You wouldn't recognize Antonio Hernandez on the convention center floor of a pleasure industry trade show, but he could repeat the history of every major sex toy trend over the last few decades. He's responsible for countless top-selling toys and record sales figures, though most retailers might not even know his name, much less find his face familiar during an ANME show visit.
Hernandez, better known as Tony, is one of the unsung heroes of the pleasure product industry. Hidden away in the bat cave of Curve Novelties’ art department, Hernandez crafts the next big thing in sex toys. Without Hernandez, some of the industry's biggest companies wouldn't have been able to wow the crowds during show season.
[Product development involves] creativity, a good eye and a sense of uniqueness. -Tony Hernandez, Curve Novelties
He has the brain of an engineer and the heart of an artist.
“According to my physician, I might be suffering from a hyperactive mind,” says Hernandez. “I continue to think too much when I do not have to.”
His sleepless nights usually follow him to work the next day, though this aspect doesn't bother Hernandez too much.
“When I go places and I see an intriguing shape or form, I start to associate the shapes and textures to toys,” Hernandez said. “[Or] when I get up in the middle of the night and suddenly start visualizing an unusual or unique idea that is revolving in my head.”
As it turns out, insomnia might be responsible for most of the industry's most beloved products. “What inspires me is simply just thinking of making uniquely different and pleasurable toys,” he said.
Hernandez jumped into the pleasure industry at a young age, and like most artists, was more interested in creative freedom than a big paycheck.
“I started to work in the adult toys industry at the age of 24,” he said. “Even though I have a background in industrial engineering, I always felt inclined to the plastic arts, a career that I tried to pursue, but my parents wanted me to go for a more lucrative career as an engineer.”
Hernandez soon found himself surrounded with opportunities to play with plastic. His first gig was with Doc Johnson, the original founding fathers of sex toys.
“Being at Doc Johnson, I learned so much having Ron McAllister as a mentor,” recalls Hernandez. “Even though family and relatives felt ashamed of me for working in this industry, I found it very interesting, and developed a talent working in this field which involves developing, prototyping, molding and production.”
Hernandez's career is the stuff of pleasure industry dreams. After his time with Doc Johnson, he went on to a long career at Topco Sales, where his newly honed skills made company history.
“Topco Sales, a company that I gave 26 years of my life to, played an important role in my life,” he said. “I developed so many products during my stay and many of them are still current products even after so many years of being created or copied by other competitors. Topco patented some of my products, giving me a feeling of pride and strength to keep going.”
Not many product developers can knock out three of the “Big Five” sex toy companies within a single career. After departing Topco, Hernandez's job winning streak wasn't over yet. His next home was soon found within fellow Valley neighbor Pipedream Products.
For his fourth act, Hernandez returned to the ambitious roots of his early career and set up shop with industry newcomer Curve Novelties. The fast-paced yet familial start-up atmosphere offered the perfect mix of challenges and chill.
“I am so happy working at Curve Novelties, even though this company happens to be the new kid on the block in the adult toys industry,” Hernandez remarks. “Curve makes me feel so welcome and gives me freedom to be creative in a mellow environment.”
After a decades-long career, Hernandez has finally settled down, but his creativity is running wilder than ever.
“A work day routine is different every day since my position is the general production manager and product developer,” says Hernandez. “Though it keeps me busy, I really enjoy the time since I can let my imagination fly in the process of creating new products.”
Compare Curve's current product lineup, full of impressive shapes and huge plan-o-grams, to last year's newbie offerings and it's obvious that Hernandez has ultimately found his true dream job.
“We have accomplished so much in a short period of time,” he said. “I am surrounded by talented people with experience in this field. Decisions are made as a group to make sure all of us put our part in the making of new products.”
Developing body-safe sex toys involves intense multi-tasking, most of which happens all at once in Hernandez's busy engineering mind.
“[Product development involves] creativity, a good eye and a sense of uniqueness,” he said. “But even better, when you have good drawing and sculpting skills, you can bring the idea to reality yourself, making sure the product is designed to give it purpose.”
Hernandez seems to easily find the balance between his right and left brain, seamlessly combining function and aesthetics.
“First of all, the product has to be functional,” he said. “Then comes appearance. In regards to the look, the combination of colors and unique design, all this makes the product more attractive to the consumers. In regards to knowing if it will turn out right, this is the unpredictable part. Sometimes when a new line of products is created and released, it's interesting to see how and which become best sellers when others in the line die.”
Hernandez said he hopes to establish Curve in the sexual wellness sector through his dedication to healthy product materials.
“One thing that makes me feel so confident in making adult toys at Curve is our company motto, which is ‘The Safety of Our Consumers is First,’ which symbolizes our mission to make sure all our the raw materials used in our rubber compounds are safe and of the best quality,” says Hernandez. “We all work as a team in helping to create and further the company's success to continue to keep growing in this competitive market.”