Looking back on more than 20 years in the industry and more than 40 different adult products, Dowonunder Toys certainly rank as one of the longest-standing companies in the adult market in Australia and New Zealand. The fact that we haven’t heard more about Downunder Toys in Europe is probably due to the fact that, until now, they focussed mostly on traditional, hand-crafted manufacturing. Now, they have launched their first sex toy that is created on a larger production scale – but that does not mean that the founders of the company will break away from the original philosophy of their company. The Donwunder Bliss is very much in line with the convictions of the team, while at the same time being a modern toy with modern technology. JD Ryan, one of the founders of Downunder Toys, tells us how they found that balance.
Before we talk more about your latest toy – the Downunder Bliss – could you tell us a bit about the company behind the Bliss? What is the philosophy behind Downunder Toys and its products? JD Ryan: Certainly, Downunder Toys started life in New Zealand in 1992. My best friend (Jennifer) and I founded the business with a sense of fun but also out of a sense of duty to all women. We felt we all deserved better than the poorly made products that were available for our sexual health and pleasure. The lack of such products inspired us to create products that were visually beautiful and made using high quality materials, whilst delivering on pleasure. We are proud that we were pioneers in the use of silicone rubber as a premium material for sexual health products for women.
From the very beginning, our focus was from a sexual health perspective and about using high quality materials with the least amount of waste. Fundamentally, we wanted to make products that were effective and ergonomic where possible, and of course providing life-affirming pleasure.
Since 1992, we have developed over 40 products. Many of which we continue to produce by artisan production methods. We believe by hand crafting these we ensure that every product is of a high standard. We began our business from a studio in Wellington, New Zealand before moving to Melbourne, Australia. It is here where we still reside and are established. This is where we make our products and ship them out to boutique stores around the world.
As the popularity of our designs grew, this gave us an opportunity to expand the business. However as expected, this made our hand-crafted production methods difficult. We spent a number of years planning a transition into scalable production by converting our very best designs for machine-based production methods. The development of the Downunder Bliss is the very first scalable product we have created using this technique.
Our aim is to produce sexual health products that look good, are easy to use, deliver on pleasure and are good value, for both the user and the environment.
How would you describe the Downunder Bliss and what inspired you to create this toy?
The Downunder Bliss is a unique hand held intimate massager, which is fully ergonomic to handle making it effortless to hold and easy to operate. It combines style and the latest technology to deliver pleasure in comfort. By using soft, pure medical grade silicone, the strong and powerful yet quiet vibrations can be felt throughout the body of the Downunder Bliss, with a more intense sensation at the rounded tip. This means it can be used for both penetration and clitoral stimulation simultaneously. It also has a removable silicone sleeve which is splash proof and is easy to clean.
We’re currently developing a variety of new and affordable sleeves in different designs and textures which are designed to be used with the same base design. So this will increase the different stimulations and sensations that can be experienced using the Downunder Bliss, therefore a great investment piece!
I was inspired to create the Downunder Bliss because I wanted a product that would reach the right parts of the body without requiring the user to have perfect reach or strength. What I had noticed about other dual-function products that was while they are wonderful in concept, many were a strain on the hand and wrist to use. I wanted to address this with the Downunder Bliss and I feel like we have succeeded on this front.
I also wanted to create a design with a flexible silicone extension so that the user could easily insert the Downunder Bliss into the body while the other end of the silicone sleeve engages with the clitoris. The simplicity of this dual-function simultaneous internal and external stimulation is the perfect combination of pleasure making it ideal not only for solo play but also for couples to share for a heightened experience of sensual stimulation together. The inspiration for this sleeve design came from our bestselling Miss Bliss product.
The exchangeable sleeves are an important feature of the Bliss. Does that mean this vibrator could essentially become every vibrator the user wants it to be? How exactly do the sleeves work?
Absolutely, the Downunder Bliss can make all your vibrator dreams come true! With the exchangeable sleeves, we wanted to create a product that you could build on and to create a different stimulus experience through the sleeves. We believe by offering interchangeable sleeves in various colours and textures, the user will be able to get the most out of their Downunder Bliss rather buying a new product.
In addition, we were inspired to incorporate a replaceable sleeve design because sustainability is important to us. We felt it important to encourage re-use and wanted to design a product for a longer life for the resources we use in the manufacture of our products.
We also wanted to encourage the user to remove the silicone sleeve for thorough cleaning. With some premium products, this is hard to achieve. As the motor housing of the Downunder Bliss should not be submerged fully in water, one of the benefits of silicone is that it can be sterilised and therefore cleaned thoroughly and safely.
How many sleeves are available at the moment? Are there plans for new sleeves in the future?
For launch, Downunder Bliss comes with just one sleeve design in blue iris colour. In time for Christmas we will be ready to ship three colours, and these are Blue Iris, Pink Shimmer, and Violet Shimmer. We are planning to launch two brand new sleeve designs in January 2018 ready for Valentine’s Day. For the latest updates, please visit our Facebook page fb.com/downundertoysaus or follow us on Twitter @downundertoys.
Currently, a lot of design work for vibrators goes into ease of use. How do you make sure that the customisation options aren’t achieved at the expense of usability?
Our very first thought about the Downunder Bliss design was usability. Our T-bar holding design enables effortless handling of the product. The buttons are placed near the thumb, so operating is no harder than texting. The weight of the Downunder Bliss will point the tip downwards, quite naturally, so the solo player will be able to forget about handling the product and simply enjoy the sensations it offers.
What can you tell us about the technology under the hood?
We design for simplicity with reliability in performance. There are only three vibration speeds with two pulse settings, which the user will easily be able to scroll through to find their optimum setting.
Having been in the sex toy design space for more than 20 years, we have actively sought user feedback. All our design decisions come from accumulated knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in product design. The Downunder Bliss works well for the tech savvy user as well as those of us who prefer simple navigation. Our philosophy is essentially low-tech and high touch.
How would you describe the target audience for your new toy?
Primarily it will be aimed at women and of course, for the partner who wants to be the best lover she ever had by gifting her the Downunder Bliss! It will be in the best interests for both parties! We are developing a new sleeve that is for men. This will help ensure the Downunder Bliss position as a product for couples. This particular sleeve is due for release in January 2018.
Being an Australian manufacturer, would you say that there are differences between you home market and other markets such as the US or Europe when it comes to adult products?
Oh yes. We work downunder (Australia) because it is where we love to live! Our market in Australia is an interesting place to be as there is a lot of development in progress, although we are behind the European and North American markets we are slowly catching up.
Downunder Toys have been exporters from our very first year in business and it is the combination of feedback from our valued retail customers in Australia and our wholesale customers internationally that have defined our direction in product design. The Australian retail market is fairly modest in size, but we absolutely love our Australian customers, and our local product test group.
Downunder Toys is currently looking for distribution partners. What do you expect from your future distributors to ensure a beneficial cooperation?
We are indeed looking for international distributors! Due to our artisan production volumes, we have previously only ever had a small presence in the international market. However, we are now manufacturing in an Australian factory so we will be able to produce larger quantities of product and will be able to fulfil larger orders.
We are looking for long term distribution relationships where we can continue to develop new products and reach a wider demographic, whilst supporting distributors in promoting and marketing our products going forward.
When will the Downunder Bliss be available and how much will it cost?
We are currently taking orders for the Downunder Bliss and shipping will commence in the first week of August. For the European market, the RRP for the Downunder Bliss is €99. To request a trade pack, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org