followed a young man’s “Initiation Ritual” into the “Chosen TRIBE”. Lady Victoria Windsor, another one of the exceptional Dominas who calls Toronto home, held court as only she could do – and the overall effect was intoxicating. Videos from the stage show at TRIBE that are sure to pop up on various video server websites are sure to be destined as “classics” for, perhaps, another twenty years to come. There’s more than enough “product” examples from the videos and photos – if you take the time to look, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

6 - Priestess - 1There was a huge Dungeon playspace set up on the second floor of the establishment, and another directly below it on the main floor. Lady Viktoria (not to be confused with the aforementioned Lady Victoria Windsor), another well-known Toronto Domina, and her staff – especially Master Jack and Sir Thomas from Toronto – are to be commended, admired and appreciated for keeping a huge amount of eager SM participants enthralled, satiated and indeed, respectful for several hours.

There simply wasn’t a single thing to grouse about during the entire evening’s myriad of activities. Perhaps other event organizers in other cities may wish to learn a thing or two about how to effectively run a large-scale event that features an amazing stage show, a scintillating dance party, and not one but two large, exceptionally equipped and managed play spaces.

8 - Head Gear - 1Thus marks the “end” of Northbound Leather’s twenty-year odyssey in staging and hosting what truly is the biggest, the baddest, and without a doubt the best massive fetish lifestyle event on the planet. TRIBE was a triumph and an emotionally crippling, satisfying and truly magical experience. It was the perfect epilogue to the story of Northbound Leather’s first twenty years of excellence in event hosting – and a titillating prologue to the next twenty years.

Entire political systems came and went within the last twenty years. Gigantic walls came down, the world stumbled and shook a bit, lost a little of collective ‘smugness’ and conceit, and in short, we live in a very different environment today than we did twenty years ago.

It’s a comfort to know that we can rely on some things remaining the same, though. Lady J and I are really looking forward to Northbound Leather’s next twenty years. They did the first two decades just fine – and TRIBE was the best stop on that journey. Thanks, and our love and best wishes for Decade Three to George, Anna, Enza, Marty  and all of the people that make Northbound Leather … undeniably … the absolute epitome of the word “perfection”.

(All Photos courtesy of Kevin LeClair and Northbound Leather. May not use without permission.)

Dia-TRIBE: An Incredible Twenty Year Odyssey with Northbound Leather

5 - The Six - 1“Deep, unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state.” ~ Ira Gershwin

The more things change in twenty years, the more they also (sometimes) remain the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Bear with me for a bit, Gentle Reader: this “diatribe” (pun intended, as you’ll see) does indeed have a point.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to twenty years ago. The year was 1989. It was a landmark year, full of world-shattering events that brought both tears or anguish and tears of sheer joy to several million across this globe.

The last remaining major world leader from the Second World War era, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, died in January that year. Solidarity, as a movement and a political entity, became legal in Poland as a result of the tireless efforts of a relatively unknown dock worker named Lech Walesa – a legal move that would have an unbelievable global impact before the end of the year.

1989 was the year that author Salmon Rushdie had a price put on his head for “deeply offending” one of the world’s largest religions. The man who angrily posted that bounty was dead himself within the year, the much-lionized Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During a particularly warm Asian spring, a man (who may or may not have been known by the name of Wang Wei-Lin) defied the largest armed force on the planet by defiantly standing in front of an imposing row of oncoming tanks in one of the world’s largest public gathering places. The fate of that man is, twenty years on, unknown – but the image of him refusing to give up his ground in front of five very, very large Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Square has been called the single most famous photograph of the entire 20th Century.

7 - The Spike Boys - 1Later that year, of course, the long-despised symbol of world-wide Communist dictatorship – the very concrete tumor that for nearly thirty years had separated and plagued one of Europe’s great ancient capitals into “Western” and “Eastern” Zones – came crashing down. A common, great but twice-vanquished people, separated by artificially-created ideological borders, collectively stood up, and in a singular voice cried, “No more!” Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s never thought we would see West and East Germany reunite in our lifetime – let alone the entire final rotting and disintegration of Eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes.

If you’ve managed to read this far in our little trip down a two-decade old Memory Lane, you are probably wondering: “What the hell does any of this have to do with the Fetish world, anyhow?” Other than opening up shiploads of delicious German latex to the rest of the world (a given), what’s the message here?

1 - Iron Xena - 1It’s simple, really. The year Nineteen-Hundred-and-Eighty-Nine was a year of great turmoil to be sure – but it was also a year of great hope and unrequited optimism. There was a spirit of change in the air, and people were eager to embrace the coming end-of-millennium decade of the 1990’s with a renewed spirit of ambition and promise. From 1989 to 2009, countless fetish events have come and almost all of them have gone. Even some famous institutions of alternative lifestyle “expressions” that promised to “stand the test of time” in the 1970’s and 1980’s – ultimately disappeared from the fetish map. All, that is, except one.

In the past two weeks, Your Humble Narrator and Only True Friend had been attempting to locate and confirm the existence of a regular monthly fetish event that has been running, continuously or virtually continuously, for at least twenty years. I found one – right in my own backyard and right on the heels of what simply had to be this particular corporation’s best large-scale event, ever. I’m talking about Northbound Leather, of course. Twenty years ago, a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur took the heart of a small family business, started a small-scale series of Fetish Nights in order to partially promote his products but mostly just to have fun, and ran with it. He’s been doing it ever since.

4 - Spikehead - 1Your Humble Narrator has focused a lot of attention in the past few weeks on Northbound Leather and their various efforts – and quite deservedly so. In February 2010, right around the same time Canada is getting set to host the Winter World during the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, George Giaouris and his staff at Northbound Leather will be celebrating the “official” 20th Anniversary of their monthly fetish event, all this time simply referred to as the “Northbound Fetish Night”, in downtown Toronto. There is no other event (that I could find, at least) that has been routinely scheduled and executed meticulously and faithfully, once a month, for 20 straight years. Sure, the venues for Northbound’s monthly gyrating shindig have changed – but the party remains the same and continues to roll ever stronger as it enters its third decade of existence. This is quite an accomplishment for a company that began as a small little leather shop, in Greece no less, over 40 years ago.

Much has already been written and said about Northbound Leather’s events over the years, some of it good, some of it … well, not quite so good. It’s all a matter of perspective and personal taste, after all – but by and large the words “Northbound Leather” have been synonymous with “quality”, if you’ll pardon a terribly over-used marketing euphemism – and that doesn’t just apply to their wide array of merchandise. You just can’t please everybody one-hundred percent of the time: but George and his staff have managed to come “oh-so-close.”

2 - Ballerina - Corset - 1Thirteen years ago, Northbound Leather made a decision to organize and host a Fetish party on a grand and unprecedented scale (at least for North America). Deciding from the outset to give each annual event a unique and somewhat unusual theme and name (“Thrust”, “Decadence”, Bento”, “X-Pose”, etc.), the annual event has become by far, and as previously reported, the single largest gathering of fetish folk under a single roof anywhere in the world. This year’s massive event, given the moniker and theme of TRIBE, simply had to be the ultimate, spectacular culmination of twenty years of unprecedented excellence provided to North America’s fetish populace in the way of both actual “product”, and “atmosphere”.

Allow me to describe the latter first: The atmosphere was, from start to finish, nothing short of scintillating and euphoric. Hosted in a two-level, gargantuan entertainment complex known as The Sound Academy (but previously and more well-known as “The Docks”), the large crowd had plenty of room to walk, talk, prance and dance to their twisted little heart’s content well into the dawn-breaking early hours of morning. My beloved Lady J, her devoted Handmaiden Angelically Depraved, and Your Humble Narrator were, in fact, three of the last half-dozen non-staff members to exit the premises around 5:30 am. The fashion show/stage performance was something this writer had never expected, let alone ever witnessed before (and in over 30 years as an ardent SM practitioner in several American and Canadian cities over the years, I’ve seen a lot), and there are simply no words to describe it. The only negative thing that can be said about the fashion show is that there were whisperings that the choreographer was being somewhat of a “slave-driver” and over-the-top “diva” – how apropos can you get though? – towards the performers, models and especially with the usually cool and accommodating DJ for the event, Toronto’s popular Jimi LaMort. This resulted in a few unpleasant grumbles from some patrons who apparently were curtly denied when trying to approach the DJ booth and attempt to request a tune or two. Jimi and all the performers obviously had had a very long day – but when it came time for the TRIBE stage show, everyone’s professionalism and showmanship clearly shone through. Our dear beloved friend Ms. Marina Black did an jaw-dropping “catwalk” down the stage in an eye-popping custom designed leather-and-chain ensemble that simply has to be seen in person to be believed. If that wasn’t enough, she topped off her moment under the stage lamps by doing a piercing demonstration – completely in character – with an array of bright, large feathers.

3 - Marina Black TRIBE 2009 - 1I say “in character”, because although the choreographer (whom I’ll spare naming) may have acted a little too much like a diva from some reports, this particular stage show had simply … everything. Astounding, one of a kind leather costumes and pieces, all made from Northbound Leather’s industrious facility (located onsite, by the way, in case you’re curious) and all from the minds of head designer Marty Rotman and the enthusiastic staff at Northbound, paraded in a mind-bending array of music, sight and sound; intricately woven into a storyline that followed a young man’s “Initiation Ritual” into the “Chosen TRIBE”. Lady Victoria Windsor, another one of the exceptional Dominas who calls Toronto home, held court as only she could do – and the overall effect was intoxicating. Videos from the stage show at TRIBE that are sure to pop up on various video server websites are sure to be destined as “classics” for, perhaps, another twenty years to come. There’s more than enough “product” examples from the videos and photos – if you take the time to look, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

6 - Priestess - 1There was a huge Dungeon playspace set up on the second floor of the establishment, and another directly below it on the main floor. Lady Viktoria (not to be confused with the aforementioned Lady Victoria Windsor), another well-known Toronto Domina, and her staff – especially Master Jack and Sir Thomas from Toronto – are to be commended, admired and appreciated for keeping a huge amount of eager SM participants enthralled, satiated and indeed, respectful for several hours.

There simply wasn’t a single thing to grouse about during the entire evening’s myriad of activities. Perhaps other event organizers in other cities may wish to learn a thing or two about how to effectively run a large-scale event that features an amazing stage show, a scintillating dance party, and not one but two large, exceptionally equipped and managed play spaces.

8 - Head Gear - 1Thus marks the “end” of Northbound Leather’s twenty-year odyssey in staging and hosting what truly is the biggest, the baddest, and without a doubt the best massive fetish lifestyle event on the planet. TRIBE was a triumph and an emotionally crippling, satisfying and truly magical experience. It was the perfect epilogue to the story of Northbound Leather’s first twenty years of excellence in event hosting – and a titillating prologue to the next twenty years.

Entire political systems came and went within the last twenty years. Gigantic walls came down, the world stumbled and shook a bit, lost a little of collective ‘smugness’ and conceit, and in short, we live in a very different environment today than we did twenty years ago.

It’s a comfort to know that we can rely on some things remaining the same, though. Lady J and I are really looking forward to Northbound Leather’s next twenty years. They did the first two decades just fine – and TRIBE was the best stop on that journey. Thanks, and our love and best wishes for Decade Three to George, Anna, Enza, Marty  and all of the people that make Northbound Leather … undeniably … the absolute epitome of the word “perfection”.

(All Photos courtesy of Kevin LeClair and Northbound Leather. May not use without permission.)

Nothing "Lost" About Northbound Leather's TRIBE

Tribe 2009What a whirlwind few weeks for Your Humble Narrator and only True Friend it has been, my delightful comrades!

The ever-beautiful, always devious and completely depraved Lady J and I took some time off to recharge the metaphorical batteries after a very event-filled summer (and early Autumn). With apologies to Old Bill Shakespeare, I did manage to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – some rather well aimed arrows, at that – from some of the more vocal populace who chose to disagree with some of the views expressed regarding some of those said events. On the whole, it really was a grand summer and an extremely enjoyable one. There were some high points and a few no-so-high points – and naturally when one reviews large-scale fetish events, it is a given that you’re only going to satisfy 50% of your audience 50% of the time. Not everyone, perhaps, is going to agree with your sentiments. Onwards, then, shall we? What could possibly be next to turn our attentions to after such a wickedly eventful summer? What event could possibly usher in the coming boot-wearing winter season and deliver us a high note on which to look forward to the new year?

X-POSE 2008That’s easy. There is one – and only one – world-wide event that could possibly be considered the biggest, and the best, of any large-scale fetish related gathering of minds and behinds. I have written this before and I steadfastly stand by these words: the annual evolving wonder (that never follows the same single-word naming convention from year to year) that is Toronto’s Northbound Leather Annual Fetish Event continues to be the standard by which all other large-scale events are compared to, and judged. This year’s iteration, given the name TRIBE, has been whispered excitedly about in every darkened hallway of every fetish club since Northbound Leather President George Giaouris unveiled the starkly beautiful theme (and accompanying amazing marketing imagery) many months ago. If there is one universal truth in this big, wide fetish world we choose to inhabit, it’s that Mr. Giaouris and his wife, the incredibly beautiful and tirelessly-dedicated bundle of raw energy that is Anna, sure as hell know how to throw a party.

Year after year, and ongoing for nearly two full decades, Northbound Leather has done it bigger, bolder and simply better than anybody else. As an example of the kind of patronage the iconic Yonge Street leather emporium has enjoyed (and from participants from across the globe): Estimates for total attendance at the largest fetish gatherings from California to Quebec this past year may – may – have topped 1000 people for an entire weekend’s festivities. Last year alone, the Northbound Leather annual event at Toronto’s huge Docks Entertainment Complex (renamed The Sound Academy) actually was two-thirds larger for a single night alone. Here’s the staggering part of that statement: you’d be hard pressed to find any dissenters among attendees. Ever.

That, my friends, is one very large and happy gathering of the fetishly attired. It’s the Wonka Factory of “Eye Candy”.

X-POSE 2008 PiercingGeorge and his staff, lead by the unbelievably creative mind of his head designer Marty Rotman, somehow manage to make each and every subsequent annual event truly unique and a delightfully feverish, brain-popping explosion of visual excellence. Every year, the Northbound Leather team manage to create a stage show and a fashion show that is imitated by many, and inferior to none. This year, TRIBE promises to be categorized as the “best ever”, and is already being touted by the local media as one of the “can’t miss” events in Canada’s largest city.

I cannot reveal in great detail much of the spectacle and pageantry planned for TRIBE – if you cannot attend the event in person this year you will be able to view a good portion of it on YouTube shortly after the event has transpired – but you will have to merely believe me: listening to George explain in detail to me what his guests will be treated to during the stage and fashion show segments is, quite simply, going to blow the boots off the most cynical and jaded of observers. If you’re even close to the Toronto area on the evening of October 24th, 2009, you really should plan on going. For a first-class large scale fetish event, the Northbound Leather events are always and unquestionably the softest on your pocketbook – a very welcome fact during a very harsh economic year.

Some of this region’s most promising young promoters – some of which have been enthusiastically featured within the electronic pages of Marquis America in recent months – have without question learned a great lesson or two from the masters (well, and mistresses) themselves. Lady J and I personally were witness to George, Anna and their staff’s astonishing, seemingly tireless attentions to each and every one of their guests at a well-attended Pride Week event in Toronto’s historic Distillery District this past summer. That passion, that dedication and that appreciation displayed to their customer base is evident in every single event that they organize and host. It’s one of the reasons why their annual event is so well patronized – and why each and every year there are glowing smiles and starry-eyed fetishists raving about how glorious an experience they just had. It’s staggering to even imagine they can deliver than kind of service and just plain fun to an even larger contingent of fetish party goers.

TRIBE FashionTRIBE, as the name undoubtedly suggests, is about Rite and Ritual. Marty Rotman has designed and assembled 36 one-of-a-kind, never before produced leather ensembles meant to produce an undeniable shine to each one of the fetish models and “cast members” involved in the spectacle. In addition to the vast amount of gleaming silver studs and immaculately-polished leather wear, there is an assortment of body art (tattoos, makeup and body painting) scheduled to be on display. While this is unquestionably the most ambitious undertaking for George and Northbound Leather, he’s well prepared for and very much up to the challenge. George took over the business from his father and astutely changed the name of the family empire from Leathercraft to Northbound Leather in the mid 1980’s. “People have been coming to us since the 1960’s, telling us what they want and we’ve made it for them,” George said. “People who shop with us want to stand out and be unique.” What started out as a small custom-wear shop catering to the Flower Power beatnik of the Vietnam War era grew first into an exciting new venture dedicated to outfitting the heavy glam-and-punk rocker enthusiasts, and eventually matured into the sleek, sensual all-encompassing leather and fetish powerhouse of fashion that Northbound Leather is today. Every one of their meticulously planned and perfectly executed events reflects this dedication to quality – and the care given to their customers. It isn’t an exaggeration to make the claim that an event like TRIBE is simply a way for George and Anna to “repay” their customers patronage and loyalty by providing them an exceptional venue in which to showcase their latest custom-designed fetish creations – and all without a premium price-tag.

Marquis America  simply and highly recommends anybody who has the opportunity to attend TRIBE plan to do so on October 24th, 2009. TRIBE is being held at The Sound Academy (formerly known as The Docks Entertainment Complex), in Toronto’s amazing downtown waterfront area. Tickets are available from a number of online and brick and mortar store outlets – and you certainly will not be disappointed. No assemblage of fetish finery simply exists anywhere on the planet on any one given night (and all under a single roof).

Be prepared to be initiated: Prepare to join the unending numbers of your TRIBE – and be prepared to have the most amazing experience of your fetish life.

(Sneak-Peak TRIBE design by Marty Rotman courtesy of FAB Magazine.)

The Juggling Act: Catering to Everyone's Taste at SUBSPACE TORONTO

Subspace TorontoIn Toronto – and I am quite sure in other major cities across North America – there has been a constant criticism about large-scale SM-related events “being more associated with a stand-and-model crowd” than with a “hard-core leather lifestyle crowd.” Some of the older denizens of the Kinkdom – Your Humble Narrator included – has in the past pontificated and railed at will against some of these “antiseptic” kinds of events not quite going far enough to appease absolutely everyone who plunks down their hard-earned dollars to attend any number of Fetish events: no matter how well organized, or attended.

To quote a famous 1960’s folk song, “The times – they are a-changin'”.

By all reports, the Marquis Fetish Ball was a tremendous success – and seems to have been well-received universally by those who attended. It isn’t self-serving in the slightest to congratulate our own Erik Von Gutenberg and the lovely Miss Suzanne Forbes, et al, for tirelessly working to ensure that a great time was had by all who attended: and my lovely partner in leather crime, Lady J, and I were quite sorrowed that we had to miss it (due to personal time constraints and unexpected life issues).

Just how does an organizer keep everyone who wishes to come to such events … happy?

This past weekend, Lady J and I ventured out to a long-running event in Toronto called SUBSPACE, held at one of the city’s largest venues, the iconic, old-school Goth emporium known as the Reverb.

We came to hear Angel Trumpets and Devil Trombones … we were, in essence, invited (with apologies to Alex DeLarge of A Clockwork Orange fame)  – and I freely admit to my own reluctance to attend said event, simply because as someone who is regarded as somewhat of a “Defender of the Faith” for “old-school SM types”, I have (in the past) been admittedly somewhat contemptuous and skeptical about the validity of large gatherings of Fetish folk in oh-so-public a venue. However, based on the glowing reports of “good times being had by all” at the Fetish Ball  in the Bay Area weekend last, Lady J and I put on our best leather finery – and ventured out amongst the people to the popular SUBSPACE event. Lady J had a prior commitment, a woman’s only function at the Patricia Marsh House of Domination and Fantasy, and she was admittedly a little tired by the time we actually walked through the main doors to the Reverb.

Well, my Brothers and Sisters and Only True Friends … We had a tremendous time. If there was a ‘downside’ to anything last night, it was only the fact that in the main room (the dance hall), we couldn’t quite hear anything with the enjoyable, but incessant thump, of the lovely music – but that isn’t a complaint. The “eye candy” dancing deliriously on the parquet floor was certainly worth the trade-off of not being able to hear yourself think for a short time. Very much unlike events in Toronto in the past, the percentage of men and women who participated in the festivities took great pains to dress completely en fetische – and it was amazing being able to view the array of assembled revelry and costumery.

The SUBSPACE organizers do a pretty damn good job at hosting a first-rate event, if last night was any indication. Good people … great location … fantastic atmosphere … Really, for a more “social setting” with an SM theme, I daresay there are few (if any) gatherings in Toronto that are so well planned and put together that take the time to cater to everyone – and don’t seem to exist simply for the glorification, nauseating self-aggrandizement of some event’s original organizers (as has been the case especially in “the past”). The atmosphere wasn’t “seedy” or “overtly sexual” at all – and the staff, to a person, we felt were exceptional.

Torture Garden Toronto PosterAn event “for the people by the people” – which is exactly how the Marquis Fetish Ball should be described. SUBSPACE doesn’t pretend to be any kind of “hard core play party” and has never been billed as such: It’s a chance simply for good people to gather in a great space and a great environment – and in that regard, I personally felt the organizers filled that objective with pure and absolute success. The same organizers are bringing the UK’s landmark Torture Garden “franchise” to Toronto at the end of August – and if SUBSPACE is any indication, that event should prove to be a complete Tour de Force and a triumph for the Southern Ontario community in its own right.

SUBSPACEwas a perfect blend of “older and experienced” folk and “excited new explorers”, in our opinion. The dancers had a place to dance; the socializers had a quiet place to talk with old friends and make new ones; and the players had a place to play. That’s rare – especially for Toronto – where the focus in the past has been to cram as many people as possible into a confined, single space seemingly in an effort to simply line an organizer’s pockets with as much “green” as possible.

As mentioned previously, Lady J had been to a private event earlier in the evening and her feet were starting to feel the oppression of stiletto heeled boots and her ribs the unforgiving confinement of a heavy leather, superbly crafted Northbound Leather corset after all: so to the young Lady who graciously gave up her chair for Lady J to be able to rest for a while in the upstairs “socializing room”, I send my personal thanks and extreme, humbled gratitude. Even the best Dominas in the world, and Lady J is certainly in that class, can’t be on her feet in extreme high-heeled boots for eight or more straight hours and not have them start to “tingle” a wee bit, after all – let alone face the nightmare (and every well-corsetted Domina knows this pain) of having to even make the attempt to use the washroom facilities.

Just a microcosmic example of the kind of “class” people exhibited at SUBSPACE last night – and we had an amazing, truly fantastic time. I was personally extremely impressed – and truly believe more event organizers should take the time to make sure that all of their guests feel as warmly welcomed, and comfortable.

Event organizers – especially in Toronto – should pay heed and take a few notes from the excellent organizers that bring SUBSPACE to the anxious fetish crowds who gather in the effort to share like minds. I believe everyone had a fantastic time (I know Lady J and I certainly did) – and we’re looking very forward to renewing acquaintances with new friends at the Torture Garden event at the end of August.

It’s a tough juggling act, trying to keep everyone “happy” – and SUBSPACE at least, performs that particular act very, very well.

SUBSPACE is held at the Reverb in Toronto the last Saturday of every month. More information about SUBSPACE can be accessed through their website.