Thursday, 22 July 2021
CEO and owner of luxury lingerie and erotica brand Coco de Mer, Lucy Litwack is focused on building a female-run, female-focused business that celebrates and empowers women. Since taking on the brand, she has grown it from a niche business to a global luxury concern — and believes that it’s still yet to reach its full potential. We talk to her about being a brand with purpose, the power of collaboration and why female pleasure is integral to female empowerment.
I joined Coco de Mer as Managing Director in April 2014 and led a management buyout in May 2017. I am so passionate about Coco de Mer; the brand has always punched above its weight, and I still believe it’s yet to realise its full potential. I felt that there was something so special about it, and for me, a lot of that was about its focus on women and female pleasure, which had been its aim from the start. It’s something you hear a lot about now, but back in 2001 when Coco de Mer started it was quite unique. This was a luxury brand that was sexy, but at the same time, it came from a point of empowerment and that was something I really wanted to nurture.
Women still want to dress for pleasure, but it’s increasingly on their own terms. So, it’s important for lingerie brands to design with that in mind, appealing to women who expect female empowerment to be part of their agenda. The lingerie industry has also definitely evolved from a functional service into a much more fun, fashionable expression for women. Lots of smaller, new brands have launched, and since the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, there has definitely been a greater interest in the more erotic side of the market from mainstream customers.
I’ve always believed that female pleasure is integral to female empowerment and I have seen the hugely positive impact it can have on a woman. Being allowed to explore her desires in an environment that is welcoming — without fear of being judged — can have an extraordinary effect on a woman’s confidence. That is why I like to work with all-women teams on our photoshoots. There is something moving about the ‘female gaze’ and even more so with intimate items such as lingerie — we are able to get closer somehow, and there is a trust and confidence in the female interpretation of sensuality which is inspiring.
Luxury is taking on a new definition today. It is no longer just about owning a designer product; it is about individual, exceptional experiences that are authentic, unique and immersive — and emotional connection. At Coco de Mer we don’t just offer products, we offer experiences and education in order for men and women to be able to make discoveries, explore their desires and embrace the complexity of sexual pleasure in a space that is empowering and indulgent.
Being a brand with purpose is crucial and a deep belief in championing women’s causes underpins all my goals for Coco de Mer. As a business, and personally, I work with NGOs and activists in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), in addition to trying to break taboos down around female sexuality. I believe that the female perspective on pleasure is little discussed and often not truly understood in everything from art to culture and education to pornography. And yet, knowing and owning female pleasure and sensuality can be life-changing, from raising general happiness and confidence, to deepening and nurturing our relationships and developing a fundamental appreciation of ourselves. Our capacity to experience it is innate, universal and human and it’s never too late to start exploring its extraordinary possibilities. I want Coco de Mer to be a safe place to discover that potential; in a brand built by and run by women, for women.
Our boutique in Covent Garden has been the heart and soul of the brand for 20 years; so, its closure during the pandemic was devastating. We had to learn quickly to become a digital-first brand. However, it also underlined something that I’d always believed — the importance of self-love and pleasure to a happy life. Pleasure isn't a luxury, it's a necessity, and we saw a huge increase in the purchase of sex toys during the first lockdown. It felt like people were really finding the time to explore their desires, alone or with a partner. Maybe the one positive to take from Covid is that it has forced us to look inwards; to demand more substance and to put self-care at the top of our priority list. As the pandemic kills empty brand hype, consumers are becoming collaborators and we’ve seen retail empowering and cultivating communities. There is no doubt that the sense of touch, companionship, and intimacy are crucial in developing a happy life, so technology and eroticism have the potential and promise to tie much more closely together — particularly at times like this when we are kept away from our loved ones.
Our customers love personal service, the opportunity to touch and feel the products and the immersive experience. However, now we’re looking to drive growth in many different ways across customer touch points, with a focus on direct-to-consumer channels and social commerce. We have seen customers who would have only shopped in our boutique in the past, now moving to online shopping and we are going to continue to pivot towards a digital-first strategy and work on ways to bring our passion for and dedication to female pleasure to life.
Collaborations are a core pillar of our strategy and we are developing partnerships that are greater than the sum of their parts, and drive creative evolution as well as business growth. For example, we collaborated recently with Julia Restoin Roitfeld and Laura Bailey, both remarkable women and tastemakers, who brought to life their unique perspective on the subject of female pleasure. Their take was intimate, quietly powerful and sensual, yet totally relatable. Julia and Laura are personal friends, and we had an all-female team; the shoot felt so safe and free from inhibitions. Female pleasure and sensuality exist in so many forms and with our Home of Pleasure platform, we want to build a community of interest around and celebrate this extraordinary world. For me, this collaboration was our most intimate interpretation of sensuality yet; demonstrating a level of trust, passion and acceptance that will hopefully inspire all women to embrace and celebrate their bodies. Our partnerships are also core to how we bring excitement and delight to our customers, whether that is our capsule collections with the V&A Museum, our work with Sotheby’s on its Erotic Art Auction or our collaboration with Waris Dirie in the fight against FGM. I believe so many things are better and more powerful when done together.