par femme might be the internet’s most fashionable sex shop
Navigating the connections between sex, clothes and content.
Sex might sell, but it's often sold to us as 'cheap' or 'tacky.' For many, sex shops are places to shuffle into discreetly, where purchases are quickly tucked underarm and out of sight. Former fashion publisher Monica Nakata and stylist Ruby Heery felt like retail spaces dealing in sexuality should step into the light.
Par Femme is French for "by woman," it's also the name of their new site. There, they offer a multidimensional approach to sexuality: you can buy a piece of Holly Ryan jewellery, browse beautiful underwear brands, invest in an elegant sex toy or read an article about the history of the female orgasm. We caught up with Monica and Ruby to talk about how chic sex can be.
Where did the concept of Par Femme come from?
Ruby Heery: I was always interested in the notion of the feminine, and how female sensuality has been captured in imagery throughout history. How accurate are these representations? How did they make women feel at the time? I began to curate a body of imagery on Instagram, and I called the account Par Femme. One day at work I showed Monica and her eyes lit up. I think it was from that moment that we started to see the possibilities.
It's interesting how you examine sex from so many different positions; from fashion to editorial features.
Monica Nakata: We always saw Par Femme as offering a total lifestyle experience. It seemed crazy to us that there wasn't really any kind of store that catered to more than just the body side of things. Par Femme is about the little things — a candle, a fragrance, a little piece of jewellery — but also about the memory of a funny erotic short story, and about the undies that make you feel good.
I'm interested in how you view the relationship between fashion and erotica.
Ruby: Fashion and erotica are both expressive of a woman's sense of self, and they can each have a transformative quality, which I think is essential to the human psyche. We all want to feel beautiful, to feel pleasure, and to feel ourselves.
Female sexuality can be presented as quite one-dimensional, all about the orgasm, what do you see beyond that?
Ruby: Par Femme is about a multi-dimensional definition of women's sexuality. By women we mean anyone who identifies as a woman. Our vision is ultimately intended to encompass a wide spectrum. We're just starting out but there's so much we can do. We really want to reach into the far corners of the erotic world. We'll provide content for women to explore their erotic impulses, maybe finding new interests along the way. The shop is there to support that.
I noticed you're collaborating with male photographers. Where do you place men in the conversation around female sexuality?
Monica: Even though Par Femme is all about the feminine, from the get-go it seemed ludicrous to exclude people of other genders from the conversation or from working with us. Women are still holding the reins, directing the vision and making the final decisions. In any field, it's important to be inclusive.
How do you the counteract the male gaze?
Ruby: Par Femme is about creating a fresh gaze. We're creating imagery that appeals to us, imagery that makes us feel some type of way.
Text Hilary Bourke
Image via Par Femme