‘Instruments of Pleasure’ – Kiki De Montparnasse enters the sex toy market
Fashion and lifestyle brand Kiki De Montparnasse is best-known for their luxury lingerie products and now, the brand has set out to conquer the premium segment of the sex toy market as well. At present, there are already 18 SKUs in their ‘Instruments of Pleasure’ line, marketed through various sales channels. And as Molly Murphy, the co-founder and Managing Director of Kiki De Montparnasse’s Pleasure Product Division explains in this interview, the brand is very much interested in finding new distribution partners in the erotic market.
Before we talk about your new product line ‘Instruments of Pleasure’, we have to talk about the brand Kiki De Montparnasse. When was it founded and what exactly does it stand for?
Molly Murphy: Kiki De Montparnasse is a luxury lingerie and lifestyle brand founded in 2005 in New York. The brand has become coveted for its beautiful laces and lingerie pieces. They do an amazing job of mixing classic pieces with provocative pieces that really push the boundaries. The line is named after the singer, actress, and artist muse, Kiki De Montparnasse, who was a beloved figure in Paris in the roaring ’20s. Not only beautiful, Kiki was also known for her self-confidence as a sexually liberated woman, especially at a time when so many women faced societal sexual repression.
When did Kiki De Montparnasse decide to release its own sex toy line? What were the reasons for this step?
Molly Murphy: Since 2007, Kiki has been one of the first fashion brands to embrace this category by curating a selection of pleasure items to sell in-store. When I met with the owner 2018 it was clear this was a category that they really wanted to invest in, in a meaningful way. We both agreed that there was room for a new luxury brand in the space and decided to build a new line from scratch that really represented Kiki’s ethos in a new pleasure product line.
How long did you work on the line? Which hurdles did you have to overcome during the development process?
Molly Murphy: It was nearly two years of development on the line. In my past, I had worked very closely with product development teams and industrial designers, but this was my first time really spearheading development myself, so there were a lot of learnings for me! I think it was a challenge to really build something that had both mass appeal and fit into Kiki’s standards and aesthetic. We spent a lot of time on the packaging and ensuring every touchpoint with the consumer really represented the brand and served a purpose.
You know a lot about sex toys, because you have been active in our industry for a very long time. How much of that experience has gone into the line?
Molly Murphy: Prior to starting this job, I spent a little over 10 years working in sex toys. I have learned so much from the brands and teams at both Jimmyjane and Pipedream. From Jimmyjane, I worked very closely with industrial designers in a complete start-up environment, where you wear many hats. After the acquisition with Pipedream, I learned about working at a large company, with a big team, and moving products on a totally different scale. Both experiences gave me a strong foundation for how to approach the business. In terms of product, my experience was everything. I really knew what features I wanted and how I wanted this line to be different than anything else on the market.
How does the ‘Instruments of Pleasure’ line reflect the brand message of Kiki De Montparnasse?
Molly Murphy: As a muse and character, Kiki De Montparnasse represents empowerment, confidence, and sexual freedom. When it comes to the products, we really wanted them to have broad appeal, but to still uphold Kiki De Montparnasse’s seductive and modern sensual aesthetic. A great deal of attention went into each piece and the packaging.
What target group are you addressing with your new line?
Molly Murphy: The line is competitive in the premium end of the category, with the vibes ranging from $135 to $160. We have some new ones slated for later this year that will be under $100. We are a luxury brand, but the items are what I call ‘attainable luxury.’ They are meant to be aspirational yet within range so anyone can enjoy them. There are definitely fashion and style-minded consumers who might recognise the brand and purchase based on their love for Kiki. We have also noticed different items appealing to different markets. For example, Kiki’s retailers and boutiques really gravitate towards the bondage jewellery and natural massage oil candles. Yet the vibrators have been much more well-received in pleasure boutiques.
Are there any special demands or requirements this target group makes on products, brands, etc.?
Molly Murphy: The packaging and presentation for these items were important. The items are made with top of the line materials and they feel less ‘wellness’ and more seductive and sensual. This was intentional in order to represent the brand to all the existing Kiki lovers.
Instruments of Pleasure consists of 18 SKUs – which types of products does the consumer find in the line?
Molly Murphy: We covered a lot of experiences in this first launch! We have three electronic items, a stainless-steel dildo and plug, massage oil candles produced in France, and a collection of bondage jewellery which is meant to be as wearable as it is functional. I really wanted to launch with a robust line that shows Kiki is invested in making an impact on this category.
What unique selling points do the individual products have?
Molly Murphy: The vibrators are the hero of the line. I knew from my experience what I wanted to create: organic shapes and simplicity in the design while putting the customer experience first. I think the type of vibration is really important. A deep, rumbly vibration resonates deeper into the body. The Flexi Vibe is really thin and flexible for how powerful it is. It can easily slide between two bodies during sex and is meant to be an approachable solo or couples item. The Dual Warming Wand is our ultimate all-around vibe. With a super, rumbling flexible end on one side, and the other end is rigid, and vibrates as well as warms with use. So, you can enjoy multiple experiences in one item.
What immediately catches the eye is the branded packaging. What can you tell us about your packaging concept?
Molly Murphy: I’m so excited about how the packaging turned out! One thing I noticed in this category is you end up throwing away so many boxes and inserts. I wanted to create something that the customer could keep. Under each discreetly branded sleeve is a really beautiful, leather type box that can easily turn into a storage box for each item. And every item also comes with a beautiful travel pouch, so there is a lot of added value in the packaging of each item.
What about the pricing?
Molly Murphy: We are on the premium end of the spectrum with vibes ranging from $135 to $160 for a dual motor wand. The massage oil candles range from $45-$75. These are priced to be competitive with the high-end candle market. Our bondage jewellery is what is called demi-fine, and it is stainless steel for strength and plated in 14k gold. Those items range from $250-$550.
How do you market your ‘Instruments of Pleasure’ line? Are you limited to direct-to-consumer channels or are you also interested in the global B2B market?
Molly Murphy: We sell through our own website, but we also are very interested in the B2B and the global market. We developed these items with the global market in mind and meet all CE & RoHs certification standards. Our massage oil candles, classified as a cosmetic, also are tested and registered for sale in the EU. We have a few customers, such as Selfridges in the UK, who are already selling some of these items.
Which criteria are imperative for you when looking for distribution partners?
Molly Murphy: We are looking for distribution partners who understand the brand and know retailers who align with our products. We hope to work with distributors who can help the company grow and succeed, without diluting the brand.
Which markets are of interest to you when marketing the line? What about the erotic/adult market, for example?
Molly Murphy: We are selling to Kiki’s existing customer base, the Selfridges and Saks of the world, where the customer recognises Kiki’s name. But we also have huge plans for the pleasure product market and are already selling in some key retail chains in the US. The adult market is so important because the staff plays a huge role in the purchasing, as I believe a lot of consumers are looking for guidance in this category. While not all items will be a fit for the adult market, for example, a $550 Collar and Lead gold bondage set might be too expensive for an adult chain, those items could be a fit for a lingerie or boutique retailer. I believe people from all walks of life turn to sex shops as ‘the experts’ in their area and there is definitely room to grow in the luxury sector.
What other plans do you have for ‘Instruments of Pleasure’? Will the line be further expanded?
Molly Murphy: Yes! We have items in 3 categories launching later this year, and already have some other items in development for 2021.