Text and photos by Stacie Joy
After 28-plus years in the East Village, longtime resident and shop owner The Baroness is shutting her eponymous latex atelier and boutique and moving to France.
Pursuing a move that’s been in the works for a while now, a dream of hers, The Baroness smiles as she greets me at the door in much the same way she did when I interviewed her for my A Visit to column — regally, with grace and sharp wit, and fully decked out in latex and heels.
Today she is accompanied by her assistant, Persephone, who will be handling some of the garment work after the boutique closes.
Like the last time I was in the provocative and well-appointed shop, I’m most definitely not wearing latex, although listening to the Baroness wax rhapsodic about its vanilla/milk chocolate scent, its sounds and feels, the way it hugs and holds one’s body, I am quite tempted to try something on. The designer is confident she can dress “almost anyone” and I briefly wonder if that includes me.
In between customers and looky-loo shoppers, the Baroness and Persephone talk with me about their love of latex, the future of the Baroness’ impressive body of work, and what largescale rubber artwork plans (among other things like podcasts and parties) the Baroness has mapped out for her new life.
Interested in snagging a latex outfit or accessory and bidding the Baroness farewell? The store is at 530 E. 13th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, and is open Monday through Saturday from 1-7 p.m., Thursday 1-9 p.m. You can also follow along on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
It certainly is exciting and rather bittersweet. Moving to France has been a lifelong dream that just kept being put off. During the forced closure of the pandemic, I worked to review, catalog, and preserve the history of The Domain of The Baroness and the fetish world that I have been such a large part of.
I feel very strongly that this piece of history must be preserved and I’ve dispersed the information to The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago, the Texas Fashion Collective, and the UK Leather and Fetish Archive. As a result, I saw that this was the perfect time to change my life and move on to my next phase.
When I began my business almost 30 years ago, I was one of only three latex designers in North America. Now, as latex has become more popular, there’s been a minor explosion of young designers with Etsy shops, advances in technology, including laser cutting and latex printing, and, more important, there’s been a shift in the perception of latex — going from fetish and fantasy into fashion, often used as an accessory to make an outfit “edgy.”
Whilst I have certainly sold to customers and fashionistas with that mindset, my latex interests are more…complex.
You mentioned that this decision to close the store wasn’t COVID-related, at least not directly. How long have you been planning the move and what are your plans in your new home?
The boutique closes its doors on Aug. 26, with my bon voyage and final lubricated shopping cocktail party. That leaves a month to organize and pack the balance of my New York life.
I’ve rented a temporary house in southern Beaujolais while I look for my next dream house and studio. I imagine that it could take up to two years to get settled, establish my new studio, and start working. During that period, I plan to finish writing my book on clothing and power.
Can you walk us through the timeline for shuttering the shop? Are you still accepting custom orders?
At this point, we are no longer accepting custom orders. We will fulfill all stock orders — in store and online — until the end of July. We will be closed on Saturday, July 31 to take inventory so that our website will properly reflect all available stock.
Then the month of August will be one big sale as everything must go, including jewelry, feathers, and other costume pieces used as accessories for fashion shows, along with racks, and other fixtures.
What’s to become of your shop and will you be opening a new shop abroad?
Many people have asked if I would pass along my business to another and I will not. The Baroness domain was built as a reflection of myself, and while others could produce the basic garments, no one can faithfully reproduce my vision.
Although The Baroness NY boutique will be gone, my chief executioner, Persephone, will be available to fulfill my lifetime guarantee of our work. And once my French atelier is established, I will return to designing, creating, and realizing the vision of my more interesting and creative clients, both in the US and Europe.
You’ve spoken about some ideas regarding large-scale art installations, will you be creating latex-based artwork? What's next for The Baroness?
The art of latex! I am really looking forward to having the time to create bizarre, rubber wearable art, such as The Maw, where imagination is the only limit with the goal of exhibiting them at museums and galleries worldwide.
I’ll continue to document the fetish world through a series of podcasts, host intimate fetish gatherings, and plan to attend the major European events. I don’t think I’ll run out of projects to keep me entertained!