Modeling by Karma Zabetch
“I have to tell my grandma I make clothes for rock stars.”
The Tenderloin neighborhood’s vivid street culture and its residents’ bold use of alternative sexuality makes it a perfect home for fetish designer and performer Seven Mitchell. Mitchell, a six-foot tall beauty, is a latex designer at Mr. S Leather, not to mention the host of Ice Queen Sundays, a weekly drag and performance night at Truck.
Mitchell greets me at the door and quickly goes into the infamous and gruesome story of a murder that took place at his TL apartment. He describes how the victim was kidnapped and goes into further details I’ll spare you from. “And it happened right behind this wall!” he exclaims as I follow him through the front door.
Mitchell’s dark tale is juxtaposed by his warm demeanor and kind hospitality. He performs double duty as stylist and makeup artist for the photoshoot we’ve arranged to take place during our interview — a queer renaissance man. We talk about his performance persona Aurora Switchblade, the utility of lube for lovers of latex, and the casual fibs we tell our family about our profession.
San Francisco Bay Guardian: Where are you originally from?
Seven Mitchell: I was born in Twentynine Palms, California, and I moved and lived in Ohio till I was 10. My family moved to Tampa, Florida next. I went to graduate school at the University of South Florida where I studied anthropology.
SFBG: How did you go from anthropologist to latex designer?
SM: I had just separated from my long-term partner and wanted to follow my dreams of being a performer and artist. Needless to say, there wasn’t very much in the way of an artistic life in Tampa. So I left graduate school and moved to San Francisco.
I had tried to make latex apparel on my own prior and wasn’t very successful. When I got to SF my curiosity led me to Mr. S Leather. It had a well-known reputation in the fetish community. I started volunteering for Mr. S during Folsom Street Fair in 2010. They really liked me and took me under their wing.
I’ve worked for Mr. S Leather for two years now and love it. It fits my personality very well. My boss Skeeter is really amazing — the power dynamics feel quite balanced. She makes really great suggestions as opposed to telling us what to do. I also love working with latex. The longer you work with it the easier it is to design and manipulate.
SFBG: Does latex play a big role in your sex and sexuality?
SM: I have used latex as an element in my sex, but I don’t use it on the regular. It’s not a requirement for me. I am not a hardcore fetish person who has to have it, and I like it when it’s there.
SFBG: What type of fetish person are you?
SM: Well I used to run the Rubber Men of San Francisco. So, I guess I’m into rubber and latex, but after Aurora and Ice Queen Sundays started taking off, I gave it over to this guy Rick Holt, and he’s doing a fantastic job.
SFBG: Where does latex and sexuality meet?
SM: Well for some they don’t meet at all. I think it can meet in that place where your sex becomes your entire body.
SFBG: Can you describe Aurora Switchblade?
SM: She’s a cunt. I mean drag is a hyperbole, and I like to exaggerate all aspects of my drag. Aurora does lots of reading. It’s important for people to know that I’m always kidding. Aurora is a punk, goth, activist. I feel like drag should have a message. So there is a lot of politics in my numbers.
SFBG: Tell us something people should know about latex.
SM: There is a lot of information a person should know about navigating latex. It’s actually like vampire skin. It can’t be exposed to light and it can’t touch metal. When you buy a piece you need to know that it isn’t going to last forever. It will last a long time, but it’s not like textiles.
Oh and you need lube for latex apparel! Latex is under the umbrella of rubber. So you need to use silicone-based lube to get it own. And you do sweat in latex. Your body reaches an equilibrium eventually. Most people who wear latex for the sake of wearing it let’s say at an event like Folsom usually get dehydrated from sweating, drinking alcohol, and partying in latex.
And if you like your latex to shine use a polish like Black Beauty.
SFBG: Have you gotten any negative feedback for being a latex designer. Do people equate what you do to being a sex worker?
SM: I mean, not in San Francisco. I have to tell my grandma I make clothes for rock stars, but I’m sure she has gone to the Mr. S Leather’s website and knows all about what I actually do. It does change conversation in an instant. A lot of people in SF know about fetish and latex apparel. I find it harder to date in this city. I think people find it intimidating to be with someone who is super knowledgeable about fetish apparel.
Ice Queen Sundays
Every Sunday, 8pm, $5 includes icecream
1900 Folsom, SF