Why The Leather Community Is Cautiously Optimistic About Fashion’s Fetish Moment

Last week, Comme des Garçons teamed up with Vetements on a limited-edition capsule collection of sweaters. Teased on Instagram, the “gay, lesbian, and fetish” range was sold as a Dover Street Market exclusive with the “fetish” design selling out online shortly after launch. The piece, priced at $620, nodded to a very specific community.

In 1989 Tony DeBlase, founder of the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago and publisher of Drummer magazine debuted a flag design for the leather community at the International Mr. Leather competition. (The leather community places an erotic emphasis on leather garments — including vests, chaps, and caps — which also serve as signifiers of their subculture and sexual practices.) Replete with nine stripes of black, blue, and white with a heart in the upper lefthand corner, DeBlase’s flag went on to represent the entire leather community — not just the queer leather community — and is still featured prominently at popular leather events like the Folsom Street fairs. Now, that design has been turned into a CDG sweater. But this latest coveted piece is just one part of fashion’s complicated relationship with the leather community.

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