The cure for clichéd fetish latex wear? Jennifer Santala from Antidote London Latex thinks so.
According to Antidote founder and designer Jennifer, this exciting new brand offers a potent combination of fetish, fantasy, and theatre. Where do we sign up?!
BRIAN GRAY: First of all Jennifer, what motivated you to create Antidote? What was your own background before this?
JENNIFER SANTALA: It came ultimately out of frustration that I couldn’t really get a latex item to fit correctly and I couldn’t really afford to use a made-to-measure service. I would consider myself quite a standard size but having owned latex clothes for ten years I just found that whatever I bought just wasn’t quite right; there was always something I wanted to change or adjust. So that’s how it started, with me trying to adjust outfits I had bought from other brands, learning how to glue latex and finding out how to work and manipulate the material.
My background and interest in fashion spans from taking a Fashion Design course at college in Manchester which led to me studying Theatre Design at Central St Martins in London. This course allowed me think more about characters and how to portray characteristics and attributes through the medium of costume design.
Antidote is a relatively new brand. How is it going so far? At what stage is it taking over your life? Is it a part-time enterprise just now or is this now your sole focus?
I am very happy with the way things have developed in the last year. I’m focused on creating new products for my Etsy page as well as investing in professional images to market my brand online and at events. Antidote is a very new brand and I have only been selling items online for just under a year but it’s slowly getting to a great place where I’m able to take on more orders and increase my custom work as well.
As this is only currently a part-time venture it means that time is limited so the days are long with me working late into the night to fulfil orders and make items for photo shoots abroad, but this is what strives me to achieve my dream of making this my full-time occupation. It can be hard and sometimes I feel I’m pushing myself to my limit but at the same time I don’t expect this to be an easy ride and I can be a very determined when I put my mind to it. I see this more as my chance to be creative and soon hopefully I can make this become my full-time focus.
How did you decide upon the name Antidote? And what naming process did you undertake to arrive at this?
Antidote was exactly that: a cure, my cure, for the everyday and mundane. It’s ultimately my escape from the daily grind and a creative outlet for me to explore all my crazy costume ideas. If it means that to me then hopefully it can mean that to others too that wear my designs? I feel the quality and theatrics of the outfits really stand out as being something that’s not just a nice outfit but elevates the wearer into a “whole new you”. If you think of this in loose terms this could in fact be a remedy of sorts. It’s my chance to explore my creativity and the escapism that can bring to both designer and wearer.
I also wanted a name that wasn’t so obviously a fetish brand. I tend to hate all the obvious adjectives that most use to describe the fetish world and I wanted to steer clear of being too apparent or obvious.
The name Antidote suggests drama and although the word is more of a positive it comes from the existence of a negative. Some people like the name, others hate it but I would rather the name provoked a reaction, any reaction rather than none at all…
And what do you see as the brand vision and brand essence of Antidote Latex?
Every day I am inspired to make and create new latex wear and I want to expand on making a greater portfolio of work that will also include menswear eventually. I feel that there is a huge gap in the market for more interesting outfits and I feel men really don’t have too much choice. I feel the very essence of the brand is creativity on a theatrical scale and the vision to create a work of art rather than just a basic latex lingerie set. I think fluidity is also at the heart of Antidote as my customers are also hugely creative and sometimes come forward with ideas they want to see realised. I want Antidote to be fluid with its creativity so it had room to grow naturally and organically. I feel character is key as it’s more about empowering the individual not the collective. It has never been about selling in volume and turning over a huge profit; it’s more about the vision and the spectacle that ensues…
What defines your typical Antidote customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
My typical customers I would say are partygoers, performers and exceptionally creative individuals who are also highly involved in the fetish scene, who wants to get more of a custom experience without paying the world for it. They know what they want and are not afraid to ask for a design to be tailored to suit their individual needs. They want outfits that stand out from the crowd and will untimely transform them into their fantasy vision for all to appreciate. Although they are predominantly women as I don’t have any listed items for men as yet, I often deal with men as they want to surprise their partner/lover with something special.
As the brand is very new I wouldn’t know how my customers would describe it exactly but I would hope that they see the theatrics of the costumes and how much I love playing with historical designs and bringing them into the 21st century.
Taking this into account my 3 words would probably be:
Fantasy, Fetish, Theatre
A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
I think the word has to be ‘Custom’.
Right from taking my very first order I was adamant on not making any outfit to a standard size i.e. Size 8, 10, 12, 14. I feel this is an old way of working and will untimely leave my customers in the same position I was in by getting garments that don’t fit correctly. Antidote was created to make bespoke garments for the individual, not to stock outfits for the masses. As I hand-make the items from scratch, it doesn’t take a huge amount more time to make the garment specifically to fit the customer’s measurements. It’s a win/win situation as the customer will be happy with the item and it will show off my work to its full potential.
Moreover I have always seen the brand more in terms of creating full costumes rather than just selling individual pieces. The work has theatrical elements to it and historical influences and these are not things that ultimately translate on a mass production scale – it’s custom shop. I want to make the person wearing my costumes not only feel like their fantasy has come true but truly standout from the standard black latex outfits flooding the fetish scene. I think if a customer wanted custom work then Antidote should be high in their ratings plus I personally find custom work more challenging and hugely rewarding. It pushes me to my very limit and in the process keeps me developing and refining my skills along the way…
Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
Marketing is not my strong point. My only real marketing tool is through Instagram which I feel is a great shopfront for my brand. That way people from around the world can follow my story and get updates on new designs. Although online marketing attracts vast quantities of people, sometimes I feel this is not necessary regarding my target market. Having only 40% of the customers following my work being women and only selling women’s wear currently, I think perhaps the models are attracting them more than the actual designs…
I honestly feel the best and most successful method of marketing (one that most forget) is word of mouth and actually interacting with prospective clients at fetish events. Nowhere else would you be able to walk into a room and meet a thousand people who are interested in the fetish scene and should also be interested in your work. Plus this way is more fun too. When I go out to these events I am my own marketing tool (as is my husband when he attends too) and through showcasing my work in the environment it was made for is truly priceless. Most of my best projects have to come to light this way…
Your designs have been modelled by some well-known figures in the fetish scene, such as Dani Divine. To what extent do you think this has helped in terms of both raising awareness and in subsequent sales?
It has made an incredible difference to have such a well-loved and high-profile figure modelling my designs. It brings a whole new level of interest that I am very thankful for. Despite working for a photography studio I was pretty late in investing in professional images, perhaps as it’s something I do deal with on a daily basis. I was more shocked than anyone when she put herself forward for the shoot and I am even more pleased with the end result and how well received the images have been. Dani Divine and Zara Du Rose are probably as high-profile as you can get within the fetish scene and it was thrilling to have their support and creativity on these shoots. They were and still are my ultimate target customer.
After Zara modelled for one of my shoots last month, she has since invited me to present a latex collection at her next event which I am incredibly excited about! A catwalk showcase has always been such a huge dream and goal of mine and I’m so incredibly grateful for such an immense opportunity. This catwalk show will be the high point of my journey so far.
If you could get another adult brand (whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products, BDSM equipment or other) involved in a joint marketing campaign or event with yourself, who would it be and why?
As you might be able to tell from my images, I’m really into props! These aren’t just for the shoots: I feel they add as an extension to the costumes and characters and I would love to work with a brand that makes unusual bondage equipment. A brand like Fraulein Kink or domestique, they seem to have a different take on bondage accessories and have more of a storytelling feel to them. I guess it all comes down to theatrics again and any designer of sex toys or BDSM equipment who also feature these elements would always appeal to me.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given or read somewhere, and from who?
I’m currently working my way through “How to Start a Creative Business” by Doug Richards which is a must read for any entrepreneur who wants to start a creative enterprise. It’s a lifeline for anyone seeking new ideas on how to expand your business and takes you through everything step by step without the business talk. If you haven’t read it then this should be on your next present list.
The best business advice I can quote is a quote I read years ago from Richard Branson:
“The best businesses come from people’s bad personal experiences. If you just keep your eyes open, you’re going to find something that frustrates you, and then you think, ‘well I could maybe do it better than it’s being done,’ and there you have a business.”
This is ultimately how Antidote was born and I think it would be true of many other businesses too.
Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
I maximise my time mainly by being organised, prioritising my workload and taking Sundays off. I feel that I need to be at my best when I’m constructing latex and if I’m tired or ill then the work will not be as good. You need to give yourself at least some time off to make sure you’re working to a high standard. This way you work faster and more efficiently.
And what do the next twelve months hold in store for Antidote?
I hope to really start to take on a higher volume of custom orders and also releasing more items for sale on my Etsy page. Currently I only really have my most basic items listed and so I want to make sure that I include a few more customised items to highlight my main focus on bespoke work and more menswear as well. The catwalk show for Zara Du Rose is also going to be an exciting project and the chance to collaborate with Hippy Poppins who is an amazing headdress designer.
I really can’t wait to see how it all turns out! Watch this space…
Thank you Jenny for such an insightful and honest glimpse into the world of Antidote!
Salivating over Jennifer’s creations? Not surprising. Head over to the Antidote London Latex Esty shop and say hello on Instagram.
(but do come back afterwards to read all the other #sexySME interviews!)
ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING / EVENTS SECTORS?
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Until next time!