Whips and flails and leather-clad females: that is the stuff that Ilya Fleet, Ukranian born saddle-maker turned high-end bondage fashion don, is made of. Those two words, 'bondage fashion', are quite tricky when placed together: immediately they conjure up images of cheap PVC thigh highs, Lucite heels, factory-made corsetry and terrible long wigs. But Ilya Fleet is not about that. As well as his main line, Fleet Ilya, he has a kind of second line, which is conveniently called Restraint. Convenient because restraint is the best word to describe what he does and how he does it. Not just restraint in a kinky sense, but restraint in the sense of authority, austerity and the elegance of refusal; restraint in terms of control of his working practices and his raw ingredients. Working with leather has taken him, he reckons, "somewhere beyond just knowing and understanding the materials, somewhere. further than most people will get to. When he's making leather obey his will he feels he is in complete command. "For me it's the finest way to celebrate my skill," he claims. Like a writer does with a piece of paper.
Leather is my ultimate piece of paper." However, a level of discipline and taste doesn't negate a desire to get down and dirty with the task in (bound) hand: the Restraint line is pure of form and debauched of function, and in the collections there are all of the paddles and collars and reigns. and shackles that you might expect to see in any bondage armoury. However, unlike the wares you might find in a seedy Soho sex shop, Restraint is all handcrafted in London: the leather is the finest saddle leather in the world, hardware and leashes are gold plated, and nothing leaves the studio without meeting Fleet's strict standards of quality control. 'My pieces are absolutely new, they're inspired by today and contradict the lives we lead because nearly everything we buy is produced elsewhere.
Luxury should be made here."
Fleet works in partnership with his wife and creative director, Resha Sharma, a graphic design graduate of St Martins who is responsible for pushing the brand into fashion territory. But it's not really fashion that drives them: it's their very real bond over bondage. Fleet's early relationships, to put it politely, didn't follow the pattern of most people's nascent sexual explorations; by the time he came to meet Resha he had already developed the idea of being a craftsman catering to a very specialised taste. 'I set out to find like-minded people and an industry with whom I shared similar fantasies,' he says. 'I just hoped to come close to the ideas and desires of those people. Luckily, Resha is one of them. For some people it's a lifestyle, and for others it's just an element their lives," she says. 'It definitely can be very deep-rooted."
"If I have an idea of something I want todo to myself, Fleet continues, "I make the thing I can do it with and use it. And we always ask our friends for their ideas and opinions. All we want our pieces to do is fulfil people's fantasies.
Text LEWIS CHONG
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