Latex is a unique and niche business to get into. For the few brands in the market, product offerings usually lean toward costumes, sex apparel or celebrity placements. Little, arguably any, focus on latex as a casual or wearable garment.
Enter Busted, the Los Angeles-based brand challenging latex to be less fetish and more fashion. First conceptualized in 2016 by founder and head designer Mariano Cortez as a streetwear brand influenced by underground subcultures, its present-day formula of “everyday” latex began in 2018 while he worked for another latex designer. “Latex construction is a craft and I was taught by a very talented fetish/costume designer,” said Cortez, who operates the brand with co-owner Brya Gerard and a design assistant. “Our designs are current and we frequently style our pieces with everyday garments to make latex approachable.”
Latex by nature and cultural resonance is viewed as a deviant and oftentimes empowering material. Vex Clothing, L.A. Roxx and Dawnamatrix are the main players, while luxury brands like Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Richard Quinn have sprinkled in the material to spice up collections in recent seasons.
The point of difference with Busted is its foundation as a lifestyle brand, where gloves, shorts, bras and crop tops have become great introductory items for new customers to layer into existing wardrobes, especially with zip-back entrances on all tops to keep pieces functional and comfortable. PVC masks with zipper detailing have been a big hit during quarantine, with the first drop of 400 selling out overnight in April, and an additional 800 sold in subsequent drops.
“I think the fact that latex is a completely sanitizable material has something to do with it,” Cortez added. “People are also becoming more bold in the ways that they give voice to who they are on the inside and I believe that latex is a great material to do so through.” Affordability is an appealing factor, too, where plain PVC masks retail for $18, gloves for $50, biker shorts for $175, a babydoll dress for $255 and harnesses for under $300.
As the brand has grown alongside the music video market and can create custom orders in as quickly as a day, celebrity fans have included Tinashe, Iggy Azalea and Beyoncé, who will soon be able to care for their pieces with a latex kit consisting of scented powder by Sum.la, a shiner and tools to apply those products.