Nina Kate

Published: 26 November, 2009 - Featured in Skin Deep 174, July, 2009

Nina Kate and her Jane Doe latex clothing label have gained a steadfast reputation for tailoring mighty fine fetish garments and her prolific modeling work has seen a meteoric rise to prominence for both in recent times. We managed to secure some time with the first lady of latex to talk tattoos, Torture Garden, and being a sole trader without using the phrase, “Lovely jubbly”…


When did you first become involved in the fetish scene, fashion and tattoos, and how did that involvement come about?

I was 15 when I bought my first latex dress and discovered clubs like Torture Garden and realised things that things like that were possible. I suppose really it’s partly my mum's fault - as a child my sister and I had a dressing up box filled with all her old clothes that she used to wear to places like Studio 54, so it was 6-inch gold heels and leopard print lycra mini dresses (though of course on us then they reached the floor at the time).

    I went to my first fetish club at 17, and started running my own little one in Cambridge around then too. I think it was the whole aesthetic of it all that attracted me, and still does! I would say now though that I lean towards more avant-garde fashion than 'fetish' these days.

    My first tattoo was bought for me as a 16th birthday present and was a little pair of wings on the top of my back; not very original I know, but I had wanted them for about 2 years. I started getting lots of little things here and there - mostly just stars and stuff, until I got my the sacred heart on my chest and my sleeve started at 19.

You now run your own successful clothing label, tell us something about how you started out and how things have developed.

I started Jane Doe when I was 21, after 4 years on and off working for other latex labels among other jobs. It seemed like the right thing to do and I think it has been! I decided to start off slow, by not taking out a huge loan or making a 5-year plan, just making a few patterns of the essentials like mini skirts, tops and dresses and see where it took me from there. It’s great working for yourself that way as you can go at your own pace and get things done however you think best. I don’t launch new collections every season, rather just pieces when they are ready or I feel like making something new.

    Things are going very well at the moment, and I am constantly busy which is great but leaves little time and effort for anything else! I decided to shoot a whole new selection of pieces and give things a bit of an overhaul at the beginning of the year so the results of that should be out soon.

How difficult has it been to go it alone?

In some ways it is easy and in others it can be hard. It has always been just me working alone and that gives me immense freedom to do things however I want, which is great. However it can also be difficult when you have huge workloads and no one to help, and working alone everyday at home can be kind of lonely, you miss the everyday chat you have with colleagues. One day perhaps I would like to have someone to help out but that’s just not possible right now.

What have been the most challenging aspects of the business?

I think perhaps the finance side, no one teaches you how to run a business at school so you do the best you can but sometimes some inside knowledge of accountancy and investing and all that would be helpful. Someday I would like to combine a shop and a studio which again when you are working alone can be daunting, but there is plenty of time for that in the future. I never had to worry if I was doing the right thing or if it wouldn’t work out, as the thoughts never crossed my mind. If you’re going to do something you have to do it properly and second-guessing doesn’t help that.

In terms of your career and life in general, what have been the highlights?

It’s been great to see that the company I have put so much work into be well received by people and liked! I have a lot more goals and things I need to do, but right now I’m very happy with the way things are going. Getting married to my husband was definitely a big highlight, it wasn’t a huge ceremony but it meant a great deal and is something we both feel strongly about.

    I’m always thinking I can outdo my last success so perhaps I will never be satisfied but that's no bad thing I think.

As well as being a designer, you are also well known as a model and have appeared more than once on the cover of Bizarre. How did your collaboration with them come about?

I have been modeling since I was about 16 and started just sending pictures off and some how got a cover of Skin Two. I kept a fairly low profile until I started my company and it became necessary to 'pimp' myself out more vigorously!

    I had emailed them a couple of years ago about lending my clothes for their shoots, and nothing came of it...I tried again last year and got a reply straight away. They are always on the lookout for new talent and it works out well, as we seem to have the same ideas of what will work and how.

Tell us something about each of your tattoos and about the artists who have done the work.

I have two 3/4 sleeves by Matt Difa at Jolie Rouge, he also did the big swallow on my leg and is working on my upper back and neck at the moment - oh and my knuckles which say "Jane Doe". The sleeves are on one side a creepy big-headed kind of cartoon-style geisha with skulls, lilies and cherry blossoms, and the other side is a Virgin Mary, wooden rosary, thorns and roses. On the top of my back is the piece that’s not finished yet and is inspired by LA artist Elizabeth McGrath which goes into both sides of my neck which are the flowers from my wedding bouquet.

     I have a few pieces from Allan Graves as well, bows with skulls in the middle on each wrist with stars going up my hands and he just started a giant flamingo on my thigh, which is wearing a top hat with little prawns at the bottom (haha don’t ask!). He's just opened his own studio, Haunted on Holloway Road, London, which is very exciting as I’ll be working there some
days too.

    There’s a whole bunch of other tattoos  and people who have worked on me, like the sacred heart I have on my chest, but I got that before I decided on going with full colour on every thing and now, though I love it still, it’s a little out of place!

   I’m not even nearly finished though and have a million more places that need filling in.

Do your tattoos have and particular significance to you, other than their aesthetic value?

Some do, though I’m not a big believer that everything has to mean something deep and important! They are mostly just there 'cos I like them. I have a couple that have some sort of meaning, like the words "Till Death" that both myself and my husband have on our wrists that we got on our honeymoon. The giant flamingo doesn’t really mean anything at all, although I did love the animals when I was a kid.

    I personally just think that I'd much rather have tattooed skin than have it just left plain.

Your husband is in a band and is also tattooed. Tell us more about him and how you met.

We met when we were 19 and working in a shop in Camden, hoping not to sound too cheesy, but I had never thought love at first sight existed before then! He is an incredibly talented musician and can play just about any instrument you hand him, though his main love is guitar and drums. His band, The Defiled, is in a very exciting place at the moment and the next few months are crucial. It’s great that we both have our projects that we work so hard on and to see each other’s successes is amazing. It's hard when he has to go off touring, but then I can often be sent away working too so we have to make the best of it!


Interview & Photography: Ashley - Hair by Ceri Snarl Hair Design


Skin Deep 174 1 July 2009 174