lessons learnt from london’s biggest fetish club
Torture Garden is one of London’s longest-lasting club nights, going beyond the trends with its permanent love of latex and leather. Here’s what “TG” can teach you.
Since its inception in 1990, Torture Garden's super strict door policy "if it won't turn heads in the street - don't bother" and no nonsense attitude to creeps has created an environment where the most open-minded crowd in London can truly let loose. From humble beginnings in a Shepherd's Bush pub, Torture Garden (TG to regulars) has become the world's biggest fetish night. In its 25 years, stars such as Alexander McQueen, Boy George, Jean Paul Gaultier, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson have walked through TG's doors, saying nothing of the rumours about more thoroughly disguised celebs.
In 2015, when FKA Twigs regularly wears bondage-inspired label teale coco on stage and nobody blinks an eye at megastars wearing latex brands such as Atsuko Kudo and House of Harlot, it's hard to imagine a time when fetish culture and everything TG celebrates wasn't quite so fetishized. Despite a few hiccups in the early 90s when venues were closed and events cancelled on police orders, Torture Garden has hosted nights at London institutions including Electrowerkz, Ministry of Sound and London Bridge's now-defunct noughties gem SeOne, before finding a regular home at The Coronet in Elephant and Castle.
Here's what a first timer learned…
No basic bitches welcome… Dress up or go home...
I wore a dress that was arguably better suited to Sugar Hut than Torture Garden; low cut, lacy and skin tight, with some devil horns made out of poppies. Context is everything and what feels dark in Topshop Oxford Circus isn't going to cut it at a fetish club that lists sacrificial virgins and "sex magick" as outfit suggestions. The woman on the door legitimately pointed out that my outfit was a plain black dress at a fetish night and very strongly suggested I took it off inside.
Watch out for the whips and chains...
Keep your eyes peeled for whips, chains, horsetails, canes and rubber parasols… A man using a whip to part the crowd of elaborately caged bodies and latex-clad guests knocked my first drink out of my hand. Just like Moses, but with a sub crawling behind him.
Going with family members is weird, but totally fine..
I went with my sister and the reaction to siblings going to a fetish club led to bold invitations that don't need spelling out. However, anything goes and the fact that two sisters had chosen to come together was probably the least weird thing going on.
Some people really, really love feet...
While the majority of people chose to get down in the relative privacy of the playrooms, toward the end of the night it wasn't uncommon to pan down on someone smiling beatifically and see their feet being worshipped. Podophobics beware.
You won't party with a more charming, respectful crowd in London...
I wanted to go because I was curious: about the scene, about what would happen at a party with playrooms, because ordinary clubs are boring. At TG yes means yes and no means no. Everyone willing to dress up is welcome, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age or beauty and it feels like most people are there because they really, really want to be. How many nights can you truly say that about?
Text Tessa Griffith