Monday, April 23, 2018
Consumer

Kinky goes mainstream with success of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

NEW YORK — You've bought rope for that special someone, picked up a few sex toys and read Fifty Shades of Grey a time or three. You know who you are.

Well, no need to skulk about at naughty shops or the hardware store as Fifty Shades of Consumption makes it further into the mainstream.

Stuart Weitzman and Marc New York have Grey-struck campaigns in the September issues of fashion magazines, the former touting black stilettos and high, Anastasia Steele-worthy boots called "Fifty Fifty," named not for the bondage books but equal parts leather and stretch. "Stuart has always known that people just think shoes. They daydream shoes. They lust after shoes 24/7," said Susan Duffy, Weitzman's senior vice president of marketing. "It's almost like Fifty Shades of Grey. People want 50 pairs of shoes. It's a love affair."

EMI Music is putting out Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album on Sept. 11 in partnership with E L James herself, ahead of the British writer's first visit to the Pacific Northwest locales where her hunky gazillionaire Christian Grey and his new-to-kink love interest dwell.

And coming soon thanks to James' first licensing agreements: official Fifty stockings and garters and printed tights. Undies and jammies and robes. T-shirts and knit tops and hoodies.

Add those to a slew of parody books, many self-published, beauty giant Bobbi Brown's new set of "Come-Hither Shades" for eyes in, yes, grays, and marketing references and tie-ins for everything from iPad covers to bathroom fixtures. There's even a critical reader's guide, Lighter Shades of Grey, that counts the number of times Ana mutters "Oh my."

These days, we're all Fifty Shades of somethin.'

"We don't always get a chance to connect our clients' brands to current day entertainment or news. But when we do, tie us down and hold us back!" said David R. Schlocker, founder and president of DRS and Associates, a luxury marketing and PR firm in Los Angeles for architectural, interior design and building clients.

The company recently pitched "Shades of Gray" kitchen and bath decor, including a Laufen washbasin with seductive curves and edgy Graff faucets in a brushed nickel.

Grey-sessed consumers have kept the books atop bestseller lists for more than 25 weeks, shot preorders for the EMI album to the top of classical picks on iTunes and Amazon — and breathlessly lobbied online for their choices to play Christian and Ana in the movie.

Meanwhile, Trojan, the condom guys, had hundreds lining up for free vibrators recently on the streets of Manhattan, using "pleasure carts" like the ones for selling hot dogs. The crowds were so big the city shut them down temporarily, until the company procured the proper permits. Trojan doled out 10,000 vibrators over two days.

While Trojan has been selling vibrators since 2009, first-quarter sales this year — around the time the Fifty books hit it big — were up about 14 percent from the same quarter a year before, according to Nielsen.

The Fifty phenom also has filled up Etsy with bondage crafts and is keeping Grey-maniacs at Pinterest busy. At Amazon, "Laters, Baby" wall decals with a handcuff motif are on sale, honoring one of Christian's fave farewells (stolen from his brother).

As for rope, one of Manhattan's largest and oldest hardware stores, Garber Hardware in the West Village, noted a 10 percent uptick in sales from about March — soon after the books took off — to July, compared with the same period a year ago.

"Anecdotally speaking, it would certainly be reasonable to attribute that to the Fifty Shades phenomenon," said Nathaniel Garber, the great-great-grandson of the store's founder. "I'm looking at my rope department right now and it's half-empty, and it's been like that for the past few months."

Hmmmm.

Grey, by the way, should rethink his choice of rope — in the first book he requests 5 feet of natural filament during a trip to the hardware store where Ana works. Garber recommends a 12-gauge, nonbraided nylon. "It's soft. Nonbraided is also easier to tie," he said.

Sales are roof-raising for Babeland since all things Fifty took over. With three adult toy stores in New York, one in Seattle and a website, co-founder Claire Cavanah reports a 40 percent boost in business, with eye-popping increases for bondage toys. Among her biggest Fifty-driven sellers: the Good Girl, Bad Girl package sporting a blindfold, feather spanker, feather whipper and wrist cuffs, all in "animal-friendly" leatherette.

"I think what this phenomenon has done is to really legitimize the fact that sex is good, fantasies are healthy," she said. "This is not your mother's romance."

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