TOPHER meets… MARK (our Graphics guy from Clonezone)
I decided to have a sit-down with my longtime colleague and friend, Mark. When I joined the company (back in 2009), Mark trained me in the head-office as he had the most experience within the company. Having begun working for us in 2003 and with 15 years of Clonezone experience I figured it’d be good to have a brief discussion about his history at Clonezone and his expert knowledge of the Leathermen scene in London. The scene has changed dramatically since the explosion of the internet, dating apps and the ever-changing London nightlife – so experience’s like Mark’s help keep companies like ours grounded and dedicated to our roots.
So, let’s begin.
When did you join the Clonezone family and what were you doing?
I originally joined the Clonezone family way back in 2003. A friend of mine was the cleaner for the holiday let apartments that used to be above the old store at 64 Old Compton Street, Soho, and he was going away for 6 weeks and asked me if I was interested in helping out… I had just sold my publishing business and was at a loose end and thought “why not!” Within a week of being there, I was helping the boys in the shop, slowly but surely learning the ropes, so that when one day they needed lunchtime cover I was ready to step up and help out. Six months later I was a supervisor, then a year after that I was the manager of the Islington branch. After that closed, I moved to the accounts department at head office which I did for two years until I finally found myself doing graphics… a job I’m still doing today!
Can you share a memory from your early days at Clonezone?
I can still remember the day I got my staff t-shirt and name badge, I would wear it proudly whilst walking around Soho looking for lunch, it was a badge of honour to work for CZ…. It sounds corny, but it still is!
Over the years, what has the company meant to you?
Working for a company like Clonezone really is more than just turning up for a 9-5 day, it’s the people and environment we work in/with… in both the stores and head office, it’s kind of part of me, it’s home.
You were here when the company struggled through the recession in 2009 and was eventually saved. How was that from the inside?
Simply put, it was awful, watching something you’d been part of for so long slowly fading was heartbreaking, no matter how hard we all worked it just didn’t make a difference. At the time I was based at head office and I can still clearly remember the then directors asking us all to step away from our desks and collect our personal belongings as the company had gone into administration. A few days later the new owners asked me to re-join, that was almost 10 years ago, and during that time we’ve totally changed, Clonezone is back doing what we do best… serving our amazing customers.
What’s your fondest memory at Clonezone?
The day I was told I was going to be a manager and that I had been given my own store in Islington, it was all the sweeter as I’m an Islington boy, my family home is only a 10-minute walk away.
You’re really into your leather gear. What is it about Leather that you like?
I’ve always been on the fetish scene, I was 18 when I first ventured into The Backstreet which is in the East End of London, I was a skinny lad wearing rubber and was totally in awe of the guys in full “Tom of Finland” leather look. Then many… many years later when Clonezone started stocking Mr S Leather, I decided to get myself the full caboodle… In one stroke I’d become one of “those” full leather guys.
Describe how your attitude changes as you gear up. What does it feel like?
When I‘m “gearing-up” there’s a sequence that I find myself going through… it starts with laying all the gear out, making sure it all looks clean and sharp. I then start “dressing” slowly layering, I like wearing the full kit. Shirt, tie, trousers, boots, belts, gloves, Sam Brown, tie pin, Muir cap, plus accessories like original police handcuffs and pocket chain (it’s the small details that make the look complete). I love walking around in full gear, the general public either choose not to see me or I can see them mustering up the courage to ask for a photo, I always say yes and it breaks the ice and is always fun when I see them realise that under all this intimidating leather there’s a normal guy… plus I get a buzz out of it. Of course, there’s a sexual side to gearing up, for me that’s the whole point. I find that I become really dominant and toppy, there’s something about the weight, feel, smell and sound of all the leather I’m wearing. It forces me to stand upright and the way I wear my Muir cap makes me lift my chin, otherwise, I can’t see fuck all lol.
What’s your ideal night out? Where do you go and who with?
The Backstreet in London’s East End is by far my favourite bar/club. I’ve been going there since I was 18, it still has the strictest dress code of any club in London which helps preserve the feeling of being with likeminded men. It’s about the gear, being with men in gear. I usually go out with my husband (Scott), nine times out of ten we end up spending (most) of the evening chatting to friends, enjoying a few drinks and the rest of the evening is spent in darker places (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination).
What would you say to a less-experienced guy that wants to explore the Leather Scene?
Don’t be afraid, the fetish scene, especially the leather scene, can look scary, it’s really not. Throughout the years I’ve been really lucky and have met some amazing friends (they just happen to be a bit kinky and wear lots of leather!). Be confident and reach out, a simple “hello” to someone who catches your eye could lead to something fun, if they don’t reciprocate don’t take it personally, simile to yourself and be proud that you had the courage to say something. You don’t need loads of expensive gear, a well-fitting leather jock, boots and a sexy harness is a great starting point, you can always add more later, just make sure it fits you well, no one likes baggy, ill-fitting gear, it’s not the “look”. As a rule of thumb, I buy gear that I find sexy if I get a tingle when I see a particular item I know it’s right.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
After all these years of being on the scene, I still get a bit nervous about approaching someone and saying hello… I sometimes have to remind myself of the advice I gave above. I’ve been told I look unapproachable when in full gear, it’s just a look… I’m still just me, come to say hello, I don’t bite, I may tie you up, strap you down, but biting isn’t my thing!
If you’d like to interact with Mark, you can tweet him on his personal Twitter page: @GSXRLad_E14. Mark’s BLUF number is 650 and he’s also an expert in Rubber.