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Making Latex Clothing Is Way More Complicated Than It Looks

Designer Kirsten Li explains the finicky fabric.

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Rubber isn’t a material you’d typically describe as “delicate and sensual.” But designer Kirsten Li is innovating with latex, taking a fabric typically associated with BDSM and the kink community and turning it into high-end creations.

It’s not as easy as people might assume. “It’s kind of a fickle material,” she says. Synthetic latex can be made through a chemical process, but latex is naturally occurring, originating as sap from rubber trees. It’s harvested in a process similar to that for maple syrup.

That makes it a “green” material, but also a biodegradable one that doesn’t necessarily hold up the way people expect. “Oils disintegrate it. Metals will stain it. Sunlight will chalk it,” says Li. “As latex [garments] age, they get gummier and gummier, and they will eventually turn back to sap.”

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