JAC LANGHEIM IN LATEX WONDERLAND
A Conversation with Revolutionary Designer JAC LANGHEIM
By Eden Herbstman
Designer Jac Langheim has found the perfect mixture of sexy and daring by using latex as a muse for her clothing line. Langheim has broken the fetish stereotype generally attached to the use of latex, creating two high end collections all made of the material. Her pieces can stand against any other top designer’s collections, but her advantage is the sleek shiny finish to her fashion, completed with her silk treatments. Even if you haven’t encountered Langheim’s latex in person, her designs are a favorite of Lady Gaga. One of her most notable creations was the black and cream crop top the singer wore to the Robin Hood Gala back in May.
With three collections out, Langheim proves she has anything but a limited vision when it comes to fashion. Her first two collections (Fall/Winter 2011 and Spring/Summer 2011) display edginess with an upscale polish. She didn’t play with color, but rather kept the focus on the structure and tailoring of the pieces. From this collection, Langheim displayed motorcycle-inspired jackets, a full length coat with a double color, sexy yet elegant black jumpers, and strapless cocktail dresses. The Spring/Summer 2012 collection consisted of a different look entirely. Still keeping an upscale integrity, the collection had a flirty girl twist using bold and bright colors, and mixing baby doll dresses, pencil skirts, elegant gowns, and a pair of high-waisted shorts. She also expanded to menswear, creating tuxedo and pant options, including men in her latex vision. With a mastery of both men’s and women’s apparel, Langheim is a designer that is redefining the rules of high class couture.
Eden Herbstman: We think your use of latex in high end sophisticated fashion is revolutionary, how did you decide latex would be your primary design medium?
Jac Langheim: Designing, and my decision to work with latex go hand and hand. Years ago I tried a latex dress on whim, and was blown away that something so tight and shiny could be so flattering on my curvy figure. I wasn’t crazy about that specific dress, but I loved how how my shape looked, and more importantly how I felt while wearing it. I remember going on a mission to find latex clothing that I wanted to wear out. I started designing, at first out of necessity, because what I wanted didn’t exist. I continue to include latex in my work for a few reasons. Firstly, because I’m constantly perplexed and challenged by working with rubber, as its temperamental and can be complicated. I love to experiment and tinker, and I feel that with latex there is a lot of unchartered territory. But, the most powerful and motivating experiences I have had, are when I see how happy I can make someone through something I’ve created. I love when women come into my studio and put on their first latex dress, or pants, it’s incredible. They stand taller, walk stronger, prance around, and smile at themselves in the mirror. There is nothing better than helping someone love themselves more.
EH: What is your favorite creation you have made for Lady Gaga?
JL: Designing for Lady Gaga is always a blast. I think my favorite is the first jacket I made for her for the Robin Hood Gala. Her stylists basically asked me to make something amazing for her, in black. After showing a few sketches, they immediately asked for costumes for the back-up dancers and singers. It was the biggest order I had ever received, and I didn’t have the staff at the time to really fill it. I host craft nights every once in a while with my more creative friends, and I often teach them how to work with latex. So I called everyone I knew that could cut a straight line, and they called everyone they knew that could cut a straight line. We had a few nights of round-the-clock construction to fill the order. It was such an amazing group of people, and the energy that was shared in my studio is something I will always treasure.
EH: What emotion do you want to evoke in women who wear your clothing?
JL: For me, becoming a woman has been about giving myself the permission to be powerful, and to find femininity in my strength. When women wear my clothing I want them to feel unafraid to be bold. I want them to feel present, grounded, and beautiful. A very good friend told me years ago that I must love myself first, and fiercely, because no one should love me more than I love myself. That was one of the greatest gifts I ever received. With my designs I want to inspire women to love themselves the most. I want them to permit themselves to be powerful, and to feel strong in their femininity. I want them to forgo feigned modesty, and to be unabashedly proud to take up space and exist.
EH: Would you say that you have a fetish with latex? If not, do you have any fetishes you are willing to share?
JL: Miriam Webster defines a fetish as an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression. I don’t feel I need latex to feel sexually complete, so I wouldn’t say I have a latex fetish. I don’t think I have any true fetishes. I would, however, say that I am currently having a love affair with latex. My other current love affairs include pink tutus, Cuban heeled stockings, and bossing boys around.
EH: You emphasize that your clothing goes through a silk process to achieve a lubricated wet look, can you describe this process and its importance to your designs?
JL: My silk treatment is actually about eliminating the need for lube. Previously, my rubber clothing required a dressing aid, either powder or silicon lubricant. For tighter garments you would have to lube the garment, lube your body, and then slip into the piece. This whole process can be really fun, but it can also be a hassle. For my clients, it limited where they could try on or wear a garment, not everyone is going to carry a bottle of lube around with them. For me, as a designer, it limited what other fabrics I could combine with rubber. Silk and lube are not friends. So I did some research and reached out to the latex community. With some help we perfected a chemical bath that when finished garments are washed in, the molecular surface of the rubber turns silk smooth. For my clients it means they can put on their latex easily and without any dressing aid. Also, the treatment rubber is much more stain resistant, and doesn’t smell like a tire. For me, it’s given me so much more flexibility in my designs.
EH: Is there a particular revolutionary look or moment in the history of fashion that is most memorable for you, or inspires you?
JL: I’m fascinated by the 20s. There was exploration in creating new fabrics, and things such as zippers and snaps. I tend to be a bit more feminine in silhouette than what was popular in the 20s. But I loved that women said enough with having to wear confining corsets, and desired fashion that supported their increasingly active lifestyle. Women began wearing trousers, cutting their hair–they sought freedom in their fashion.
EH: If you could design for any client, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
JL: Katherine Hepburn. I think she is painfully beautiful. I love that she was quite masculine in her personal style. I’m a dress and skirt sort of girl, but I can think of nothing more feminine than Katherine Hepburn in a pair of trousers. When I look at photos, her quirkiness captivates me. She appears so strong, and confident, and a bit silly. I love silliness.
EH: Can you tell us anything about upcoming pieces you are working on?
JL: I’ve been quite obsessed with mixing rubber with other fabrics. For next season I’m experimenting with how far I can push that. I’m also putting a lot of focus on the internal structures of jackets, and capes. I’m loving deep reds and pumpkin for colors, and any fibers that feel snuggly against the cheek.
Jac Langheim is a designer that specializes in using latex in her designs.
Jac Langheim interviewed by Eden Herbstman
Written by Eden Herbstman
Photography by Hadar Pitchon
Design by Clementine Jang
Jac Langheim, 2011, Photography by Hadar Pitchon