Westward Bound - Commissioned Work
Client: Paul Mitchell International, Century City, Los Angeles, California. USA
Wardrobe: Design and construction - Westward Bound, Plymouth, Devon. UK
Ballet in memory of Vidal Sassoon and Paul Mitchell.
The ballet toured globally. This video was shot live in front of a full house of over 5,000 people at The Royal Albert Hall, London. UK
We are not a simple clothing brand, the origins and concepts of Westward Bound are culturally rich and diverse.
We evolved from a mix of London's punk explosion and the Soho, London underground clubland movements of the late 1970's and early 1980's. Indeed, we were lovingly referred to as "the dark side of the New Romantics," a tag we took as a fabulous compliment and a reflection of our love for a party, with an edge.
The accompanying photo montage is a simple snapshot and homage to the beautiful party people, whose outgoing spirit and delicious company proved to be an infectious and creative heartbeat.
Graham Smith and Chris Sullivan's "We Can Be Heroes - (Punks, poseurs, peacocks and people of a particular persuasion) - London Clubland 1976-84." is the definitive book on the period. It has become a classic and justifiably, a culturally-iconic work in its own right.
We were thrilled by the mention given to us within its pages and by the fact it became a featured work within the David Bowie retrospective at the V&A in London.
Special thanks for use of images: Graham Smith, Derek Ridgers, Ash Tyrrell, Martin Vintner-Jackson, Paul Sturridge, Peter Ashworth, and David Johnson.
"Der Putsch was the best club in the world and the most exciting place to go in London in the late 1980s". Reprobate Press, London, 2019.
On the back of a London full of life and creative energy, a youthful and exuberant hedonist spirit naturally fell into the deeper underbelly of subcultural experience. In 1983, with a solid pedigree in partying behind us, we created Der Putsch, the trail-blazing London based leather and latex fetish club.
"Despite being one of the most secretive clubs in London ... Der Putsch is increasingly being acknowledged as the place to go ... it may be in a dimly-lit club or wine bar or on a riverboat (its most prestigious past venue is probably New York's Danceteria)". City Limits Magazine, London, 1985.
The images in the original flyers and membership card were courtesy of the late John Sutcliffe of AtomAge. *1 Via a chance encounter in Dryden Street, Covent Garden, London in 1982, John had become a personal friend of our founder, the 21 year old Steve Beech. Sutcliffe was a legendary figure who had been involved in leather wear since 1957, and rubber couture since 1967. His work attracted the interest of such contemporaries as Marianne Faithful, Allen Jones and Stanley Kubrick. It certainly caught Steve's eye when he used to pop into the AtomAge workshop in Covent Garden for coffee and a chat with John, and his assistant Debbie Pickford.
John passed in 1987, and remains a largely unsung hero of British fashion design and garment construction. His work was the baseline for Vivienne Westward and Malcolm McLaren's Kings Road shop, under the brand Sex, 1974 -1976, later Seditionaries. A concept that spun its own infamy and nihilistic chic.
John Sutcliffe was a polite, gentle and well-spoken gentlemen. He was an interesting character, enormously charming and a positive influence in the early ideas/concepts and etiquette behind Westward Bound.
The text on our first flyer, although out of context, fitted the need. It was lifted directly from the art and literature critic Mario Praz's *3 appraisal of Gustave Moreau. Praz had died in 1982, his quotes were part of the air we breathed in 1983. I guess we were a tad pretentious, but well meaning. :)
The art style of our Der Putsch flyers was casual and immediate to purpose. To our pleasant surprise, the party invites have become serious collector's items. The design concept fitted the feel and adventure that we were embarking upon. Overnight, we became a core and influential part of the London underground subculture of the 1980s. The city was, at that moment, unknowingly living through what can be termed a genuine "outsiders as insiders"*2 moment.
The Der Putsch club nights were evocative of the spirit of Berlin in the Weimar. The name of the events being a direct homage-jolt, and firmly playing upon the subversive/degenerate art side of the 1919-33 cultural legacy.
The venture became the focus of a successful hedonistic-zeitgeist, and an influence for the wider fetish party scene with events such as Club Submission and Torture Garden, that erupted around us; each spinning their own interpretations and adding to the mix. "The game changer! I am very proud to have been part of London's finest inspirational Fetish experience." Rubber Ron, DJ at Der Putsch, 1984-1988; creator of Club Submission, London.
The Der Putsch "parties were legendary, setting the style for the London fetish scene that followed". Marquis Magazine. 2008.
By the time the music stopped for Der Putsch in 1993, we had already morphed the concepts into Westward Bound. We were busy playing Dungeons and Dominatrixes in Cornwall, as well as becoming increasingly entrenched within the developing stages of the company as it stands today.
On the back of our nightlife ventures, in 1987, we had already established Westward Bound in Launceston, Cornwall as the tongue-in-cheek name of the world's first Bed, Breakfast and Dungeon facility. The name stuck.
This unique venture caught the attention of the global media. In 1991, we consequently erupted onto the screens of over nine million television viewers, with the iconic cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe in Scarfe on Sex; a BBC documentary exploring different aspects of desire. Worldwide television and magazine appearances followed, with coverage as diverse as i-D magazine, The Radio Times and the South African Argus. This early mass exposure secured our place as "belle of the ball". It gave us the perfect platform for further creative and avant-garde fun.
By 1992, we had become "the most exclusive fetish organisation in the UK". Time Out Magazine, London. A position we still hold today.
Photos: Our first clothing designs, 1984-1985: Der Putsch T. Shirts (limited editions of 100), each signed by the artist, including Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV infamy. Worn by the lovely Martin Gore of Depeche Mode.
Book Covers/References: *1 Jonny Trunk - Dressing for Pleasure. The Best of AtomAge 1972 -1980. Published, 2010. *2 Peter Gay - Weimar Culture, The Outsider as Insider. Published, 1968. *3 Mario Praz - The Romantic Agony. Published, 1933.
Our first two catalogues. The Connoisseur Collection, 1992. The Mini Connoisseur Collection, 1993. It could be argued that the influence of our unique holiday concept was slightly visible.
Shot over a week, on location in a country house in Devon. It felt more like a house party, great fun. It was a adventure in harnessing ideas and looks. The Kinky Clothing Collection, 1994.
The gradual shift to becoming specialists in rubber/latex clothing was taking shape. Strictly Rubber, 1998. The transition towards a softer presentation, Lust for Latex, 2001.
Given the extensive and crafted-publicity we gleaned from the Bed, Breakfast and Dungeon adventure, the decision to start a specialist mail order company was made under the Westward Bound brand in 1992.
A year later, we opted to cease the London-based fetish event Der Putsch and its smaller sister, Madame Venus, in order to concentrate fully on the potentially larger venture: Westward Bound.
By the mid-1990s, our concentration was gaining a heightened focus on clothing and design. Steve's friend Sarah O'Reilly joined the company as a designer in May 1995, Sarah's influence shifted the focus with a push for a wider audience via high street retail. Consequently, a shop emerged in The Barbican, Plymouth in November 1995, to give a more public face to the brand. The trajectory was firmly moving towards latex couture.
We relaunched our Der Putsch club nights as Westward Bound and continued the party spirit in Plymouth. These parties proved an instant hit, our events were sold out and excellent fun, with guests from across Europe in attendance. Party dates were manic in the shop with queues outside the door. A selection of contemporary party flyers are shown below, including our 2008, 25th Anniversary homage to the artist Jamie Reid.
A pioneering website was set up in 1997, it stands independent and proud today. The dungeon facility was closed by 2001, we moved forwards and focused our efforts on the designing and manufacture of tailored latex clothing.
In January 2013, we took the decision to cease operating our retail store due to the wider structural shift in sales from the high street to the Internet. We were very proud of this venture, after 18 years of fun we were sorry to see it go. Suffice to say that time moves on, and we moved with it.
As we closed the doors to the shop, we simultaneously decided to stop, after 29 years, running the parties. The two had become inextricably conjoined.
Of course, this is all ancient history but it gives you the outline narrative of a journey that reflects a spirit of adventure, originality, vision, and style.
Main Photograph: Westward Bound's shop in Plymouth Devon. UK. 2011. Photography by Alex Christaki.
A snippit selection of our party flyers from the period.
This was a pleasant surprise for us. With our Creative Director, Sarah Beech, née O'Reilly, coming from Cork in Ireland, there was an immediate glow of euphoria and Irish pride in seeing her designs on the legendary Sinéad O'Connor. We hold a long-term admiration of Sinéad as an artist and as a human being.
To quote Sinéad O'Connor, the use of Westward Bound's Bordelle-L'Amour Latex Rose Dress on her new album cover, was intended to show that you can 'still be sexy with lots of clothes on'. The Observer Newspaper, Sunday 27 July 2014.
Sinéad had purchased five dresses from us, specifically for this shoot with the photographer Donal Moloney in Dublin, Ireland.
We were totally unaware of the situation until the album was released.
The choice of looking sexy with clothes on was part of a wider response to Miley Cyrus's video for her single Wrecking Ball. O’Connor felt that Cyrus was being objectified, and was the victim of an exploitative, male-dominated music industry.
The album title was taken from a term coined by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. It was used to demonstrate how bossy is used as a common and demeaning adjective for women, whilst boss is used for men.
The point being about engendering self-confidence and equality.
Inset image. Sinéad in our Trixi Latex Dress for what became the single taken from the album, Take Me to Church.
"It is a testament to the drive and vision of Westward Bound, that more than 30 years since London clubs swung to the snap of cat o'nines and pulse-pumping electro beats, the company rides high as one of the leading design labels, with the majority of sales flying beyond their base in Europe." Von Gutenberg Magazine, CA, USA.
"One of the UK's - perhaps the world's - most successful fetish businesses" TheFetishistas, London.
Our endeavours and kudos have enabled Westward Bound to grow in a considered, evolutionary manner to become a trusted international designer and supplier of luxurious latex garments. Our clothing is admired and worn throughout the globe as being amongst the finest there is.
Successive generations of those who like to dress for pleasure, as well as club revellers and party-goers, have appreciated the traditions of design, craft, quality, originality, and service we offer.
It is this provenance and integrity, as the inheritors of the artisan, that makes owning a "Westward Bound" essential for the true cognoscenti of desire-couture.
To quote William Morris, we are committed to "the desire to produce beautiful things". As such, we are the embodiment of the "Arts and Crafts" movement when applied to the creation of clothing. We remain culturally and artistically bohemian.
One aspect of our work that brings an added sparkle to the eyes is the international aspect of our creations and their photographic representation. We work alongside some wonderfully creative individuals, a small gallery representation of their work is shown here.
Latex à la mode. Amy Model is the epitome of elegance and sophistication in our Brunelleschi Latex Dress in this classic photograph by Olivier Lannes of OL4N Photography in Nantes, France. 2015.
As part of our art for arts sake (l’art pour l’art) philosophy of being, we love this shot by Same Source in Los Angeles, California, the United States. The Mammoth Hunters premiered in October 2021 at Gallery 826, Los Angeles, CA. Models: Rubber Dahlia, Daisi Jo, Cat Schrödinger, An Li, and Jet Black.
Mammoth sculpture by Ricardo Breceda.
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California. USA.
Maika Kamisusaki at the Ameyoko Market, Ueno, Tokyo, Japan.
Photography by Michaël Nambu.
Hair and Makeup: Chiaki Hino. ラテックス服デザイン Westward Bound.
Please refer to our Journal for full details.
Rack Framboise in the mountains of Bugarach, France by Nath-Sakura, international photographer.
This stunning image and the photo shoot appeared across the French national press and television networks. See Video.
Modèle: Rack Framboise Nelly, habillée des créations de Westward Bound... Pari réussi. — avec Laika de N, L'équipe Web Nath-Sakura, Studio Coiffure Montpellier, Nathalie Nouth II, Irrésistible Tao, Eddy Martin.
A self-portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1764/65) sits harmoniously adjacent to images of our garments, commissioned and photographed for The Cottonian Collection, The Box Museum, Plymouth. Please refer to our Journal for full details.