Specialty Manufacturers Talk Popularity of Handcrafted BDSM Gear
The proverbial cat is out of the bag for fetishes — and the dog, and the dragon, and a whole other slew of kink accessories that put blindfolds and handcuffs to shame.
“Fifty Shades” earns way more credit than is deserved for a movie that was painfully tame in comparison to what real kinksters have been doing for decades. Big-name manufacturers have long capitalized on the word “fetish,” which, despite typical marketing ploys, doesn’t directly translate to “anything besides missionary sex.”
By definition, a fetish is a sexual desire fueled by an obsession with something very specific: a fixation on a body part, an inanimate object, or an action. It’s easy to toss around fetishes as a passing fad or a simplistic yearning for something beyond vanilla. If you really want to know what makes a so-called lifestyler tick, ask a BDSM boutique owner. Kink gear garners big bucks even if you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing, but old-school values are what bring business longevity. For today’s smaller-scale shops and accessory makers, it isn’t just about quality; it’s about authenticity.
“At this point, if you want a pre-packaged fetish product, you can find those anywhere,” says Justin Sayne, CEO of Justin Sayne Leather.
Understanding how to make great kink products is a lot more complicated than the trial and error required to find a Chinese plastics manufacturer. Fetishes are like an obscure, alt-underground band: if you’re not into it, you just might not get it. For those that “get it,” kink is a way of life, and accessories are collector’s items. Ask a vinyl enthusiast about their favorite LP or a member of the leather community about their best pair of black boots, and the reactions will be similar. Record titles and leather goods brands can, in the right situations, bring about that same expression of misty-eyed devotion, and it’s this level of understanding that sets boutique brands apart.
“Customers are so personally linked to the brand that calling them fans is more appropriate because it’s more personal,” says Sayne.
Boutique fetish brands like Justin Sayne Leather and LVX Supply, both of whom hand-craft their respective leather and wooden impact play art, wouldn’t dream of creating anything less than what they’d bring into their own bedrooms.
“Our customers are often those with high standards and find that level of quality in our products,” remarks Michael Maines, owner and designer at LVX Supply. “We provide products that are both highly functional and are great as talking pieces or for artistic display.” The best kink accessories, no matter how simple, are crafted with the same intent and detail as a piece of art; hence why most connoisseurs find a brand and fall in love.
“The bulk of my online customers skip the website and just call,” says Sayne.
Fetish players are, to quote Sayne, the ultimate fans. They’re die-hard, and almost nothing can diminish their love of whatever sexual niche they discover. If you can nab a kinky customer while they’re young, expect to have a customer for life.
“We have 18-year-old customers buying high-impact products frequently,” says Sayne. “What do you think that this customer is going to use at 35?”
The recent widespread curiosity for fetishes is largely driven by — surprise! — the internet. Even if “Fifty Shades” hadn’t been published, kinky sex would still be splattered over every corner of the web. “In a world with a million amateur authors having the ability to publish instantly on the internet, you can find miles of authors sharing their experiences real and imagined, for anyone to read and share,” says Sayne. “Folks are getting floods of new ideas.”
The availability of fetish content like flogging or power play, which are seen as more common, is creating space for even less typical kinks to emerge.
“People are feeling more comfortable and open to exploring non-traditional sexual practices and fetishes on all levels of the intensity spectrum,” notes LVX’s Michael Maines. BDSM cornerstone The Stockroom has quite literally seen it all in terms of kink gear, and they’ve never missed a beat with their lifestyle clientele. The company’s inventory grows every year, and not through the stereotypical addition of seven vibrators in different colors. The Stockroom grows entire new categories.
“Over the years, largely in response to customer demand, we have branched out more into animal/puppy play products, latex clothing, corsets, sex machines, electro-stim products, and extra-large insertables,” says The Stockroom CEO Joel Tucker. “We have stayed the course all along, riding the waves of mainstream attitude and consumer trends for almost 30 years now.”
Rather obviously, it’s not that kinks are new, though Hollywood is desperately trying to take all the credit. “The ‘Fifty Shades’ books and movies have had a huge influence in normalizing formerly taboo practices like bondage and flogging, but you’re also seeing fetishes openly discussed in magazines like Cosmo, which would have once shunned discussion of bondage or even spanking,” remarks Tucker.
“I think many of these inclinations we call kinky are latent in a sizable percentage of the human population; perhaps not everyone, but in a much larger number than the 5-10 percent who have historically self-identified.”
Fantasizing about impact play, electro-shock and other alternative methods of stimulation isn’t all that strange or novel. Fetishes have always been around, though not always in an obvious way.
“These are fundamental human erotic drives that have had their committed devotees in every year, decade, century and millennium of recorded history, and I think it’s safe to assume they always will,” says Tucker.
Simply put, humans are kinky beings. Erotic fantasies don’t simply start and stop with the trends. It’s the willingness of people to share and connect through these fetishes that has pushed boutique shops to the surface.
“As people become more open with themselves and their partners, we are going to see more call for products and more quantity in every aspect of the business,” remarks Sayne.
Boutique owners with an eye for the genuine, much like their consumer counterparts, are in for the long haul. Dedication to originality and authenticity will continue to make smaller-scale businesses the driving force in fetish pleasure products. After all, when has a trend ever outlasted human nature?
“We were there when kink was weird and underground; we were there when it started to become cool; we were there as it enjoyed its surges of popularity, and we will still be there even if it becomes uncool or weird again; and then probably has another renaissance of coolness after that,” concludes The Stockroom’s Tucker.