Supporting businesses and organisations owned and run by people of colour is another way to encourage diversity and representation in our scene and wider society. When we were putting this issue together, Spitfire leather was the first in mind to have a chat with. Spitfire specialises in making leather fetish lifestyle clothing that stands apart from the traditional. They like to push the boundaries of style and use of colours. Nhamo, the creator states that the only limits of their creativity is the imagination of the designers and customers.
You have some unique designs when it comes to leather gear, what's your inspiration?
I have always liked fashion and I take my inspiration from everywhere. My designs are the output of my emotions, desires and passions. My work is an incarnation of who I was, who I am, and who I aspire to be.
What do you think the future of leather gear is?
Leather gear has some of its tradition based on the Tom of Finland image. While I believe that style will always be popular to a segment of our community, we are seeing demand from the younger guys for leather versions of just about any garment you can think of. As these are custom-made projects you don't get to see them on our website, but clients have asked us to make them a whole range of diverse items.
These special projects have included sporting gear, ball-gowns, superhero outfits and some haute-couture creations incorporating things like ostrich feathers. Sometimes our workshop looks like the dressing room for an episode of Pose. So, it is hard to predict the future because it really could be anything a customer can imagine.
Are there many black owned fetish businesses on the scene.
When I first started the company in 2010, I looked around the scene and at the time there was no other black-owned fetish business I could find. I also did not see a true representation of people of colour in the fetish world. Whether in art, literature or fetish fashion, I felt there was no role model on whom young developing men of colour could model themselves. I wanted to show people of colour who were interested in the fetish world that there was an outlet for their interest and passion. I am aware of the Onyx Association, mostly in the USA, but other than that, I feel we at Spitfire remain pioneers as a black-owned and operated business on the fetish-scene. Nearly all my workers are people of colour. The company motto is "good things come in colour" and our mission is to encourage people of colour to enjoy their fetish without fear of discrimination.
What do you think about diversity and representation on the scene?
I know from talking with my customers that there are many people of colour who enjoy wearing leather. But in my experience there is still insufficient representation on the scene. Maybe this is because guys feel isolated and have yet to meet other people of colour who share their fetish. I have found the mix of ethnicities far richer at the fetish events I attend in the USA. In contrast, when I am at an event in Europe people of colour represent only a handful of the attendees.
We interviewed you during Darklands in 2020 and you mentioned that Spitfire Leather is manufactured in a developing country and helps people living with HIV, why did you think it was important to do that?
As the company has grown and our range diversified, Spitfire products are now made by workshops in several different countries. But my first, and favourite, workshop is indeed the place where Spitfire Leather was born, with a team who are able to afford their HIV medication mainly because of the profit-sharing model I introduced at our foundation. My core ethics are to give back to society and support my community. This is why I supported the fundraising efforts of of Mr IML 2017, Ralph Bruneau, by donating some of my favourite designs to his online charity auction. Closer to home we also supported the Body Positive UK's World Aids Day 2020 fundraiser with similar donations of our best-selling items.
What's your experience of being a black man on the fetish scene?
To be frank, it has been extremely mixed. I have been fortunate to travel widely and as a result have experienced many different reactions. This ranges from men who are genuine if curious, to those who just want to fulfil a fantasy they have formed in their head, based on an image which is still perpetuated in the porn industry. The success of Spitfire has provided me with a platform to educate and inform those I meet about diversity and equality. Many in the fetish world expect others to respect their individualism, and yet they fail to extend this same courtesy to everyone else. I hope I have been successful in demonstrating that black men are as unique and diverse as any other ethnic group.
Have you got any new products coming soon?
COVID has hit the global pause-button and this has given us an opportunity rethink, restructure and plan a more diverse range of products in the future. In the past year Spitfire has expanded into selling fitness products, luggage, toiletries, and personal accessories which we market under the brand of Spitfire RED. As this magazine goes to press we will be launching a new collaboration with Treasure Island Media. I can't share the exact details yet, but we have really enjoyed working with the TIM team and their freedom of expression fits well with the ethos of Spitfire. We have more collaboration projects in the pipeline; working with partners across a whole diversity of fetish lifestyles.