[Q1]: Please introduce yourself.
Beth: I’m Beth Parkin, a latex garment manufacturer and pattern cutter in the UK. I work with fashion brands in the UK and some in the US as well.
Tasha: OK beautiful, I’m definitely excited to learn more about latex — I wear a lot but I know nothing about it. I’m sure a lot of people fall into that circle, right?
[Q2]: Where are you based, what companies do you work with, and how long have you been designing latex clothing?
Beth: I’m based in England in a city called Derby, my most longstanding relationship is with Yummy Gummy Latex– shout out to Rebecca. I’m also working with my friend Richard from Dash Latex who is starting a brand up, The Latex Store in the US and other bits and bobs as they happen, but my main relationship is with Yummy Gummy. I first began experimenting with designing latex clothing when I was in college so that’ll be 11 years ago now, but I’ve been working with latex professionally for about 7 years.
Tasha: I didn’t know that companies continuously hire designers, tell me a little more about what that path is like?
Beth: Well, it’s a new path for me as well, because when I left university in 2013, I went to work for a rubber company in Nottingham (Invincible Rubber) full time. And then I was with Latex 101 in Scotland. It’s only this past year that I’ve become self employed, so I work with lots of different people – its interesting working with others. I think because in the latex industry there are a lot of very small brands, people tend to hire more freelancers instead of employing full time staff.
[Q3]: I’m assuming you started in fashion or something arts-related in university. What drew you to working with latex and/or the kink community?
Beth: Yes I did a degree in Contour Fashion (lingerie, corsetry and swimwear design) at De Montfort University. And one of the things that drew me to working with latex, well I was a teenage Goth…
Tasha: Yes! I was hoping you would say that! Yes, thank God!
Beth: So I was into PVC and corsetry and all that stuff. I was a massive fan of Marilyn Manson and obviously he was married to Dita Von Teese – I loved all of her fetish imagery. And there was a magazine called Bizarre Magazine – I don’t know whether you had it in the US but it was quite big in the UK and they had a lot of gorgeous alternative models wearing latex, and I thought, “this is what I want to do”.
Tasha: It’s funny that you would say Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese, because these are people whom I still remember what they wore to the VMA’s in 1999. Thinking about it now, it’s really important for people– particularly very talented or artistic people –to step into these industries because they become inspiration for hundreds of thousands of people.
Beth: Yes! The people I follow on social media are so inspiring, it’s amazing to see some of the smaller designers…it’s really interesting that we get to see what they’re doing behind the scenes, which we wouldn’t really have been able to see so much of before social media.
[Q4]: If someone is interested in exploring their attraction to latex clothing or culture, where would you recommend they start?
Beth: Well, obviously social media is a great place to start learning about these sort of things. It depends on what their primary interest is, but I would always recommend investing in a classic, simple piece of latex that not’s going to break the bank. My first piece was a boobtube dress from Honour, and I’ve still got that. So something simple that’s not too scary. Then try to find an event, find some like-minded people, make some friends. But I know that can be difficult for people who live in smaller towns, so that’s what the internet is for!
Tasha: I love what you said about events. I met Rebecca, [your collaborator] from Yummy Gummy last year at the German Fetish Ball. I was stunned at the latex that I was seeing there. You guys are doing way more than any US brand, I’ll be honest.
Beth: Yes, Rebecca is amazing, I don’t know how she does it, she’s very clever!
Tasha: You guys make an incredible team. How long have you been working together, because you said this is primarily where we can find your designs, at Yummy Gummy Latex?
Beth: Well, I started working with her when I was in Scotland working for Latex 101. So she would come to the workshop and bring her design sketches, and she and I would work together to make the patterns, sample the pieces and fit test them. Then she would go away, I would grade them all into different sizes, and then we at Latex 101 would make the garments for her. And that would have started about five years ago and we’ve carried that relationship on now that I’m self employed. So she brings the designs to me and I make the patterns and the garments.
Tasha: Wow, so it sounds like a very collaborative relationship. It sounds like latex, unlike any other material, is very hands-on.
Beth: Oh yes, some of the big firms use some machinery, but Rebecca hand-pours all the latex sheeting and I hand make all of the garments. [It’s] very hands-on [and] labor intensive.
[Q5]: Have you ever done anything kinky with your latex?
Beth: Haha, I’m really quite boring, I’m not that kinky.
Tasha: What? No!
Beth: I am naughty when I’m making things for other people. I’ve made plenty of strap-ons, ball-stretchers…
Tasha: You designed my strap-on, I mean you didn’t know it but you
Beth: Well that would have been Rebecca who designed your strap on, but yes I do make them for her now…I’m innocent and pure!
Tasha: I was having a conversation with my videographer about this; you can probably weigh in on; I think that everybody loves the look of latex. That being said, I think you have to be a latex person to get the body bag, cat suits, mitts, inflatables, etc—to really enjoy and have fun with latex. You have to be, like a rubber fetishist, and I don’t think that that’s every single person that buys latex.
Beth: Yes definitely! I’m more on the fashion, the aesthetic side of things. I understand why people like all the heavy bondage but it seems like a lot of effort to me.
[Q5:] What would you say is the inspiration for your pieces?
Beth: Most of the time when I’m making things it’s for brands, or I do custom orders for customers, so I’m working towards their vision. But if I’m researching for myself, I gravitate towards catwalk. I’ve got inspiration boards full of Alexander McQueen, and Gareth Pugh.
Tasha: I can definitely see a runway aesthetic in the pieces you produce. Beth recently made a custom latex outfit for a shoot we collaborated on together, “Afro-Futurist”. It was inspired by a haute couture look Zoe Kravitz did for Complex magazine a couple of years ago.
[Q6]: Are there any projects that you’re excited about now or anything we should stay on the lookout for?
Beth: We have a couple of things coming up together – the catwoman themed shoot, and then we’ve got the neon futuristic shoot which is going to be really fun. I mean I love black latex, but it’s going to be nice doing something colourful.
Tasha: Yeah, you taught me to love black latex. I never bought black latex before.
[Q7]: Lastly, so people can stay in touch with your work, please tell us your website, social media handle and any relevant links.
Beth: You can find me on Instagram @parkin.beth, and on twitter @parkinbeth. I have just built a website which you can find at www.bethparkin.com
Tasha: I would love for you all to buy more pieces from Beth Parkin. She’s a star!
Beth: Thank you so much!