Currently reading : SB5 Archive (2010): Fleet Ilya
Photography Assistant Alex Wilson
Stylist Elizabeth Dwyer
Hair Louis Byrne for Swarzkopf Professional
Makeup James O’Riley at Premier using MAC
Model Natasha Gilbert at FM
Fleet Ilya make bondage beautiful. They approach fetish with an artisanal appreciation of handcrafted design, sturdy practicality and romantic luxury. Harnesses, corsetry and even strap-ons are reworked in fine leather, with their trademark emphasis on tough elegance and sculpted lines; a welcome hangover from designer Ilya Fleet’s training as a saddle maker. Together with his wife and business partner Resha Sharma, they have explored the more accessible world of women’s fashion accessories too, producing covetable handbags and belts—alongside an avant-garde collection of conceptual pieces that mirror the same high construction values and sex appeal of their playthings. In this exclusive shoot for Sang Bleu by Adrian Wilson, the delicate balance between hard and soft that defines Fleet Ilya takes on an iconic, couture-like quality that says more about liberty than restraint.
Gauntlet cuffs by Fleet Ilya available at Coco De Mer
Where are you answering these questions and what are your plans for the rest of the day?
Resha Sharma: We are in our studio. Plans for the rest of the day are to work on our SS10 orders and the new collections for AW10.
How did the two of you meet?
RS. At Nag Nag Nag, an electro party back in 2004.
What was the catalyst for starting Fleet Ilya?
Ilya Fleet: My training was the beginning of Fleet Ilya. Being trained as a saddle maker gave me an understanding in leather that allowed me to explore it to a great extent.
Does the brand have a simple philosophy or set of design rules?
RS: I would describe our pieces as ‘contemporary classics’, we always aim to push the boundaries, but never lose touch with the high-end classic element of working with leather, we still make our pieces using the tools and techniques of saddle making.
Is it imperative you keep an artisanal level of handcrafted workmanship in your products?
IF: It’s an element that sets us apart from our competitors. When you buy Fleet Ilya, you are buying something made with our own hands.
Do you have a large team of craftsmen working for you?
IF: No, not a large team, myself, Resha and my assistant, I have trained both for a number of years, so they have a specific way of working.
Are looks and functionality level important in the design process?
IF: It depends on the product, I do sometimes like to make pieces purely for the beauty, like women’s belts and cuffs, but when working on pieces such as a men’s bag, or an item of bondage that requires being restrained in four ways from one piece, then function is important.
Some pieces have an amazing Fritz Lang feel to them, where do you find your inspiration?
RS: Inspiration for us comes from everywhere, as it does for most designers I would imagine. We gain inspiration outside of the realms of fashion, we look at everything for inspiration; from films like El Topo, which is a very surreal visual experience, to the analytical illustrations of 19th century biologists.
Explain the role of luxury in what you do.
RS: To us luxury is about the design and most importantly execution.
Halter harness by Fleet Ilya
Body harness by Fleet Ilya
Web body piece by Fleet Ilya available at Coco De Mer
Strap-on by Fleet Ilya available at Coco De Mer
What is your bestselling piece?
RS: Our classic bondage harness.
Which came first, the playthings or the more traditional accessories like bags and belts?
IF: They both started at the same time, but at the beginning I decided to concentrate on the bondage and once it was established I developed the fashion side.
Obviously they can be enjoyed by both sexes, but can both wear many of the playthings?
RS: As a brand we are about freedom, our products are for anyone that can put aside inhibitions they may have; most bondage pieces are unisex, apart from the ladies strap-on, perhaps.
What is it that inspires you about the materials you use? The texture, look, versatility?
IF: Because I make these objects, all are crucial. I have to love how a piece of leather feels, see how it can be moulded and how it can embellish the body in a way that isn’t always obvious. A lot of my designs are constructed by trial and error. I cut and fit pieces together as if it were a puzzle, so I need to appreciate every aspect involved.
Is there a raw material you would love to work with but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
Have you collaborated with any designers or stylists?
RS: We collaborated with Ana Sekularac in 2008. That was our first season of the women’s line as it now stands, we occasionally work with stylists on special pieces for shoots, but in the last 6 months or so we’ve been working only on establishing the three lines of the label.
How do you explain the recent editorial crossover from fetish-wear to high fashion styling?
RS: It’s been brewing for a while I think, it’s just taken time for it to be accepted, we endeavoured to present bondage in a new light, paying particular attention to the design and finish and I think it’s worked, bondage is exciting editorially.
Are you currently working on any new projects, or are you concentrating on the next collection?
RS: We are relaunching the men’s line for AW10, so we are concentrating on that and the women’s for the moment.