Tag Archives: fetishwear

INTERVIEW: Alexandra Houston, Le Boutique Bazaar

Fancy a one stop shopping experience in London that caters to the erotic and alternative? Say hello to Le Boutique Bazaar.

Just a few days before their ‘Dirty Valentine’ event, co-Founder Alexandra Houston gives an insight into the who’s, what’s, and why’s. And a bit more besides.

BRIAN GRAY: Let’s get started. How and why did you decide to launch Le Boutique Bazaar (LBB), and what was your own background before this? Had you previously been involved in erotic retailing or erotic fashion or was this something new for you?

ALEXANDRA HOUSTON: Realising how many of London’s unique young fashion labels had been pushed out of brick and mortar spaces due to the increasing rents (and were forced to sell online-only) I had already set up Wasted Chic, for young designers and vintage brands. Being an active member of the Torture Garden fashion scene (and a total outfit obsessive), it only seemed natural to approach them about creating a space to showcase our community’s creativity and give people a place to shop for those incredible looks!

Your events feature a variety of erotic or alternative subsectors: lingerie, latex, jewellery, accessories and so on. Do you go out searching for brands to approach, is it the other way around, or a bit of a combination? What criteria do you have in place vis-à-vis selecting appropriate brands to exhibit?
Originally Charlotte and I had a big list based on our own experience in the scene: being fashionistas ourselves we already had contact with a lot of amazing brands, so that was a natural start. Since then we have maintained a lot of that original list as regular traders, as well as approach people we find via social media and consider applications from those that approach us. 2017 was the first year we saw designers flying in from other countries to participate, which was very exciting for us!

I’ll appreciate if you don’t have any hard data on this, so your own gut feel (or feedback you get from sellers) will suffice. Give us some insight on the attendees. Are they coming in specifically to see or buy items from a particular seller, or do they purchase from multiple sellers?
It really is a mixture. There is definitely a big contingent coming to see favourite designers, or to try on something they have seen online. We know that the ‘in the flesh’ element is a big part of the success of our events. Latex especially is a tricky thing to buy without seeing it in real life. With an actual event you can try things on, get measured up by the designer, and see the colour swatches. We think that because so many sample garments are made in standard black / red / pink etc, people just tend to buy what they see online rather than risk picking a colour, or colour combination, from a little thumbnail colour chart. As you will see at LBB, latex comes in a huge variety of colours, patterns and textures, so it’s really worth coming along and pushing the boat out with a  custom option, so you can have something that really reflects your personality. Aside from that, we do have a lot of ‘scene-sters’ who come down to socialise in a non-club environment, as well as more discrete shoppers , stylists, performers, models and fashionistas all passing through the doors looking for something different and unique.

There’s no shortage of talented erotic entrepreneurs around (some of your sellers already feature on the LM website) across these different sub sectors. To what extent do you think there’s the possibility for sector-specific (e.g. purely latex one month, lingerie the next, etc.) events to be held?
We think the allure of LBB is that there is always something to discover, and it’s always a real mix. Luckily for us, in terms of applications to trade, about 25% of the line up is usually first time vendors, which keeps it fresh for everyone. That saying, we have noticed sales trends over the years and do curate a bit more specifically to accommodate those – say lingerie at Valentine’s, Latex around Halloween, Festival Fashion towards Spring. We also occasionally host brands with synergistic products such as homewares or beauty items, though we keep it limited as we are primarily a fashion market.

What three adjectives would you want your attendees to associate with your events?
A few adjectives…. inspiring, glamorous, unexpected, friendly

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
Perhaps ‘discovery’?
We aim to help people discover new products within favourite brands, discover new brands in general, and for total newbies to discover a curated selection of the best in alternative and erotic fashion.

Customer feedback is vital for not only the individual brands present at your events, but for yourself too. What have been the most important things you’ve learned so far from attendees?
We definitely wish we had a clearer way to measure this, though we do know if we could wave a magic want we’d have a fourth room to fill with seating (and maybe a few more brands as we are always packed to the rafters!), and an attached venue for an afterparty!

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
It was very important for us to create our own identity within the alt / fetish community, but not limited to. We have opted for a more ‘fashion’ than ‘fetish’ approach, being inclusive of subcultures and mainstream fashionistas alike. The number one thing about our branding is that we shoot our own artwork, showcasing talent we work with and the unique people within our scene. Our ‘cover girls’ are all artists of some kind in their own right, they are more than just pretty faces! The fashion we aim to support is more about creativity than sex, and so while we do occasionally use the word fetish, we try to not overuse it. The best thing about where we are placed within the market is that it is based on community, so luckily being in a niche means that there is a high potential for plenty of word of mouth business coming our way.

One of the most noticeable things about LBB, is the absence of a dedicated website, relying on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. What’s the rationale behind this, and will there be a website in the future?
As we exist in an event form only at the moment, it’s not essential right now, as the bulk of our info is more easily accessed online than from a traditional website. In my experience, more and more businesses are forgoing the hassle of creating a website that needs constant updating, just directing traffic to social media sites where the latest info, images, listings, reviews etc can be found, plus a place for the community to meet and chat in cyberspace. We do feel there is a real difference in the social outlets though. Many discover us via Instagram (@leboutiquebazaar) which is mostly a ‘moodboard’ page, where we repost works that inspire us, and occasional event photos. Facebook tends to be more information based, event listings, questions answered etc and Twitter…well, we use it, but it doesn’t account for a huge amount of our reach. This all saying, there has been a LBB e-commerce site in the works for a while, and we’ll hopefully be making further progress on it this year.

And what do the next twelve months hold in store for Le Boutique Bazaar?
Another 3 events as standard (Springtime Soiree, Fetish Weekend, Evil Xmas) and hopefully another edition of our outdoor summer pop-up (Taboo Bazaar) in conjunction with Satanic Flea Market. Last year we did it at Old Spitalfields Market and it went down a treat! This plus focusing on getting our ecomm site of the ground, now that we have a bit more time to focus on it properly.  Personally I’d like to take LBB on tour, but we’ll have to wait and see if that can become a reality this year!

Thanks Alexandra!
If you’re London-based  (or fancy a good excuse to visit) and you’re keen to come along to Le Boutique Bazaar, then head to their social media accounts.  You can find them on Instagram and Facebook.

As earlier mentioned, some LBB sellers have already graced the pages here at Lascivious Marketing: Persephonie Ncredible, Yummy Gummy Latex, and Innocent Sex Toys. Why don’t you get further acquainted with their wares too!

If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrepreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!

INTERVIEW: Jennifer Santala, Antidote London Latex

The cure for clichéd fetish latex wear? Jennifer Santala from Antidote London Latex thinks so.

According to Antidote founder and designer Jennifer, this exciting new brand offers a potent combination of fetish, fantasy, and theatre. Where do we sign up?!

BRIAN GRAY: First of all Jennifer, what motivated you to create Antidote? What was your own background before this?

JENNIFER SANTALA: It came ultimately out of frustration that I couldn’t really get a latex item to fit correctly and I couldn’t really afford to use a made-to-measure service. I would consider myself quite a standard size but having owned latex clothes for ten years I just found that whatever I bought just wasn’t quite right; there was always something I wanted to change or adjust. So that’s how it started, with me trying to adjust outfits I had bought from other brands, learning how to glue latex and finding out how to work and manipulate the material.

My background and interest in fashion spans from taking a Fashion Design course at college in Manchester which led to me studying Theatre Design at Central St Martins in London. This course allowed me think more about characters and how to portray characteristics and attributes through the medium of costume design.

Antidote is a relatively new brand. How is it going so far? At what stage is it taking over your life? Is it a part-time enterprise just now or is this now your sole focus?
I am very happy with the way things have developed in the last year. I’m focused on creating new products for my Etsy page as well as investing in professional images to market my brand online and at events. Antidote is a very new brand and I have only been selling items online for just under a year but it’s slowly getting to a great place where I’m able to take on more orders and increase my custom work as well.

As this is only currently a part-time venture it means that time is limited so the days are long with me working late into the night to fulfil orders and make items for photo shoots abroad, but this is what strives me to achieve my dream of making this my full-time occupation. It can be hard and sometimes I feel I’m pushing myself to my limit but at the same time I don’t expect this to be an easy ride and I can be a very determined when I put my mind to it. I see this more as my chance to be creative and soon hopefully I can make this become my full-time focus.

How did you decide upon the name Antidote? And what naming process did you undertake to arrive at this?
Antidote was exactly that: a cure, my cure, for the everyday and mundane. It’s ultimately my escape from the daily grind and a creative outlet for me to explore all my crazy costume ideas. If it means that to me then hopefully it can mean that to others too that wear my designs? I feel the quality and theatrics of the outfits really stand out as being something that’s not just a nice outfit but elevates the wearer into a “whole new you”. If you think of this in loose terms this could in fact be a remedy of sorts. It’s my chance to explore my creativity and the escapism that can bring to both designer and wearer.

I also wanted a name that wasn’t so obviously a fetish brand. I tend to hate all the obvious adjectives that most use to describe the fetish world and I wanted to steer clear of being too apparent or obvious.

The name Antidote suggests drama and although the word is more of a positive it comes from the existence of a negative. Some people like the name, others hate it but I would rather the name provoked a reaction, any reaction rather than none at all…

And what do you see as the brand vision and brand essence of Antidote Latex?
Every day I am inspired to make and create new latex wear and I want to expand on making a greater portfolio of work that will also include menswear eventually. I feel that there is a huge gap in the market for more interesting outfits and I feel men really don’t have too much choice. I feel the very essence of the brand is creativity on a theatrical scale and the vision to create a work of art rather than just a basic latex lingerie set. I think fluidity is also at the heart of Antidote as my customers are also hugely creative and sometimes come forward with ideas they want to see realised. I want Antidote to be fluid with its creativity so it had room to grow naturally and organically. I feel character is key as it’s more about empowering the individual not the collective. It has never been about selling in volume and turning over a huge profit; it’s more about the vision and the spectacle that ensues…

What defines your typical Antidote customer, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
My typical customers I would say are partygoers, performers and exceptionally creative individuals who are also highly involved in the fetish scene, who wants to get more of a custom experience without paying the world for it. They know what they want and are not afraid to ask for a design to be tailored to suit their individual needs. They want outfits that stand out from the crowd and will untimely transform them into their fantasy vision for all to appreciate. Although they are predominantly women as I don’t have any listed items for men as yet, I often deal with men as they want to surprise their partner/lover with something special.

As the brand is very new I wouldn’t know how my customers would describe it exactly but I would hope that they see the theatrics of the costumes and how much I love playing with historical designs and bringing them into the 21st century.

Taking this into account my 3 words would probably be:
Fantasy, Fetish, Theatre

redheaded woman wearing Antidote London Latex. Founder Jennifer Brawls interviewed by erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing [credit: Anouk Dyonne Photography]
[credit: Anouk Dyonne Photography]

A well-positioned company seeks to ‘own’ one word in the minds of consumers (i.e. Volvo and ‘safety’). What would be yours?
I think the word has to be ‘Custom’.

Right from taking my very first order I was adamant on not making any outfit to a standard size i.e. Size 8, 10, 12, 14. I feel this is an old way of working and will untimely leave my customers in the same position I was in by getting garments that don’t fit correctly. Antidote was created to make bespoke garments for the individual, not to stock outfits for the masses. As I hand-make the items from scratch, it doesn’t take a huge amount more time to make the garment specifically to fit the customer’s measurements. It’s a win/win situation as the customer will be happy with the item and it will show off my work to its full potential.

Moreover I have always seen the brand more in terms of creating full costumes rather than just selling individual pieces.  The work has theatrical elements to it and historical influences and these are not things that ultimately translate on a mass production scale – it’s custom shop. I want to make the person wearing my costumes not only feel like their fantasy has come true but truly standout from the standard black latex outfits flooding the fetish scene.  I think if a customer wanted custom work then Antidote should be high in their ratings plus I personally find custom work more challenging and hugely rewarding. It pushes me to my very limit and in the process keeps me developing and refining my skills along the way…

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
Marketing is not my strong point. My only real marketing tool is through Instagram which I feel is a great shopfront for my brand. That way people from around the world can follow my story and get updates on new designs. Although online marketing attracts vast quantities of people, sometimes I feel this is not necessary regarding my target market. Having only 40% of the customers following my work being women and only selling women’s wear currently, I think perhaps the models are attracting them more than the actual designs…

I honestly feel the best and most successful method of marketing (one that most forget) is word of mouth and actually interacting with prospective clients at fetish events. Nowhere else would you be able to walk into a room and meet a thousand people who are interested in the fetish scene and should also be interested in your work. Plus this way is more fun too. When I go out to these events I am my own marketing tool (as is my husband when he attends too) and through showcasing my work in the environment it was made for is truly priceless. Most of my best projects have to come to light this way…

Your designs have been modelled by some well-known figures in the fetish scene, such as Dani Divine. To what extent do you think this has helped in terms of both raising awareness and in subsequent sales?
It has made an incredible difference to have such a well-loved and high-profile figure modelling my designs. It brings a whole new level of interest that I am very thankful for. Despite working for a photography studio I was pretty late in investing in professional images, perhaps as it’s something I do deal with on a daily basis. I was more shocked than anyone when she put herself forward for the shoot and I am even more pleased with the end result and how well received the images have been. Dani Divine and Zara Du Rose are probably as high-profile as you can get within the fetish scene and it was thrilling to have their support and creativity on these shoots. They were and still are my ultimate target customer.

After Zara modelled for one of my shoots last month, she has since invited me to present a latex collection at her next event which I am incredibly excited about! A catwalk showcase has always been such a huge dream and goal of mine and I’m so incredibly grateful for such an immense opportunity. This catwalk show will be the high point of my journey so far.

If you could get another adult brand (whether lingerie, sex toys, fetishwear, pleasure products, BDSM equipment or other) involved in a joint marketing campaign or event with yourself, who would it be and why?
As you might be able to tell from my images, I’m really into props! These aren’t just for the shoots: I feel they add as an extension to the costumes and characters and I would love to work with a brand that makes unusual bondage equipment. A brand like Fraulein Kink or domestique, they seem to have a different take on bondage accessories and have more of a storytelling feel to them. I guess it all comes down to theatrics again and any designer of sex toys or BDSM equipment who also feature these elements would always appeal to me.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given or read somewhere, and from who?
I’m currently working my way through “How to Start a Creative Business” by Doug Richards which is a must read for any entrepreneur who wants to start a creative enterprise. It’s a lifeline for anyone seeking new ideas on how to expand your business and takes you through everything step by step without the business talk. If you haven’t read it then this should be on your next present list.

The best business advice I can quote is a quote I read years ago from Richard Branson:
“The best businesses come from people’s bad personal experiences. If you just keep your eyes open, you’re going to find something that frustrates you, and then you think, ‘well I could maybe do it better than it’s being done,’ and there you have a business.”

This is ultimately how Antidote was born and I think it would be true of many other businesses too.

Time is our most precious commodity, especially for entrepreneurs. How do you maximise yours, and what tips have you picked up along the way?
I maximise my time mainly by being organised, prioritising my workload and taking Sundays off. I feel that I need to be at my best when I’m constructing latex and if I’m tired or ill then the work will not be as good. You need to give yourself at least some time off to make sure you’re working to a high standard. This way you work faster and more efficiently.

And what do the next twelve months hold in store for Antidote?
I hope to really start to take on a higher volume of custom orders and also releasing more items for sale on my Etsy page. Currently I only really have my most basic items listed and so I want to make sure that I include a few more customised items to highlight my main focus on bespoke work and more menswear as well. The catwalk show for Zara Du Rose is also going to be an exciting project and the chance to collaborate with Hippy Poppins who is an amazing headdress designer.

I really can’t wait to see how it all turns out! Watch this space…

Thank you Jenny for such an insightful and honest glimpse into the world of Antidote!

Salivating over Jennifer’s creations? Not surprising. Head over to the Antidote London Latex Esty shop and say hello on Instagram.
(but do come back afterwards to read all the other #sexySME interviews!)

If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrepreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!

SIX reasons branding matters for adult retailers

What’s more important to your adult retailing business? The products you’re selling or the brands themselves?

It’s a question that stirs up discussion in marketing land across multiple industries. And it’s easy to see why the brand vs product debate will also run among adult retailing and marketing professionals. So here we are !

The ‘product’ camp will highlight that goods have to be built well, be of sufficient quality and satisfy wants through specific features which will bring certain benefits to the end-user. Most people can see the logic in that. Afterall, you wouldn’t want a pair of knickers disintegrating after one wash, or battery issues with a dildo (ask Martin from Sinsins about that!).

Meanwhile, the brand camp will emphasise the emotional connection that exists between a brand and consumers. Good products can be provided by a brand, but if there’s a non-existent emotional bond between brand and buyer, then the utility of the product is meaningless – it won’t be purchased.

If you’ve read Al Ries’ brilliant (and concise, and very easy to read for non-marketers) book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” you might have an idea as to which camp Ries certainly belongs to.

I’m not attempting in this blog post to decisively answer the question once and for all. Like a lot of things, I think the truth is to be found in the murkier waters between both extremes.

But there’s no denying that concentrating purely on products and product quality is not a good thing to do. That emotional connection, that personal psychological bond between consumer and brand is one that has to be forged, embraced and worked on. Yep, you guessed it, just like the relationships we create with one another.

But before we risk descending into group hugs and all that malarkey, let’s concentrate on the matter at hand – your business. Your brand is vital to your business success. Furthermore, a brand that’s in rude health will bring several benefits to your company.

So, here we go. Short and to the point.

Standing out from the crowd
When you have a clearly differentiated identity and values from others, you stand out from the competition. A strong brand has higher visibility in a category: think of this when you are seeking new customers. You can charge more than undifferentiated rivals, especially if you are perceived to be of higher quality (this can be achieved through, yes, superior product quality, COMBINED WITH the words and images utilised in your marcoms, website etc.). Greater share of wallet is also likely.

Defending market share
If you were thinking of entering a new market, would you think twice knowing there’s a brand giant ready to stomp on you? Furthermore, how difficult do you think it will be to steal their customers away who are loyal to that brand? A strong brand is one that will be hard to beat in a category knife fight.

Brand Elasticity
This is a big ace in the hand of the ‘brand’ camp. A strong brand can be ‘elastic’; able to enter new categories or geographic territories based on the inherent transferable brand values and strengths – and not product excellence. Think of Virgin (credit cards to space travel), or in a similar rock n’ roll vein, the mega-selling rock band KISS (condoms to coffins!).

How easy would it be for a company that concentrates purely on product development and excellence in one particular sector, to easily diversify or enter new categories at the drop of a hat? Not very. There’s an uphill battle to be won convincing a potentially cynical prospect base.

Loyal customers have a ‘goodwill bank’ allowing a company to recover easier from a crisis or a negative service encounter. Customers with a strong emotional connection to a brand – reinforced from previously consistent positive experiences – may well give the company the benefit of the doubt and be less harsh in their response to that company than they would with other brands they are less favourably disposed towards.

And let’s not forget – if the situation has been successfully resolved, there’s a very good chance customers will become even more evangelical towards the brand. And they’ll tell others.

Balance Sheet bonus
Strong brands possess their own monetary value or equity. From the 1980’s onwards major companies have listed their brands on the company balance sheet and placed a monetary value on them. Indeed, one major UK household food and drink brand fought off a major hostile takeover in the late 1980’s when it listed the value of its brand on its balance sheet.

Comfort blanket during tough times
Finally, let’s not forget just how challenging the current business and economic environment is. While mainstream media like to tell you that things are rosy, the reality is something different. There’s been a ‘lost decade’ of wage growth; indeed forecasts from the Institute of Fiscal Studies predict that by the year 2022, UK average earnings will be similar to what they were back in 2007. Add to that proposed big welfare cuts on the way. That’s sobering – and pretty depressing – reading.

So when times are tough and spending (household or corporate) is heavily scrutinised, customers tend to stay loyal to strong and dependable brands. It’s not really a time for trying out new alternatives. And while customers want quality and value, that doesn’t simply equate to cheaper prices. Don’t be tempted to slash prices during tough times.

So, in a nutshell, give a damn about the lingerie, sex toy or fetishwear brands you own, or those from other companies you sell.

And if you own your own adult brand: nurture it, build it, love and cherish it like a real loved one (almost).

Do it well, and it will show its worth in many ways back – including, financially.
Until next time!

PS. Want to talk more about branding and how Lascivious Marketing can help your adult retailing business? Get in touch now!