Sex toys as a rule are simply, well, not that sexy. It's as if an invisible line runs between high design and sex, ironically suggesting that sensual curves and lines inspired by the body were somehow irrelevant when created for the body. A recent outcropping of luxury sensual products, including Myla, Jimmyjane, Mi-Su, Lelo and the Mile High Kit, erase that false divide, finally introducing objects that relate to the body aesthetically, physically, sensually, and, of course, sexually.
The sex toy revolution began with the seminal launch of Myla, a British-based line of lingerie and toys founded by Charlotte Semler and Nina Hampson who left the corporate world in 2000 to produce a luxury fashion and sex brand for women. They tasked well-known designers Tom Dixon, Marc Newson, and Mari Ruth Oda with creating a line of vibrating toys that we've covered here. Their all time best-seller, Dixon's Bone, is ergonomic, rechargable, made from cast resin, and hand finished (pictured). Other toys come in materials like silicone and steel, and feature fluid, organic shapes. Available in fine department stores worldwide and boutiques in London, Paris, and Manhattan, Myla is the cornerstone of the designer sex toys market.
Not to be outdone by the British, Scandinavians chimed in, asserting their status as the epicenter of design with Lelo (an acronym for Luxury Erotic Lifestyle Objects). In 2003 the Swedish company introduced Ida, Yva, and Lilly, a group of rechargable, palm-sized vibrating toys with fluid, although somewhat derivative, design elements that their website calls "lust objectified." Ida (pictured) is a waterproof option geared specifically towards women.
Following in the footsteps of Lelo and Myla, last year saw the birth of three new concepts: Jimmyjane out of San Francisco, Mi-Su based in Wales, and Oro Design's Mile High Kit (pictured and previously covered here).
The Mile High Kit, a handy dop style carry-on packed with condoms, massage oil, a mini-vibe, and other sexual accessories, is the brainchild of Ted Young, an ex-internet wonk, who developed it with Bond girl sexual bravado and Kubrickian aesthetics in mind. Found in New York's posh Hotel Gansevoort, the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, upscale shops, and online at Flight001, the original Mile High Kit and a slightly pared-down Mini kit are playful travel companions that paved the way for a new item catering to on-the-go vices. This week at the Atlanta gift fair Young will introduce a portable poker set called the Mile High Roller kit due to hit the market October.
Similarly lifestyle-oriented, Jimmyjane, comes from the fertile mind of industrial designer Ethan Imboden and the company's intent to create "modern and sophisticated goods" to "make life sexier." His expertise and research shows in their collection's highlight, the "Little" series of elegant, waterproof, customizable vibrators made from either steel, platinum, or gold. Tuned to a frequency, promised to "provide a deep, resonant sensation", and with the temperature-conducing qualities of metal, the Littles are a thoughtfully luxurious addition to the market, particularly their limited-edition, numbered pieces etched with a vintage sailor tattoo-inspired heart and banner (pictured). Jimmyjane's toys and other items, like a silk and suede blindfold, a unique multi-use body chain, and three mix-and-match scents are all designed in-house and manufactured to their exacting standards. The result is refined, even delicate, catering to classic, cosmopolitan tastes.
Mi-Su products, on the other hand, are all of the non-vibrating variety and fall more toward the decorative end of the design spectrum, taking fluid amorphous shapes and adding bling. Titanium (aqua pictured above), obsidian, and rose quartz toys come embellished with semi-precious and precious stones and look like they might star alongside Paris Hilton in her next movie. The push behind Mi-Su's toys is that they can be tailored to individual preferences with gemstones and materials, or, for the imaginative, Mi-Su Couture enables customers to invent new toy shapes, an option that, like Jimmyjane's engraving service, is well-suited to the intimate nature of their wares and trends towards customization.
Merging personalization with the most personal of products hints at a sophisticated, post-Sex and the City awareness and acceptance of sex. This new spate of companies heralds a healthy, fun approach to sex and sexuality — with matching accessories.