Andy Welsby and Lorna Cassidy of Hevea: rubber is a way of life

Nothing else has quite the same snug fit over the skin as rubber. That's why Glasgow designers Andy Welsby and Lorna Cassidy of HEVEA are reclaiming their favourite material from the fetish world.

Words: Rory Weller Photograph: Brett Slater

10 rue usr 25 Jul-7 Aug 1997

RUBBER WEAR HAS always been a bit. you know, saucy the property of a fetish scene which thinks gas masks are sexy. Andy Welsby and Lorna Cassidy of llevea. Scotland‘s premier rubber couturier. are doing their best to bring the clothing with bounce out of the dungeons and on to the street.

Their range of . . . ullrl‘ncnls __ gjcun‘g.

shirts. jackets and corsets are based on traditional fashion designs. but just happen to be made of rubber. Their task is to combine the science of creating a garment in an underused fabric with classic tailoring. Already. they have carried otit commissions for design professionals. club promoters and advertising agencies. as well as individuals who want an exclusive. extra-special piece that makes a statement.

The two of them met eight years ago as teenagers studying nursing at the Glasgow

'We're constantly knocking back customers who are asking for maids’ outfits or

dlIdOS.' Andy Welsby

Royal Infirmary, where the ‘tha—wack’ of the latex gloves was possibly an early indication of where their paths might lead in the future. Hailing from KirkintillochtCassidy) and Falkirk (Welsby), each chose nursing as a way out of the small town mentality. but knew that it wasn’t going to be a lifetime career. Both lasted the full three years and left nursing to travel the world and work out what they really wanted to do.

Welsby studied art at Glasgow’s College of Commerce and, between touring round Europe, went to San Diego to set up a free- lance T—shirt design business. Meanwhile, Cassidy had gravitated to Amsterdam and the prestigious Demask rubber studios where she stayed for two years. Welsby joined her half- way through her time there and together they learned the art of designing, sketching, cutting and construction of rubber clothing.

They could have both stayed at Demask, but the lines that the company were putting out were pretty much fetish wear, which wasn‘t the area the duo wanted to stay in. Rubber wear had begun to crossover into fashion territory with designers like Jean Paul Gaultier sending models down the catwalk wearing the material and the duo knew they had the training and the inclination to get a piece of the action.

Returning to Glasgow two years ago. they set up their company. Hevea. placing samples of non-fetish rubber gear in shops round the city to monitor opinion and quickly realised they had made the right decision. They confidently say that no one else in the world makes the clothes the way they do. using specialist materials and adhesives and expanding on the techniques they learned in Amsterdam.

‘lt’s a vibe for the future’. says Cassidy. ‘The flow around the body. how it looks and how it makes people feel. We're using rubber because it‘s a contemporary fabric. it’s exciting. we can do strange things with it.’

She and Welsby reckon that the fabric has become much less taboo lately and they’ve now got access to a regular market. though people still associate rubber designers with fetish wear.

‘We’re constantly knocking back customers who are asking for maids' outfits or catsuits with internal dildos.‘ Welsby complains. ,‘We can do that. but it’s not what we're into, we want to do something we cnjoy.’

Hevea can be contacted at Unit 7, 12 Cook Street, Cookson Estate, Glasgow, 0141 339 3470. The company's catalogue will be published soon.