Kink Comes Out
When it comes to fetishes, the pleasure products industry is blowing the lid off of hidden fantasies with extensive collections and matching accessories to encourage deeper exploration of desires sometimes considered obscure and extreme. With a built-in consumer base of experienced fetishists, manufacturers are not only keeping the market fresh with innovation and options, but also attracting a crop of curious newbies. Through softened packaging, education and branding, even the most vanilla couples are being seduced into exploring fetishes.
Andy Smith, CEO and managing director of Cyrex, which produces the ElectraStim line of electro sex toys, said that when the company first entered the market in 2001, the use of electro stimulation for sexual pleasure was a specialized niche which was concentrated almost entirely on the BDSM market. The products were industrial-looking and had few valueadding features, Smith said. They weren’t appealing to mainstream.
“Our aim was therefore to dispel the dark hardcore myth and get ElectraStim electro sex toys on display in high-end stores throughout the U.K.,” Smith said. “This obviously had to start with the look and feel of the stimulator as well as introducing appealing accessories. We now supply to almost all of the major adult retail chains in the U.K., as well as numerous independent store owners and online sellers.
“Whereas electro stimulation or electro-sex is still a specialized part of the adult industry, the past couple of years have seen massive growth and exposure to this sector with at least one of the largest U.S. manufacturers bringing out a beginners range of electro starter kits,” Smith said. “Our stimulation products are the next step up from such starter kits and we offer a comprehensive range of stimulation accessories.
Our packaging is very clean and professional looking and our products look very at home amongst the likes of Clone-A-Willy and We-Vibe. I believe that electro sex is now a small part of the mainstream market but still has a way to go!”
With deep roots in the local market, Portland, Ore.-based Spartacus Leathers manufactures its BDSM gear and sex toys in the U.S., while producing its packaging and operating its flagship retail store in its home state.
“Spartacus has a unique advantage of being both a prominent manufacturing company as well as having retail locations,” said Sesha Brown, Spartacus’ brand ambassador. “When a product is produced and tested we have the chance to see a consumer’s reaction prior to delivering it to the mass market. Our flagship store is located on the defining corner of two of the most the popular shopping districts, The Pearl and Downtown. Seeing the way our customers have grown and changed first-hand played a large role in our updating.”
Spartacus recently underwent a rebranding to commemorate its 25-year anniversary.
“The purpose of our rebranding was simply our desire to reflect our customers,” Brown said. “The days of garish overstylized product packaging are fading. Consumers today are more interested in the beauty and functionality of what they are purchasing. With Spartacus having such a broad range of products from beginner or ‘soft’ to the advanced, it was important that our packaging was as clean and sleek as possible to allow a beginner the opportunity to explore what could otherwise be intimidating.”
When Sportsheets launched the Sex & Mischief line of restraints, its mission was to “redefine S&M,” the company said. Structured according to price, packaging and target market, S&M is designed to offer the same quality construction as Sportsheets Premium, but uses different materials so similar items function the same but costs less.
What S&M has become renowned for, however, is its highfashion marketing imagery.
“Our marketing works twofold,” Sportsheets CEO Tom Stewart said. “For the retailer, the packaging is upscale and visually offers a different perspective on restraints and sex toys. Plus, the line is priced to sell. For the consumer, that packaging speaks to those who might not have entered the bondage section of a store. The imagery says, ‘Try it, you’ll love it,’ and the shopper won’t have to spend a lot to give it a go. The women featured on the packaging and in our merchandising materials have a familiar mainstream fashion look, giving women that necessary permission and enticement to pick up the box and check out what’s inside.”
With the current media storm surrounding the popularity of the BDSM novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Sportsheets’ Tom Stewart says it’s only a matter of time before those fans start shopping — and S&M will be there to guide them.
“We plan to expand the line to offer a wider range of entry items, including whips, floggers and different styles of cuffs, and we’re not going to limit it to just bondage and restraint,” Stewart said. “We’ll soon offer an entire line of strap-ons for pegging play, and the brand has opened itself up to all categories of sex toys which is so exciting for us.”
In 2005, Pipedream Products unveiled its own fetish introductory line, the Fetish Fantasy Series. Fetish Fantasy has since become a household name which now has several subbrands catering to a specific niche or audience including Fetish Fantasy Extreme, Fetish Fantasy Elite, Fetish Fantasy Lingerie. These sub brands cater to more experienced users, or beginners, who tried kinky play when the Fetish Fantasy Series was originally launched in 2005.
“Fetish Fantasy Extreme gear is made for the more advanced user with stronger materials for those who play harder,” Pipedream Products CEO Nick Orlandino said. “This award-winning brand also features several hoods and masks which will appeal to people who aren’t afraid to explore and push their sexual limits. The Shock Therapy Obedience Hood is a leather dog hood with an electro-stimulation collar; the Cum Bucket Latex Hood instantly transform anyone into a living human urinal. These along with the Freaky Jason Mask, Hardcore Hood and Executioner’s Hood are for more extreme fetishists.
“Even those who don’t admit it publicly will likely silently agree, it is a turn on to feel like you’re doing something naughty and taboo in the bedroom,” Orlandino continued. “These more extreme fantasies give people that internal thrill that makes them feel like they’re doing something a little dangerous and exciting, so even if the beginner is too timid to dabble in extreme play at this time. Seeing these in your store next to the beginners and novice fetish items help pave the way for them to come back when they are ready.”
California Exotic Novelties also caters to the beginner and novice fetish consumer. Playful in Pearls, Tantric Binding Love, Bound by Diamonds and Extreme Pure Gold are all romantic, flirty, fetish playwear collections for consumers who like to experiment with light fetish and bondage.
“We are very specific about the type of fetish playwear we offer,” said Desiree Duffie, CalExotics director of public relations. “Our products are designed with feminine sensibilities in mind. Bejeweled with diamonds or pearls, adorned with bows, lace, or animal prints, each fetish collection offered by California Exotic Novelties targets a different taste. Women are diverse in what they like, so we strive to provide something for everyone.”