The British fashion designer and fetish photographer John Sutcliffe (died 1987) was famous in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a designer of clothes for aficionados of leather, rubber and PVC fetishism, with an emphasis on rubber and leather catsuits, cloaks, and gasmasks.
After service in the RAF, he set up a workshop at 10a Dryden Street in London.
It is a popular misconception that he designed the leather outfits for The Avengers. He did not. They were designed by Michael Whittaker for Honor Blackman and by John Bates for Diana Rigg, although they may have been made in John's workshop. He did design some costumes for the stage version of the Avengers which appeared later.
At one time he designed a boot suit, which comprised a pair of thigh-length boots, which carried on to join at the crotch, and then upwards to become an entire catsuit with a hood.
He was also the publisher of the fetish magazine AtomAge, which featured many of his clothing designs.
AtomAge was, by today's standards, a fairly harmless publication. It had two sister publications, The Rubberist and Dressing For Pleasure, both of which are now published by Dave Watson of G&M Fashions.
Regrettably, AtomAge attracted a certain amount of attention when the Police decided to prosecute the publisher, John Sutcliffe, in the mid-1980s, for obscenity. Despite vigorous exhortations from both fetishists and defenders of civil liberties alike, Sutcliffe meekly pleaded guilty. His stock and photos were seized and destroyed and the publications temporarily closed. The shame may well have contributed to his death.
Sutcliffe was anything but a pornographer. He was a mild-mannered gentleman who made a number of unjustifiably persecuted people feel normal. His legacy is the booming fetish clothing industry in Britain, Germany, the USA and many other parts of the world, the wide range of fetish events, such as the yearly Rubber Ball in the UK, and the large numbers of people who enjoy dressing up in exciting ways without fear of prosecution.
Watson was himself prosecuted some years later once he had revived two of Sutcliffe's magazines, but he pleaded not guilty. The jury agreed.
In his final years, John shared a workshop in West London with Moira and Keith who now run Cocoon in Kidderminster.
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