Yva Richard

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Nativa Richard modeling as a dominatrix (c. 1935).
Nativa Richard modelling a bizarre steel dominatrix ensemble (c. 1935).
A leather dominatrix outfit from the Yva Richard catalog (c. 1935).

Yva Richard was one of the main purveyors of fetish attire and other BDSM products in France from the 1920s to the early '40s. The company, based in Paris, was formed by L. Richard and his wife Nativa, who was a seamstress. They began in 1914 selling costumes, women's hats, shoes, and high-class lingerie.

In 1923, their range of products started to include in-house produced photography, ranging from erotic lingerie poses to increasingly risque and imaginative fetish outfits. Nativa, displaying a wide streak of exhibitionism, was the principal model for over a decade. She sometimes used the names Helios and Miss Milado. Their photographs are often marked with a "Y.R." in the corner and may have been taken by her husband.

They also sold erotic photos of bondage, whipping and spanking from well-known photographers such as H. Manuel and Ostra Studio (a division of Biederer Studio).

Their main sales outlet was via a mail-order catalog, La Lingerie Moderne (photographed by Ostra Studio), and magazine advertisements in La Vie Parisienne, Le Sourire, and most likely London Life.

By the 1930s their catalog expanded, adding fetishistic accessories and S&M accouterments such as leather corsets, high-heeled boots, handcuffs, shackles, masks, dog collars with leashes, and bizarre dominatrix ensembles made of leather, rubber, and even metal (see photo).

However, the events of World War II brought an end to Yva Richard, along with most other purveyors of erotic art, products, and apparel throughout Europe. The company was forced to close its doors forever in 1943 during the Nazi occupation of France.

Legacy and influence

Yva Richard was one of a handful of companies that provided groundbreaking fetish fashions and photographs in the 1930s and '40s. They had only one major rival, Diana Slip, also based in Paris. In America, the only significant dealer in fetish paraphernalia and photography (much of it imported from France) at that time was Charles Guyette in New York.

Perhaps the most important result of the Yva Richard catalog was the influence it would have on the next generation of artists such as John Willie (who purchased items from Richard and Diana Slip in the '30s) and photographers like Irving Klaw. In the 1950s, Klaw's models, including Bettie Page, can be seen wearing a metal cone-bra and chastity belt outfit that is an updated version of the one modelled by Nativa Richard.

A book about the company has been published called Yva Richard, L'âge d'or du fétichisme by Alexandre Dupouy, Photo-Eye Books & Prints (1994), ISBN 978-2909607030.