If you don’t own a solid wood paddle adorned with a realistic roaring lion and stained in a dreamy, rich Mahogany finish, you haven’t lived your best kink life yet. Based in Richmond, Virginia, the company is a boutique dream. Every item is handcrafted and designed by founder Michael Maines, who understands not only the market, but the die-hard fetish community. Maines’s small business became famous for their laser-cut wooden paddles, which put just about everything to shame that’s anything less than a 100% Oak impact device with a giant Raven emblazoned on the rounded end, or an ornately trippy, kaleidoscope floral design. LVX has recently expanded into lingerie-esque harness designs. Maines uses vegan leather or nylon straps to adorn curves with intricate garter sets and body harnesses and collars. Though LVX’s collection is priced for luxury shoppers, Maines insists his carefully manufactured collections are meant to please even the greenest of beginners. I asked Maines to share his secret to tapping into the real fetish marketplace that’s more than happy to stay a niche, and find out why hard kink is the trend every big-biz sex toy company wants to copy.
Discuss the popularity of niche fetish toys and specialty products, like fetish jewelry and accessories for day wear, chastity, or electro stim. What is the demand like for these products, and who are the consumers who buy them?
Michael Maines: The popularity of and demand for fetish products, especially high end items, seems to be increasing as the fetish community grows and becomes more ‘acceptable’ on a mainstream level. As more people search for a level of excitement and fulfillment in their sexuality, they are more inclined to explore alternative lifestyles and products to suit their needs. Our consumers are generally people who are moderately experienced in the BDSM lifestyle and are looking for something unique to add to their collections that hasn’t been seen before. LVX provides products that are both highly functional and are great as talking pieces or for artistic display. However, we also have many great ‘beginner’ items that create a welcoming atmosphere for those new to the lifestyle, or are just looking for something different to try.
How do consumers discover their fetishes, and what are they like as customers and fans of your brand?
The internet has opened a lot of doors for consumers to both discover and explore their various fetishes. It has created an environment of acceptance and community which many people struggle to find in their daily lives. LVX promotes this acceptance by offering a variety of options that cater to different levels of intensity, and aiming to provide products that appeal to those both experienced and new to BDSM. Our customers are often those with high standards and find that level of quality in our products. The LVX brand is exciting for people who are seeking that beautiful aesthetic to add to their practice. Our customers want to indulge themselves and we provide the products that cater to that desire.
What are your best-selling fetish products and why? What latest designs have come from your understanding of your consumer market?
Our best selling product line would have to be our paddles. We aim to create remarkable designs that haven’t been seen before in the industry, and are always looking for ways to meld conversation pieces with function. Attractive markings on the body from impact play is always highly valued, and we strive to meet that need in new and innovative ways while maintaining a luxury aesthetic. Some recent designs to address this desire include our line of animal print patterns and floral designs which leave appealing motifs in the skin.
How do you make your products retail-friendly for the B2B market?
Our items are created to catch the eye, both online and in person. Currently our paddles are the only items available in store and their unconventional designs offer great ‘shelf appeal.’ The aim is to produce products that are easily identifiable as LVX and stick out from the competition.
Do fetish/niche items sell better in boutiques, niche shops, or online?
While society seems to be becoming more open and accepting of fetish lifestyles and pursuits, people generally tend to feel more comfortable shopping in the privacy of their own homes; this makes the online marketplace a powerful tool for selling and promoting our products. As a small business, offering our products predominantly online maintains a level of comfort and anonymity for the buyer, but still offers them the level of personal care and customer service that they would receive in most brick and mortar shops.
How has the marketplace for fetish products evolved? Are niche-type and harder/extreme fetishes more acceptable now?
In the same way that BDSM in general is becoming more mainstream, it would seem that within the fetish community, harder, more extreme fetishes are also becoming more acceptable. People are feeling more comfortable and open to exploring non-traditional sexual practices and fetishes on all levels of the intensity spectrum. This provides us a unique opportunity to create products that appeal to a variety of intensity levels, even in one item. For example, we currently offer a mace paddle with optional nails for puncturing and more extreme sensation play. However without the nails, it is still an attractive geometric design with sunburst style edging that holds up to both light and intense play. Our products create a sense of intrigue for the customer who is both curious about BDSM and the experienced practitioner. With the former becoming more and more prevalent in the community, the fetish product industry needs to adapt to cater to a larger variety of intensities.
Are there any new fetishes that you are catering to at the moment?
We’re currently working on more products that cater to more extreme fetishes while maintaining our luxury aesthetic and feel. We are also continuing to develop new and innovative leather bondage items that are modular and can be interchanged with other items. Additionally, we are continuing to design creative and innovative impact play items from paddles to canes which satisfy the need for something indulgent and unique.