(Note: This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Storerotica Magazine)
How have you seen the sector of restraint-wear evolve over the last 5-10 years as far as tech, trends, etc.? Where do you see it going in the next decade?
Recently we’ve seen thigh cuffs and waist belts gaining popularity with all customers across the board. Additionally, we are receiving many requests for body harnesses that can serve not only as a bondage restraint but as a piece of casual outfit as well. Having all of this in mind, I’d expect the line between bondage/BDSM wear and casual wear to get thinner as we’ll start seeing more people incorporating BDSM harnesses and other accessories with their casual outfits. – Julie Kowaleski, Lulexy
We have seen the fetish sector really evolve since the release of 50 Shades of Grey, which was roughly 10 years ago. While some believed it would be a phase that would die out, it has proven to be just the opposite. Not only did it introduce consumers to taboo items such as Benwa Balls and Spreader Bars, but it also planted the seed that “fetish” items are for the everyday person. I think we will continue to see growth in the e-stim devices — traditionally they were priced way outside of many users’ budget, but now we are seeing affordable options with more versatility coming to the market. – Megan Swartz, Janra Distribution, Inc.
The biggest change I’ve seen is people being much more BDSM expressive in their everyday lives in terms of what they wear. For example, adding a leather choker with an O-ring to a sexy club outfit; buying a significant other jewelry that locks on to their partner or with a handcuff design — kind of like the bondage version of the best friend two-piece heart necklaces so popular in the ‘80s. Someone already in the BDSM community will for sure spot it and think “Oh, this person may be interested in someone attaching a leash and walking them around on all fours.” – Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
Restraint wear has evolved offering varied materials, lace prints etc. and an extensive range of assorted colors. Day-wear collars for example are a common item seen on the high street and are a prevailing fashion statement. – Sylvia Lopez, Emily Silva and Julia Harney, Sportsheets
I’ve worked in the adult industry for just under six years now, and I see that more and more high-quality products are offered for reasonable prices (I say reasonable and mean a reflection of the quality.) As our best-selling item attests to, bed restraints are very much in demand, though many stores carry a variety of cuffs, rope, and other implements of restraint. I think as the consumer educates themselves in regards to bondage and restraint, we will see an increase in demand once again. – Rachel M., Williams Trading Co.
As people have become more comfortable with intimacy products and seeking products to enhance pleasure, restraint products have kept pace. There have been huge strides in comfort over the last handful of years, as well as restraint wear that is fully adjustable for all different body types to enjoy. We hope to see tech and trends that work to include further safety measures in design as well as different sensation play items that also promote comfort for all parties involved. – Nancy Cosimini and Tawney Seren, Blush
For a long time, most of the cuffs, masks, and other restraint wear items were primarily made of leather, but now due to a growing population wanting to avoid animal products, we released silicone restraints and a silicone hogtie in the Kink by Doc Johnson line. These new products are just as strong and sleek as leather alternatives, but made without animal products, and we expect to see more vegan alternatives in the future. – Thao Dipolito, Doc Johnson
People want quality, well-made strong restraints. Cheap restraint wear that breaks easily defeats the purpose of bondage play. – Curtis Thompson, 665 Inc.
That it hurts, or is demeaning in some way. It doesn’t have to hurt, and can just be about a couple or group of people exploring their likes and dislikes together. – Andy Green, Xgen Products
We’ve noticed one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that all bondage wear is black and bulky. We’re trying to change this perception by introducing lots of beautiful colors, elegant designs and high-quality materials. – Julie Kowaleski, Lulexy
BDSM isn’t all about torture, pain and latex. It can be as simple as adding a beautiful blindfold, or power play where one person tells their partner what to do. – Sylvia Lopez, Emily Silva and Julia Harney, Sportsheets
I believe the biggest misconception is that bondage and restraint play is dangerous or painful. Many are hesitant to dip a toe in the process because they are afraid of finding only discomfort. But bondage and restraint play, if communicated properly with a partner, is a comfortable and pleasurable experience. It’s about the desire to play! Communicating needs and ensuring there is a safe word in place can allow for all the desired sensations without experiencing something unpleasant. – Nancy Cosimini and Tawney Seren, Blush
Some of the biggest misconceptions are that bondage play is all about pain when it’s not. It’s actually all about bondage, i.e. restraint — sinking into one’s self and letting the world fall away. There’s this notion that somehow one has to be submissive to be put into bondage and that simply is not true. Bondage can be a huge cathartic release. It can be a very beautiful and freeing experience for people, but they have to relax into it. Free the mind and the body will follow. – Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
That there is a lot of pain associated with fetish play. It is important that people learn to associate fetish with sensation rather than pain. Of course, depending on what someone is into, there can be pain associated with it but the idea is for the level of pain to be pleasurable. I also think those afraid of using restraints are typically used to being in control and can benefit from losing control every now and again. – Megan Swartz, Janra Distribution, Inc.
I could probably discuss this very topic for hours, honestly, as there are so many misconceptions out there. Probably one of the biggest, however, is that bondage and restraint play is only for those into BDSM (as a lifestyle) when in fact it’s just another way to add a bit of excitement in the bedroom. Users don’t have to be into the lifestyle to enjoy a little light bondage. – Rachel M., Williams Trading Co.
How do you market (or advise retailers to market) restraint wear to inexperienced vs experienced users?
Experienced users value durability and functionality above anything else so in our marketing campaigns we focus on those aspects of our products. For inexperienced users, we highlight the aesthetic design, comfort, and the wide range of colors they can choose from. – Julie Kowaleski, Lulexy
With marketing restraint wear, it is important to paint a scene for the users. Showcasing the features and benefits of the product is important, but to really grab their attention you must create a scene they can envision themselves in. This can be done though creative storytelling or imagery. – Nichole Grossmann, CalExotics
As someone who worked retail, I am pretty familiar with this. Honestly, if someone is just starting out, I would ask a lot of questions about what kind of experience they are looking to have. If it’s a couple shopping, making sure both partners were on the same page is key; if one is only OK with say, having their hands tied with a scarf, while the other is looking at full-on bondage with cuffs and rope and all the bells and whistles, and yet neither have experimented with bondage or restraint before, as a retailer it is up to you to help them find a happy compromise, and educate them on the offerings in the store.
Experienced users tend to know exactly what they want, and usually ask outright about what would help them achieve their goals. So, you as a retailer need to know your products front to back, and be ready to field questions from the consumer. Merchandising the products in a way that is appealing to consumers, no matter their level of experience, is a key factor in marketing bondage and restraint wear. Dressing up a mannequin, for example, in cuffs or a pretty rope harness (if you can make one) is eye-catching and will draw a consumer in. But actually knowing the products and what they are used for, what they can be used for, is the best way to market to consumers, along with being able to offer a completely judgement-free shopping experience. – Rachel M., Williams Trading Co.
The easiest way to put a newcomer at ease is by assuring them of their power and control throughout play with safe words, particularly how a “healthy no” makes for a more convincing “yes.” Simplifying play to nonthreatening blindfolds and furry handcuffs are another way to ease initial fears and worries of restraint play. – Preston Garland, Eldorado
In order to market to inexperience, we typically offer products in a non-threatening, fun packaging, for example our line called Frisky. We would choose to make the items with more entry-level materials like faux leather and simple metals which will allow us to offer a more entry-level price that is not a put off to trying something new. The functionality of the restraint may also be beginner-oriented, such as making it non-locking or a more fashionable design versus a useful one. For more experienced users, we offer lines like Strict Leather which typically is made from high-end leather material and higher-end metals like stainless steel. The durability and functionality is typically also at a higher level, i.e. locking bondage, suspension bondage that can hold weight, non-rusting, etc. – Rebecca Weinberg, XR Brands
Inexperienced users can be very hesitant to dive in and it’s important to introduce beginners with items — much like our Noir line, which includes a variety of different sensation play items that can be used to tease and delight with varying degrees of comfort involved. These items are ones that can be easily brought into the bedroom and can stand alone and/or together. More experienced users will gravitate more towards rope, pumps, and wax like that of our Temptasia collections. Our product lines are really more about enhancing sensation with the senses. We don’t have lots of extreme products that are about adding lots of discomfort into play.
Education is a big part of our process, from the creation of products to the marketing and sales — so we strive to educate retailers to guide consumers in the right direction. Again, communication and trust between retailer and customer is essential. – Nancy Cosimini and Tawney Seren, Blush
Keep it simple. Don’t bring a full set of toys that can sometimes be intimidating to a beginner. Start with a kit. Our Beginner’s Bondage Fantasy Kit provides everything for both the inexperienced and experienced user. Users can bring their fantasies to life with ease using the four adjustable restraint straps on chair legs, bedposts, and more. The included blindfold adds anticipation and surprise while heightening the other senses. – Sylvia Lopez, Emily Silva and Julia Harney, Sportsheets