There's this shop in London called Fettered Pleasures that's an all-encompassing horn paradise for rubber/S & M aficionados. Despite its reputation as the most hardcore fetish shop in London, they don't pump industrial throughout the store, but shitty mid-nineties trance like ATB's "9pm ('till I come)." On the plus side you can test drive all the equipment with your ass or whatever, but remember to cling-film anything you put inside yourself and to clean up afterward with the talcum powder and kitchen towels on hand. I said hi to Andy, the owner.
Vice: Hello Andy. How does it feel owning London's most hardcore fetish store?
Andy: Tame! My lifestyle is very boring. I live in suburbia. I have a Great Dane named Bryn. My life is very, very different from my work.
Would you say the scene is good in London though?
It's a little flat at this time of year, and it's not as big as what it was. Trends change and moods change so there's not as many big parties each year now as say five years ago, which has been largely an effect of the economy. But London is still a very big hub for the whole fetish scene because you've got Eurostar, so a lot of people come over from Europe for the parties as well. We're only two hours away from Paris, so people travel all the time.
You guys at Fettered Pleasures do more than just clothing designs, right?
Yeah, we design clothing, equipment, furniture, dungeons. We've built our business up by reputation and word of mouth. We don't really do very much advertising. At any given time we hold about £100,000 worth of stock on the shop floor and we also do mail order worldwide. We sell internationally as far as Australia, and we send benches and hoods and all sorts of stuff out constantly. Today we've got one order going to Belgium and another to Japan, and that's just an average, typical day.
Fetishism is an expensive hobby. I mean, the revolving wheel is £2,200. Where would someone living in a small city flat store that thing?
That's one of the reasons why we don't do so much furniture anymore. People don't have a spare bedroom now to lock things away in. You tend to find that a lot of people who are into this are family people with children, so they need to be discreet. We have lots of stuff in the shop that can be stored in the bottom of a wardrobe though.
I notice you sell a portable sling frame. Is that collapsible?
Yeah, it has a duffel bag that it literally folds straight down into. You can walk away with it. We even have customers who keep it in the back of their car just in case they get a call.
Making the erotic ergonomic. Can you talk me through rubber bedding?
It's incredibly sensual and a bit sweaty, but rubber sheeting when it's laid flat and warms up feels very much like silk. It's a texture thing and it's also a smell thing. The smell is very, very sexual.
How does fetishism fare in this hyper-vigilant health and safety obsessed world?
We're heavily insured. Touch wood we've never killed anybody.
It must be difficult when the whole point is that most of the equipment is meant to be a bit dangerous.
Everything is dangerous. You could go to B&Q and buy a piece of rope and it could be dangerous. You buy a pond from a garden center and it could be dangerous. It's the same with our equipment, it's no more dangerous than how you use it. Everything we make we put safety features on, including breath restriction devices. It's our priority because a dead customer can't spend money! But generally our clients are serious about this. We're not Ann Summers, so we don't have football lads coming in for a willy warmer. Our customers know what they're doing.
On top of your remarkable health and safety record, you're a winner at the Charity Erotic Awards.
[Andy produces a golden penis with wings glued to it]. We won that for being the most innovative shop. We've also been listed continually in Time Out for the last five years as one of the best general stores in London. Out of one hundred we came in third a couple of years ago, I think Harrods was above us.
You guys should collaborate. How should a newcomer approach your store?
Everyone has different kinks and everyone has different erogenous zones on their bodies. No two people are the same. We have one of the biggest ranges of hoods in the world. At any one time there are 80 leather hoods on display in this shop, and that's just leather. We also do fabric, Lycra, rubber, and Neoprene masks. So that could be a good place to start, but then some people find them claustrophobic. We sell to gay, straight, couples, singles, everyone from the age of 18 to 83 (that was our oldest customer, he just died, sadly). It's a matter of experimentation.
What's a new trend you personally recommend?
Try electrics. Over the last seven or eight years they've really taken off. Once people start getting into electrics they spend a fortune because there are so many different parts of the body you can attach and insert electrodes to. The way electrics can send a pulse into a body can make a person feel like they're being either penetrated or stroked or bumped. It's all about feel and sensuality. A very English thing is caning: there are more people into caning in this country than any other country. I think it's the public school thing, the whole idea of being naughty and getting punished.
So I watched this thing on YouTube where people get turned on by inflating a rubber suit they're wearing. I don't understand that.
It's partly about the sense of air being let in, partly about the pressure on the rubber that's against the skin. It's like a bonding effect. Some call it a second skin, because if you put really tight rubber on it'll feel like it's part of you. If you put lube inside it feels very slippery, it warms up very quickly to the body temperature so it can be a very sensual feeling. With a blow-up hood, it's about the pressure on the face, or the sound effect. Between the two layers of rubber you've got a chamber of pressurized air which magnifies the sound. It's very trippy, like smoking a joint. You get that out-of-body experience.
Why do you think people are afraid of it?
Portrayal, over the years. You only need one piece of news coverage about, say, Max Moseley and the whole Nazi thing and that's it. It's like prostitution: it always has been and always will be deemed a dirty trade, but in reality it's really not. Not everyone wants to do it in the missionary position and then have a quick kiss and then roll over and fall asleep. There's more to sex than three minutes of fun. For example psychodrama with an electric sword is good. The vibrations can actually imitate what it feels like to slice the skin with a blade.
Thank you for my idiot's guide to fetishism.
My pleasure Emily. Thanks for popping in.
WORDS: EMILY FOISTER
PHOTOS: HENRY LANGSTON