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James Lee chosen International Mr. Leather 2018

IML turns 40, celebrates bittersweet milestone following death of founder Chuch Renslow

Chicago, IL — James Lee, Mr. Kentucky Leather 2017, as named International Mr. Leather 2018 at the 40th annual IML Competition in Chicago Sunday, May 27.

Sandro Cossero, James Lee, Stephan Ferris and Lucky Rebel ::
Sandro Cossero, James Lee, Stephan Ferris and Lucky Rebel 
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Over 2,000 leather enthusiasts packed the Auditorium Theatre for the annual competition where Bruneau became the 40th person to claim the coveted leather title.

Lee bested a record-setting field of 71 contestants from around the world and became the competition's first International Mr. Leather since the death of its founder, Chuck Renslow, who died June 29, 2017 at age 87.

Renslow was remembered with a special tribute during the contest and with exhibition of materials from the Leather Archives & Museum titled Chuck Renslow: A Legacy of Leather on display throughout the weekend at the Congress Hotel.

"And this fraternity. This brotherhood of leather that Chuck so strongly believed in is real," Jon Krongaard, president IML, Inc., said in an opening statement. "Think of your chosen families here with you tonight or those back home, and realize these amazing people probably would never have crossed your path if it wasn't for Chuck Renslow. His vision. His passion. His love of community is what ultimately brought us together."

Related: Chicago street renamed in honor of IML founder Chuck Renslow

Sandro Cossero, Mr. Leather Belgium 2017, was named first runner-up, and second runner-up was Stephan Ferris, Mr. friendly SF 2018. Lucky Rebel was named International Mr. Bootblack.

Nineteen contestants represented Belgium, Germany, Australia, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, France, Ireland, Spain, Canada, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Israel.

Contestants and attendees celebrated at the annual Victory Party at House of Blues Chicago after the contest.

IML 2018, which closed Monday, May 28, drew nearly 20,000 visitors to downtown Chicago Memorial Day weekend, according to organizers. 

Photos: 2018 IML Leather Market
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