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World AIDS Day

Nasty Pig's Cofounder Reflects on Love, Sex & World AIDS Day

Nasty Pig's Cofounder Reflects on Love, Sex & World AIDS Day

<p>Nasty Pig's Cofounder Reflects on Love, Sex & World AIDS Day</p>
courtesy Nasty Pig

courtesy Nasty Pig

David Lauterstein opens up about the AIDS epidemic, kink pride, and rubber chaps.

The popular menswear brand Nasty Pig was founded in 1994, during the peak of the AIDS crisis in the USA. It is the creation of David Lauterstein and his now husband Frederick Kearney and while the brand is now heralded as the first to launch the fetish-as-fashion movement that all major designers include in runway shows today, Lauterstein recalls the backlash Nasty Pig received when it first opened its doors. “We were wildly unpopular and very misunderstood,” he explains. “We had horrific notes slid under the door of our store. One said, ‘Stop Spreading AIDS.’”

While its clothing and name are sexually charged, at its heart, Nasty Pig is a love story. It was built on the intimate love between David and Frederick, the loyal love they have for the queer community and their shared passionate love of fashion.

They recognize World AIDS Day as a reminder that HIV/AIDS isn’t over. “The most marginalized members of the gay community still contract and suffer the effects of the disease and it is important that we keep the disease top of mind,” Lauterstein argues.

On a personal level, it's a day for both men to honor all of the queer ancestors who have passed. “We miss our fallen friends and we will never let what happened to them be forgotten.”

We spoke with David Lauterstein from Nasty Pig’s downtown NYC showroom.

David Lauterstein (left) and hubby Frederick Kearney when they started Nasty Pig in the mid-1990s

How would you describe the AIDS epidemic in 1994 when Nasty Pig first launched?

It was scary as hell. AIDS took down a few friends within the first couple of years of my coming out. The fact that the thing I most desired - intimacy with other men - came with a potentially fatal disease was a mindfuck like no other. It was terrifying. It really caused so many in our community to want to hide from their sexual identities. Many hoped to blend in so that they wouldn’t be defined by their queerness or be thought of as diseased. I had no interest in blending in. I felt that my queerness was a gift.

How did the culture surrounding the epidemic influence your first designs with Nasty Pig?

Nasty Pig was a rallying cry against the hetero-normalization that had gripped the community. Frederick and I saw it as an opportunity to reclaim sexual positivity and to celebrate gay identity.

Did the brand always have activist roots?

It was always important to us to support organizations like the GMHC. From the beginning of my coming out experience, one thing was made clear to me: the gay community had to look out for ourselves especially when it came to our sexual health. I continue to honor this lesson by working with the CDC and the White House to get important public health messaging out to my queer community.

Is it true that a night on the dancefloor at GMHC's Morning Party on Fire Island helped to launch Nasty Pig?

David Lauterstein: Yes, Frederick I attended the Morning Party with our Fire Island housemates. Frederick had made these incredible silver outfits for everyone to wear. A stranger on the dancefloor complimented us on the outfits and I hugged my man and blurted out proudly, “he made them all!” It turned out that stranger was Eric Smith who manufactured a famous line of socks. He suggested that we make more outfits and sell them. I already couldn’t stop talking about wanting to start a business with Frederick and this felt like a major seal of approval.

The rubber chaps by Nasty Pig are legendary. What inspired them?

At the time, members of the fetish community were the pariahs of the gay community. They were particularly decimated by AIDS. But I was so drawn to that culture and I found a small group of young kinky players. We would hang out on Wednesday nights at a bar called the Lure on West 13th Street. I loved seeing guys in leather chaps but, at the time, Frederick and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Leather is quite expensive! So, one day, while hunting for fabric in the garment center, we came across a matte rubber material that was reasonably priced. I asked the store clerk how to care for the fabric and when he told me they were machine washable, I knew at that moment we had to make chaps.

The fact that they were machine washable was a game changer as it led to a full collection of fetish gear that took over nineties leather bars and nightclubs in NYC.

Less expensive and easy to clean - that was our recipe for success! Those chaps, along with the other fetish inspired styles we created back then, led to the idea of fetish being accessible to a wider audience.

There were the rubber bed sheets!

Those came about when Frederick and I were walking home from Twilo, an afterhours club. I was wearing the chaps at the time and the idea popped in my head that we should make bed sheets out of the same material for easy clean up. The following weekend we had a prototype ready. We went back to Twilo and left with an intimate focus group with whom to test out this new product. Let’s just say we put the smash in smashing success.

Nasty Pig is known for promoting fetish and kink, but it’s really about celebrating community.

We were, and still are, all about spreading love. Happy World AIDS Day to all.


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