Let’s Learn About and Have Sex

939729403061dba92451880973c09e24.jpg

Well, it’s that time of the week where we feel compelled to alert you to the city’s best current opportunity for sexual enlightenment.

Get loose for NSFW and their Play Date, a very hands-on and educational five-story-townhouse sexual adventure, happening tomorrow and roughly every eight weeks after at an undisclosed location.

Before we dive in, know that you must be approved by what they call the Council. Translation: best look good (we have faith in you). You’ll get the address once approved. And while we know this is short notice, there are still a handful of tickets left for tomorrow’s party, which you’ll have priority access to and express screening if you tell them you heard about it from us.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the good stuff:

—It’s not a “sex party” per se, but they’re not going to stop you in any of the reservable rooms or the roof deck.

—It’s just as much about learning. All throughout the house, there’ll be classes, because continuing education is a part of any commitment to becoming a person who regularly attends these types of things. You can learn about sub/dom, how to take the perfect nude selfie, Japanese rope bondage... And yes, they’ll provide the ropes.

—Among the acceptable costumes in the dress code are a Tarzan gown and, of course, a tux. And animal-inspired fetish gear. You know, to keep it formal.

—The masks worn by the otherwise ill-clad staff were made by, and this is a real thing, animal mask designer extraordinaire Max Steiner.

—There’s an outdoor smoking patio and gazebo, and a Netflix-and-chill component in their theater, which just amuses us.

—There’ll be five DJs (including PONY and Alex Cecil), a renowned vegan chef from Russia and many sake cocktails, along with, of course, champagne.

—You can have yourself and whomever you like be erotically sketched for posterity.

—Knife throwers, snake charmers, bed of nails: check, check and check.

—Private fittings for custom Fleur du Mal lingerie will occur.

—The waterfall spa that exists is complete with jacuzzi and steam room, and amenities such as condoms, lube and toys.

—The next party will have a Roman bacchanalia theme, so go out and purchase a handsome toga, because there’s going to be a virtual-reality component, in which people will be able to check out some of the action on Snapchat, just to see if this kind of thing is for them.

I Went Inside New York’s Most Elite Sex Club

2e209a045b918d137d4021a1203c3dda.jpg

“SOME nights get a little more full-on than others,” the club’s founder warned me.

“Because tonight is rope bondage, and we advised members bring a partner, it might get more sexy.”

It won’t surprise you to learn that sex clubs abound in New York City, where I’ve lived and worked as a writer and editor for the past two years since leaving Australia. A little more unexpected, though, is the clientele you will spot at these events; lawyers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, models, writers, and the finance guys and girls from Wall Street — all of them young, all of them attractive.

This crowd is flocking to a new elite, membership-only club called NSFW (Not Safe For Work) that’s ridding the “sex club” of its unsavoury stigma and attracting beautiful, successful millennials desperate to not only take part in its envelope-pushing events, but pay for the privilege.

“Most of our members are around 27, so youth is an important factor for us,” NSFW’s founder, a successful New York businessman who operates anonymously, told me at a recent rope bondage class.

To assess whether you’re the right fit he and his team analyse your social media feed and comb through your friends list — oh, and you have to be hot, naturally.

“Members tend to be physically fit and we require [applicants] submit profile links to review before accepting membership. We look through their feeds, see what kind of friends they have, where they travel or party, and what type of things they post,” he said.

d6c4905877c57149507b7ef7022655d1.jpg

When you think of sex clubs you probably think about a lot of people wearing masks. But all is revealed at NSFW.

Membership is $6.66 per month, and only after making it through the thorough screening process — and about a one-month waiting period — are you allowed to join. Since NSFW launched in January 250 members have been approved, with nearly 500 hanging to get in on the wait list.

Additional payments of anywhere from $20 to $250 are due should you RSVP to an event — on Tuesday you could be invited to a class about BDSM, Wednesday could be a seminar about sex and consent, and Saturday night might be a three-floor dance party with live entertainment and designated shared rooms for sex.

As a first time sex partygoer, I was hesitant before my first event — what exactly will I have to do here? — but the NSFW team assured me that not everyone gets hot-and-heavy, and it’s certainly not an expectation — however yes, sometimes couples get, uh, physical.

Members must practice what NSFW dubs “enthusiastic consent,” so that no one feels uncomfortable or pressured. One female member I spoke with ahead of the party even told me that this strictly-enforced rule means she feels safer approaching guys — or being approached by them — at NSFW event than she would at a regular club.

So, it was armed with all of this information — and a heavy dose of curiosity — that I checked my judge-y preconceptions at the door and agreed to attend one of the club’s buzziest classes; a rope bondage event led by a dominatrix named Goddess Aviva.

802fa51edcb485b4b1ab10f43c8c6dce.jpg

I arrived at the trendy apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side at around 9.30pm, was handed a small glass of red wine and introduced to a couple of members. Scanning the low-lit room, I noticed it was decorated with cozy floor cushions and lounge chairs, and a long table was setup with ropes. A modern, suggestive video played on a projector against one wall.

“We’ll sit on the lounges or the chairs with a partner while Goddess Aviva leads the class,” a NSFW co-ordinator told me.

After about 30 minutes and just one glass of wine to combat my nerves — this rookie was not getting kicked out of her first sex party for being tipsy — I joined about 15 beautiful couples on the couches.

A few giggled as Goddess Aviva handed out the ropes and introduced her partner for the demonstration, an attractive woman kitted out in leather and lace lingerie.

“This is much easier if you have less clothing on,” she hinted, as the women around me and some of the guys in the same-sex couples took that as the cue and stripped down to their underwear. Even less for some.

“Hellllll no,” I thought, self-consciously zipping my leather jacket a little higher.

I seemed to be the only feeling even slightly uncomfortable.

While only a few people in the class were well-versed in bondage, couples either laughed confidently as they tried and failed to turn ropes into body harnesses, or kissed intimately, sitting on each other’s laps, nearly nude and seemingly oblivious to the room full of strangers sitting around them.

So, what’s the actual appeal for 20-and-30-somethings clamoring for a membership? At the end of the seminar, having learned how to tie someone safely (no rope burn!) to a bed post and make a nifty body harness, one NSFW veteran told me the events were simply amazing networking opportunities, and another said he often took dates to the parties.

It’s more memorable than dinner and a movie, I suppose.

Oh, but guys, please check first before taking your Tinder date to a sex party. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, trust me.

Selfie, Bikini, Thousands of Subscribers then Advertisements: The Recipe for Making a Fortune on Instagram

fortune-instagram.jpg

Bloomberg unveils the techniques of these young women to the perfect plastic become rich by playing advertising placards on social networks. This is the case of Caitlin O-Connor, American actress of 26 years, 282,000 subscribers on Instagram on the counter in May 2016.

"Social networks have built 100% of my career," she admits. The young woman knows how to combine the different social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat to increase her audience and access the much-desired status of influencer, whose accounts exceed 100,000 followers. Because brands love these "big bosses" of the internet to advertise their products, attracted by the young audience present on these applications and difficult to reach by other means.

On Snapchat, O'Connor regularly poses for the borders of the eroticism ArsenicTV, where women with the measurements of mannequin strut in little outfit and which reached half a million visualizations. A decision that has earned 100,000 subscribers on Instagram since its first appearance.

With its tens of thousands of subscribers, it regularly contacts brands of all kinds to offer e-marketing services. For example, she promoted the amino food movement or the casper stamped bedding.

And this approach pays off handsomely. Each Caitlin O'Connor publication brings in about $ 300. Normally, she gets between 6,000 and 10,000 dollars a month thanks to her daily posts on Instagram. According to Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte, an agency specializing in influential castings for advertising campaigns, about 100,000 people have already adopted this new way of making a fortune thanks to social networks.

Famous on Instagram

icymi27086.jpg

Boutique owner Yoyo Cao reaches for her phone at least once a day to snap a photo of what she is wearing.

She started documenting her outfits on Instagram, a social media application, as a hobby about a year ago because she was interested in photography and fashion.

But she has since found that it is a good marketing tool as well.

The 25-year-old, who owns Exhibit, a boutique at Far East Plaza, takes pictures of her outfits every day to show the 21,000 followers of her Instagram account, yoyokulala, how to mix and match items from her shop with other pieces.

It is the only form of advertising she uses and, out of all her 21,000 followers, only about 100 are her friends.

"I've noticed that business has become better with the increase in the number of followers," she says.

She adds that she gets customers going to her shop armed with their phones, asking for entire outfits that were featured in her account.

Ms Cao is among the many tastemakers showing off their styles on Instagram.

The photo-sharing application was started in 2010 by two Stanford graduates, Mr Mike Krieger and Mr Kevin Systrom. They sold it to Facebook in April for US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion). With 130 million users worldwide, it offers filters and editing tools which allow users to enhance photographs and broadcast them with the click of a button. In turn, followers can "like" what they see.

Fashion, food and travel are among the most photographed topics on Instagram.

Fashion stylist Karen Ng, 41, says that uploading pictures of what she wears, also known as OOTD or Outfit Of The Day in Instagram-speak, allows people to take fashion cues from her.

"I do it when I feel like I've captured a great dress-up moment; it's a compilation of my different looks," says

Ms Ng, who styles socialites and professionals such as bankers and doctors.

Within a year of opening her Instagram account - karenngkarenng - she has garnered more than 5,200 followers, of which only about 150 are people she knows personally.

POWERFUL MARKETING TOOL

While many of those with large followings have blogs, they say that Instagram allows them to reach out to more fans because it is more immediate than blogging or going on Facebook.

Ms Linda Hao, 23, a designer and DJ, used to upload photos to her blog, but she now uploads them to Instagram several times a week under her account lindahaoliyuan.

"With a blog, you have to upload the pictures from your digital camera and edit them; only then can you post them on your blog. With Instagram, it's instant," says Ms Hao, who blogs only about once a month now.

In Ms Cao's case, her shop's Facebook page would get only about 10 new followers a day, but her Instagram account gets about 100 new followers daily.

One of her followers, student Elizabeth Seow, 21, agrees that Instagram is a more convenient way than blogs to keep up with her favourite style icons.

"I can view all their pictures on one platform. On their blogs, there is a lot of text. Now I can skip that and go straight to the visuals."

It is no wonder that fashion brands have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. Luxury labels such as Celine and Louis Vuitton each has more than 100,000 followers, as do designers such as Rebecca Minkoff and Prabal Gurung.

A spokesman for Club 21's digital marketing team says Instagram is a useful tool in helping the home-grown multi-label retailer reach out to new customers. "We connect with customers on a day-to-day basis by answering comments and queries about our posts and the products posted," says the spokesman. Since it joined Instagram in 2011, Club 21 has garnered more than 8,700 followers.

In an e-mail interview, Mr Daniel Saynt, creative director of marketing agency Socialyte in New York City, tells Urban that Instagram is a powerful marketing tool that gives brands the ability to expand beyond what is published in magazines.

"Facebook and Twitter provide ways for brands to connect with fans, but Instagram provides a way to tell a story," he says.

Adding to the appeal of Instagram is its video function, which was launched in June and allows users to post videos of up to 15 seconds long.

Ms Hao, who has 25,000 followers, says she occasionally uses the video function to capture her outfits better. For instance, details on a long skirt can be seen only when the wind is blowing.

DARK SIDE OF INSTAGRAM

But with the good, comes the bad. Some Instagram accounts have become a medium for showing off wealth. Take, for instance, the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog, which has become so popular it is being made into a reality TV show.

The blog is a compilation of photos taken from the Instagram feeds of wealthy young people all around the world.

It includes images of fast cars, watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars, meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, Hermes bags and other extravagant purchases.

On their photos, these "rich kids" add hashtags such as #hermes or #christianlouboutin, so people know what they are flaunting.

Local Instagrammers who frequently post pictures of their pricey possessions, such as socialite Jamie Chua, 38, and entrepreneur Kane Lim, 23, have been criticised by netizens for being show-offs.

Through her account ec13m, Ms Chua gives her 88,000 followers on Instagram a glimpse of her high life by uploading pictures of her expensive outfits, outings with friends and, notably, her extensive Hermes Birkin bag collection.

Mr Lim, who goes by kanelk_k on his Instagram account, is among those featured on Rich Kids Of Instagram, but it is something he says he is not proud of.

"I don't want to be associated with popping bottles and posting receipts," says Mr Lim, whose Instagram account is filled with pictures of his extensive designer shoe collection - more than 200 pairs at last count - which includes brands such as Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti.

Despite the negative comments, Mr Lim has more than 27,000 followers, including pop star Rihanna, and the number is growing.

Psychologists say Instagram can breed insecurity in both the user and the viewer.

"It tends to create resentment and anger because those who work hard but do not have such means will be filled with disappointment, regret and envy," says Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

"The person who owns the Instagram account may get more egotistical if his audience gets bigger and he gets more responses. As a result, he may need to do even more to uphold his standing," he adds.

Agreeing, Dr Brian Lee, head of the communications programme at SIM University, says: "Pictures can say a thousand words, but they can also hide a thousand problems. Photos may not reflect the reality."

Dr Lee notes that as social networking sites, such as Instagram, gain popularity, counsellors are also seeing a rise in youngsters seeking help for self-esteem problems.

But engineer Eric Ng, 29, says that Instagram can also help to motivate people.

"Many of us may not be able to afford the luxury items, but we can aspire to own them one day," says Mr Ng, who follows Australian blogger Nicole Warne (garypeppergirl) and model Miranda Kee (mirandakerr).

"Of course, many are just showing off, so I'll only follow those who are also stylish."

 

YOYO CAO, 25, OWNER OF EXHIBIT, A BOUTIQUE IN FAR EAST PLAZAInstagram:yoyokulalaFollowers: 21,000

Originally from Macau, Ms Cao, who is single, has lived in Singapore for 10 years. She uses her Instagram account to promote her shop as well as show off her personal style. Many of her photos are stylishly shot, use interesting effects and show her in quirky poses.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

I've always been interested in photography and this is a way for me to show people how to mix and match items. I don't believe in wearing labels from head to toe. Money cannot buy style.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

From Monday to Friday.

Describe your style.

It's minimalist. I'm not girly; I wear more pants than skirts.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Mostly my friends and my boyfriend. They're very supportive. When we get a perfect shot, they will shout "Yes". My friends also post OOTD photos. If I'm around, I give them tips on how to pose.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Celine, Alexander Wang, Givenchy and Maison Martin Margiela.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Denim shirts and shorts. I love denim.

I try not to take pictures during weekends, just to draw the line somewhere. I don't want my life to become too public.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Los Angeles-based fashion blogger Jayne Min (stopitrightnow). She also posts OOTD photos. Her style is similar to mine and I like how she mixes clothes from Zara and Topshop with designer labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim.

What else do you shoot?

I travel a lot, so I like to take pictures of the places I visit. Japan, South Korea, Thailand and, of course, Macau, are just some places I've posted pictures of.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't really had any and I wouldn't respond if I did, because everyone has their own opinions.

 

KANE LIM, 23, ENTREPRENEURInstagram: kanelk_kFollowers: 27,000

It is no wonder that this Los Angeles-based Singaporean has made it to the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog - his account is filled with photos of his huge collection of Christian Louboutin shoes, designer togs and lots of bling. Pop star Rihanna is one of his followers and even helped him pick between two jackets to wear to her Diamonds World Tour concert in Los Angeles in April by commenting on his account. The bachelor recently started his own bespoke line of jackets and handbags.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To share my passion and also to get inspired by incredible people every day. It is great to find so many people out there who share my interest in fashion.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Every day, even when I'm travelling. As long as there is Wi-Fi, I'll Instagram my outfit. Fashion never stops. I want to be known as someone who dresses up daily and who is a representative of men's fashion.

Describe your style.

Bold, wild, crazy and gloriously free. The great Coco Chanel once said: "In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different". That is why Coco Chanel is Chanel and Kane is Kane. I always say, why blend in when you can stick out?

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My friends, my helper and just random people, such as the valet or sales representatives of shops that I'm at. I'll take a selfie (self-portrait) if I can't find anyone.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Most definitely French labels, such as Balmain, Givenchy, Chanel, Hermes, Cartier and Christian Louboutin.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I dress up even to go to the doctor's or the supermarket. There's never a dull moment.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends, socialite Jamie Chua (ec13m) and stylist Nini Nguyen (ninistyle).

What else do you shoot?

Cars, food, art and my pets.

What is the worst comment you've received?

Some people assume that because I'm Chinese, my things must be fake. Negativity makes me stronger. I focus on the positive comments and they inspire me to take risks in fashion.

 

KAREN NG, 41, PERSONAL STYLISTInstagram: karenngkarenngFollowers: 5,271

Ms Ng, who is single, provides styling services to professionals such as bankers and doctors, as well as socialites. Her photos show her at local and overseas fashion events, as well as hobnobbing with celebrities such as former model Yasmin Le Bon.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

In the past, I would put a whole new look together and just take it off at the end of the day. I realised that it was such a waste, as so much effort went into putting it together. I decided to take pictures, so that I remember the look.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

About two or three times a week. It's not a daily diary. I upload only when I want to show a different style or outfit. Getting followers and likes is not my focus.

Describe your style.

It's eclectic, dramatic and bold. I always want to make a statement. I'm always looking for interesting structures and striking silhouettes.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Usually friends or random people on the street who look happy - if the person isn't happy, you'll never get a good shot. Because I'm using a mobile phone, I need to take about 20 photos before I get the right shot. I'm quite a pain and some of my friends are quite agitated with me already.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Balmain, Givenchy, Mugler, Christian Dior, Celine and Chanel.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

My casual look involves throwing on a Givenchy or Balmain T-shirt. I don't usually post pictures of myself in my casual clothes because they would all look the same. The only thing different would be my accessories.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Former Harper's Bazaar Russia editor Miroslava Duma (Miraduma) and editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo (annadellorusso). They're trendsetters and I get inspiration from them to style my clients.

What else do you shoot?

Art and also food, but only at restaurants that are difficult to get in, so that people who can't get in can see what the food is like.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I'm lucky, I've had only two "haters" so far, who called me names. I deleted their comments and blocked them.

 

MAX ANG, 23, SALES ASSOCIATE WITH CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTINInstagram:maxan9Followers: 6,267

Mr Ang, who is single, is known to his followers for emulating the style choices of K-pop star G-Dragon - think loud prints and coloured hair. A friend of popular Instagrammer and socialite Jamie Chua, he often posts photos of them together.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To help guys who are more conservative in their fashion choices. I want to show them that dressing up can be more than wearing a grey or black suit.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Usually every day.

Describe your style.

I try to dress in all ways: street, formal, casual and crazy. Dropped- crotch trousers and studded Christian Louboutin sneakers are among my wardrobe staples.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Friends or strangers if I am desperate to share my outfit and my friends aren't around. I don't feel weird posing in front of strangers. I don't really care what people think.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Rick Owens, KTZ, Balmain and Hermes. I also wear Zara. I'm always seen in Louboutin shoes because most of my outfit shots are taken on days when I work.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I always make it a point to dress up; it has become a habit.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends Jamie Chua (ec13m) and Arthur Soo, a sales associate at watch retailer Yafriro, (arthurkinggggg). We exchange fashion tips.

What else do you shoot?

My designer shoes, T-shirts and accessories. I don't feel bad about showing off my items because I work very hard and I'm proud of them. I spend about $2,000 a month on shopping. I get a discount on Louboutin shoes but I have to buy them at full price if I reach my allotted limit.

What is the worst comment you've received ?

Occasionally, I get comments about how I don't dress in a very "masculine" way. I respond to some of them by saying "it's all right if you don't like it, it's my style".

 

SHAREL HO, 39, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DEFRED JEWELLERSInstagram:sharel89Followers: 1,968

Mrs Ho, who was born in Ipoh but is now a Singaporean, is married to Mr Fred Ho, the owner of jewellery shop, DeFred Jewellers, who is in his 50s. They have two daughters. She joined Instagram at the end of last year. Her photos show her at society events and riding horses at the Singapore Polo Club.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's entertainment for me. I'm quite vain; I think I'm the only one among my friends uploading outfit pictures. Every woman should be vain to a certain degree; only then will she take care of herself.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Girly, but from last year, I decided to try edgier looks, such as putting on a denim jacket with a very feminine organza skirt. I just want to be more versatile and to have more fun with my looks.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My daughters, Khailie, 14, and Khailing, 10, and my helper Loreta Tablizo. I don't need to train them as they're natural at taking photographs. They are the ones telling me what poses look good and if my hair is out of place.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Miu Miu, Lanvin and Alexander McQueen.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Shorts and singlets from brands such as Alexander McQueen and Zara. I post pictures of myself and without make-up sometimes. We don't have to be perfect all the time.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Malaysian model Venice Min (venicemin) and other Asian celebrities. Asians are more petite, so I identify with them better.

What else do you shoot?

Almost all my photos are of my outfits. I just want to concentrate on fashion. I started horseback riding three years ago, so I also have some photos of me horseback riding, taken by my trainer and rider friends.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't had any so far. I think it's because I don't identify what I'm wearing through hashtags. It's about my fashion sense and not the brands. You have to put yourself in the position of others - not everyone can afford luxury items.

 

NICOLE WONG, 24, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF WOMENSWEAR BRAND AMEN AND MENSWEAR LABEL CRAWFORD & SONSInstagram:ncwongFollowers: 4,855

Ms Wong, who is single, graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2009 and started her clothing labels in 2011. Dark and edgy outfits and jewellery feature heavily on her Instagram account.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To showcase my clothing brands and also to show people how to mix and match other clothing with items from my brand.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

It's usually spontaneous.

Describe your style.

Minimal and clean, with a mix of tailoring.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My fiance, Mr Clinton Leicester, 25, who is the co-founder of my brands. My photos are almost always shot against a plain background.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Apart from my own brands, I like Ann Demeulemeester and BLK DNM, as well as jewellery brand Beneath The Roses and local hatmaker Hat Of Cain.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Usually jeans and Chelsea boots. Why not?

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

That's tough as there are so many who inspire me creatively. For instance, some Instagrammers I follow find ways to turn ordinary things, such as magazines, into tables.

What else do you shoot?

Clean interiors and greenery. I've always loved being outdoors. Clean and minimal interiors reflect what my two brands are about.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I am very fortunate that people have been very nice and open. So far, nothing negative has hit me and, if it ever does, I doubt I will be bothered. I believe different people have different views and opinions.

 

LINDA HAO, 23, DJ AND OWNER OF ONLINE CLOTHING STORE, YESAHInstagram:lindahaoliyuanFollowers: 25,000

Originally from Shanghai, Ms Hao, who is single, moved to Singapore when she was seven to attend school here. She is known for her love of brightly coloured outfits, which she occasionally posts videos of.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's not about showing off. I love taking pictures and I love fashion. The two just come together.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

I upload whenever I'm dressed nicely. It can be every day; it can even be twice a day.

Describe your style.

I'm very versatile and I love to explore new trends and unusual fashion accessories. I'm a very colourful person.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, it's my boyfriend, Jacky Lee, 28, a film-maker. But if I can't find someone to take them, it's no big deal.

I am usually the one telling him what to do; they are photos of me after all. But normally, we just take one picture as there's no such thing as a perfect shot.

I take videos once in a while if they help to bring out certain details of my clothes, but it's too time-consuming.

What are some of your favourite brands?

None at the moment.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Boyfriend jeans and T-shirts. It really depends; I would if I'm doing something hilarious or Insta-worthy, such as wearing bedroom slippers in public.

Who are your favourite instagrammers?

New Yorker Naomi Davis (taza).

She is a hipster mum of two super adorable kids. I need to look at her pictures before going to bed or when I'm feeling down. She posts mainly pictures of her kids.

What else do you shoot?

I love shooting special moments, such as when I'm having fun with friends. Instagram is a way to collect memories as no one prints photos any more.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I always take photos of myself in different make-up looks. There was one person who kept questioning each make-up shot and asking me if I was a boy or girl.

Perhaps because I have short hair and the pictures were in black- and-white, he could not tell. I reported and blocked him because he did it more than once and my friends kept stepping in to defend me. I just didn't want a commotion. I'll block people if they ask stupid questions repeatedly. Simple.

 

VALERIE WANG, 22, STUDENT Instagram: valerie_wangFollowers: 10,000

Ms Wang, who is single, is an illustrator who studying in fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts. A part-time model for some blogshops, she is known for her casual and chic style. Her Instagram account, which she started about a year ago, has a clean and simple aesthetic. Some of her photos are shot with a digital camera, while others are shot with her mobile phone.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It was partly a "monkey-see- monkey-do" situation; some of my friends were using Instagram and uploading outfit photos and I wanted to see what it was about.

I'm also paid to showcase clothes from blogshops that I model for and I find that Instagram is the fastest and easiest way to share what I'm wearing. I don't think I'm popular; it's mainly exposure from the blogshops.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Simple and casual. I wear flip-flops a lot. People may say it's sloppy, but it works for my style.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, my maid as she is the only one at home. All the filtering and editing is done by me. I tell my maid what I want her to do and she just snaps the picture.

What are some of your favourite brands?

I'm not into brands. I'll wear whatever looks nice.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Every day is a lazy day; I dress with comfort as a priority.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

American leather goods brand, Stitch and Hammer (stitchandhammer) and interiors blogger Jennifer Hagler (amerrymishap). They're not celebrities, but they have pictures of nice products and home interiors.

What else do you shoot?

My illustrations. They don't get as many likes and comments as my outfits, but it doesn't bother me. Art, like fashion, is subjective.

What is the worst comment that you've received?

I have not had any bad comments, but if I did, all one has to do is to ignore them.

The Market for Influences: How to Turn a Hobby into a Digital Phenomenon?

Influencers 1_front row chiara y hermana 728.jpg

What is hidden behind each like? What are the most relevant figures in the influencer universe  ? Which platforms are the most relevant to this day? The influencers  have become the main ally of fashion companies to build their reputation and raise sales of products in the digital world. The sector has become professionalized and now a constellation of actors such as representative agencies and independent representatives make a link between  influencer  and fashion company. With the sponsorship of  Launchmetrics, Modaes.es will carry out over the next few weeks a series of reports that analyze the phenomenon, while pointing out which are the most relevant characters of the sector in Spain and the rest of the world.  

Fashion enthusiasts, art and travel with the soul of communicators, emerged thanks to the birth of tools for creating content on the Net as Tumblr and Wordpress. That's how bloggers were a little less than a decade ago. Today, many of these figures have turned their names into millionaire businesses, thanks to the money they generate from their collaborations with fashion companies to raise the visibility of their products and actions.

The professionalization of the sector has turned bloggers into figures spoiled by the sector, turned into machines to make money to blow of like and brief commentary. Around them, the industry has developed a constellation of intermediaries such as representative agencies and representatives, dedicated to hunt for talent to monetize their activity. These actors make a nexus between brands and influencers , dedicated to selecting the most interesting profiles for each brand and managing the details of each collaboration to ensure its success. With the sponsorship of Launchmetrics, Modaes.es starts today the series Influencers: the business behind likes , to analyze the business model of the major influencersIn the fashion sector.

The most emblematic case of blogger as a hobby turned into a successful businesswoman is the Italian Chiara Ferragni and her platform The Blonde Salad . The portal is now an online medium with its own editorial content and an ecommerce portal that generates two million dollars of estimated profit, through advertising and affiliate marketing. The shoe line that bears his name reaches fifteen million dollars in annual sales.

 

The professionalization of the sector has made bloggers into figures 'spoiled' by the sector, turned into machines to make money to blow of like and brief comment

 

"Chiara Ferragni and Leandra Medine have passed the title of influencers ; They are now megacompanies with a very loyal following of followers, "says Sarah Owen, head of digital content and marketing at the consulting firm WGSN .

One of the main intermediaries is Socialyte , a New York agency dedicated to the discovery of talents and the rent of their services. Its founder, Daniel Saynt , reveals astronomical revenues among influencers : annual profits of $ 50,000 to $ 250,000 for profiles with between 100,000 and 500,000 followers. Individuals with more than half a million fans on social networks are pocketed between $ 100,000 and $ 500,000. Finally, profiles that exceed one million followers in social networks have incomes of more than half a million dollars a year. "These figures fluctuate according to the type of influencer, The frequency and quality of the content, the interaction generated by its audience, its consecration in the press and if the profile has the ability to successfully sell the products it promotes, "says Saynt.

The agency of reference of the sector in Spain is Okiko Talents . Among its portfolio of represented are names such as Gala Gonzalez , Miranda Makaroff , Mike & Gabi ( Cup of Couple ) and Miguel Carrizo , among others.

 

Profiles that exceed one million followers in social networks have incomes of more than half a million dollars a year

 

But at what point did bloggers make the leap of amateur commentators to become the favorite contributors of fashion brands to raise the visibility of their products and actions? For Owen, the birth of Instagram in late 2010 and the rapid adoption of the platform by the bloggers put these figures as successful business models. "They realized they could use platforms to make money, encouraging a lot more bloggers to follow their trail," he adds.

In Spain, figures like Gala González (Amlul) , Alexandra Pereira (Lovely Pepa) , Aida Domenech (Dulceida) or the now well-known Pelayo Díaz (Katelovesme) were pioneers in the world of blogs and embraced all the social networks that emerged later. Despite the birth of thousands of profiles over the last few years, these names continue to be part of the reduced oem of the gods of like and online visibility in all existing social networks that have managed to turn their hobby into lucrative jobs.

"A brand can spend from 1,000 euros to 1,500 euros so that an influencer with a range of followers between 500,000 users and one million social networks upload a photograph sponsored in one of its channels," confesses Carlos Vidal , responsible for the team Of digital marketing in the communication agency Equipo Singular . Vidal leads ePR, the department that designs, controls and invests the budget for digital campaigns with bloggers and influencers . Although Team Singular has been working with these figures for nearly eight years, the ePR department was born less time thanks to the increase in the demand for services provided by bloggers and influencersBy the brands that Singular Team represents. "While a few years ago a blogger meal was organized two or three times in half a year, we now manage about three hundred actions with influencers a week," explains Vidal.

 

"A brand can spend from 1,000 euros to 1,500 euros so that an 'influencer' with a range of followers among the 500,000 users and the million in social networks upload a photograph sponsored in one of its channels," Carlos Vidal (Singular Team )

 

Market development and role of influencers

In recent years there has been an incessant growth in the number of influencers available in the market. However, the community begins to show signs of saturation. Owen of WGSN and Vidal anticipate that the figures already consecrated in the world of the influencers will become bigger and acquire still more relevance, whereas the profiles with numbers of followers of average rank (10.000-50.000 followers) will have it more difficult to survive In the long run or make their hobby a profession with stable incomes.

What kind of actions are attractive for bloggers and influencers ? According to a study by the consultancy Econsultancy , 69% of the marketing managers surveyed indicate that influencers play an important role in product launches. Also, 75% of respondents indicate that their role is important in the promotion and distribution of branded content.

Measuring the effectiveness of these campaigns was the first cause of contention between fashion companies and influencers , given the intangible nature of some of its benefits, such as brand reputation. However, there are concrete variables that help quantify the success of a collaboration. "In the brands we manage, they are very focused on ecommerce, the success of the campaign always has a lot to do with sales," explains the director of the digital department of Piazza Comunicación , Jesus Barreda . In addition to sales generated, interaction is the other fundamental pillar of collaboration. "The emphasis is on strong interaction. Those influencersWith an active community that gives likes and comments will have more opportunities to collaborate with companies, "says Owen WGSN .

 

"The emphasis is on strong interaction. Those influencers with an active community who gives likes and generate comments will have more opportunities to collaborate with companies, "Sarah Owen (WGSN)

 

Tous has collaborated with many of the national and international figures previously mentioned, among many others. "We were a pioneering brand, and we continue to be working with influencers internationally in different collaboration formats, combining global profiles with locals accumulating this 2016 reach of more than seventy million fans with these collaborations," says corporate vice president Rosa Tous .

In addition to the signing of influencers for specific collaborations, Tous and many other companies have tightened their links with these personalities until directly involving them in internal projects. In 2015, for example, Gala González designed a jewelry capsule collection for Tous that was "a success", in the words of his vice president. 

The Krack footwear company has also made such collections in the past, designed with the support of influencers such as Lovely Pepa or Lady Addict. "The influencers have a lot of credibility because they are like friends who give advice, something that we see very powerful", recognizes Sebastián Troyas , manager of marketing and communication in Global Retail , parent company of Krack . Troyas is very satisfied with the results achieved, especially at the branding level. "We could never have done so with the same investment in other media." Krack invests 20% of its marketing budget in campaigns with influencers .

The professor of digital marketing at Esade business school in Barcelona, Franc Carreras , confirms the theory of Troyas in relation to the great effect of the campaigns with influencers . "Social networks have a frequency of visits of 150 times a day, which means that brands have 150 opportunities to reach their target," says the expert.

"Social networks have a frequency of visits of 150 times a day, which means that brands have 150 opportunities to reach their target"

Faced with the influential giants of the world , which will continue to grow and gain weight in the market, Owen and Vidal claim the role of microinfluencers . They have a relatively small number of followers in social networks (around 5,000), but they are nevertheless of great interest to a brand sector because they target a niche audience. Having a narrow audience, companies do not hesitate to hire their services because, although they reach fewer people, these are the most reliable reflection of the target of their products.

In parallel to the microinfluencers , the professionals consulted for the elaboration of this article point to a new profile in vogue: that of the youtubers and vloggers . These are mainly influencers whose favorite platform to broadcast their messages are video platforms. The rise of these figures is connected to the significant increase in the consumption of information through videos dedicated to the youngest. Vidal mentions Marta Rimbau and Patri Jordán , with more than three million subscribers on their Youtube channel, as two of the most important youtubers for the fashion and beauty sectors in Spain.

Bloggers Mean Business

There was a moment after New York’s 2009 Fall Fashion Week when fashion bloggers had officially, as the press likes to call it, “arrived.” They had blogged their way to the front row of Bryant Park’s most exclusive runway shows; they were the new army of digital Anna Wintours. They wrote in Internet slang and posted photos of themselves mixing vintage with Valentino. They were so quirky! And also, influential! Or so news outlets gushed. Stiff, walled-off fashion editors, once secure in their self-preserved ivory towers, were trembling in fear of a coup.

Fast forward two years and fashion’s digerati have shown they actually have no interest in Wintour’s job. They’d rather sit across the table from her, as the faces of the companies whose ads keep publications like VogueHarper’s Bazaar, and W in the black. Bloggers don’t want to be editors, because they’ve built something much more valuable: brands.

For the past four years, Midwesterner Jessica Quirk’s blog, What I Wore, has featured photos of her wearing outfits she’s styled. She details the origin of each item, lending an implicit endorsement to the brands she’s sporting. It’s not journalism; it’s talking about oneself. Which is to say, it’s branding oneself.

The explosion of this type of blog and the influence of the women behind them are due, in part, to readers of magazine glossies wanting to see relatable ladies in “real world” clothes. Independent Fashion Bloggers, an online community, has more than 30,000 members; Technorati lists 8,117 fashion blogs in its directory. Sites like What I Wore garner 20,000 unique visitors per month, according to Web traffic measurement site Compete; around half of those readers return daily.

Now fashion bloggers are leveraging their followers to become marketing machines for brands other than their own (in other words, to earn money), augmenting those companies’ advertising and PR strategies. They’re taking on numerous roles including guest bloggers, models, designers, and endorsers. They’re maintaining credibility with fans—they hope—by choosing partnerships discerningly, while discussing deliverables, audience composition, ROI, and conversions with their sponsors. The opportunity to convert their readership into customers for brands is huge—apparel and accessories was the second-largest category for e-commerce spending in 2010, beating out even consumer electronics with $20.5 billion in sales, according to comScore. “People are doing their best to find an audience like mine, a 25- to 34-year-old woman who spends X dollars shopping online,” says Quirk, who blogs as a brand ambassador for Timex on its website and on What I Wore, and has blogged for Ann Taylor LOFT on its site while posting photos of herself in LOFT clothes on her own. A former designer, she also designed a bracelet for charity that will sell in LOFT stores this fall.

These brands could hire a celebrity spokesperson. Instead they’ve hired a celebrity spokesperson who has her own distribution channel. Coach probably started it. In 2009, its marketing execs noticed that bloggers, not magazine editors, were driving social conversations online. To put it in corporate terms, “they adeptly used the aspirational and visual nature of blogging to share a unique and authentic perspective,” David Duplantis, evp of global Web, digital media, and customer engagement at Coach, told Adweek. Last year, the company recruited four bloggers to custom design, for pay, limited-edition Coach bags. Karla Deras, Kelly Framel, Emily Schuman, and Krystal Simpson worked with Coach to create purses named after their blogs, which they promoted on those blogs, and on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. (They quickly sold out.) Coach is expanding its design collaboration concept to a larger group of global bloggers, Duplantis says. It also features bloggers as models in digital and in-store ad campaigns and has a monthly Guest Blogger. For last week’s Fashion’s Night Out, blogger partners, including Framel (The Glamourai), hosted an in-store party featuring clothing displays they styled around Coach bags.

The blogger-brand marriage reaches the highest of high fashion: Susie Lau of Style Bubble has worked with Valentino and Furla for events and editorial features. Rebecca Minkoff even hired Daniel Saynt, founder of blog network Fashion Indie, as its CMO earlier this year.

It cuts across the spectrum to mass market brands, too. Blogger/designer Keiko Lynn Groves hosts Facebook chats for CVS Beauty Club. Framel and Schuman modeled in ads for Forever 21. Gabrielle Gregg of Gabifresh collaborates with The Limited on designs and promotions for a plus-size brand, eloquii, launching in October.

Juicy Couture even turned to bloggers to reverse an unsavory image when it found itself boxed into a tracksuit ghetto of sorts. Through blogger outreach like events featuring after-hours shopping with DJing by India Jewel-Jackson of Glam.com, it massaged its image. “Many of my peers have a new respect for them . . . and they did it without forcing themselves on anyone,” Framel says.

Gap takes a similarly low-pressure approach, seeking to generate feedback with impressions as a secondary (and yet often successful) consideration. “It’s a constant two-way dialogue,” says Gap’s Olivia Doyne, director of partnerships, brand engagement and PR. In August, the company offered to outfit speakers at a conference run by blog network BlogHer; nearly all opted to don a Gap-provided outfit on stage. The brand received almost 2 million online impressions related to the conference without a single piece of paid media or advertising.

Several previously cold-faced fashion houses have even developed their own down-to-earth blogger voices, including Oscar de la Renta’s OscarPRGirl and Donna Karan New York’s Twitter account (@DKNY), an insider-y peek at the brand and its author’s “life as a PR girl.” Personal? Check. Relatable? Check. Aspirational? Check. Branded? You bet.

But elaborate deals involving giveaway contests, blog content, design collaborations, photo shoots, and appearances are difficult for fashion brands to pull off. PR reps are still learning to treat bloggers as more than an easy PR hit, says Jennine Jacob, founder of IFB, who blogs at The Coveted. Too often, a brand hosts parties and distributes free samples, expecting a fawning blog post, she says. It’s a turnoff. “My student loans don’t accept free products from a brand and neither does my landlord,” Jacobs says. And the quid pro quo agreements are not just tacky, they’re illegal.

Ann Inc. learned that when a January invite for a schmoozy party to preview LOFT’s spring collection promised gift cards to attendees, but only after they blogged about the event. The result: an FTC investigation, since it happened shortly after the agency had adopted rules requiring bloggers to disclose when they’ve received payment or goods related to coverage. (The investigation concluded with no fines to Ann Inc.) Standard practice now is to note an item is “c/o” or care of the brand.  

Other complications: As blogging talents grow in influence, so do their fees—some bloggers command $5,000 for a one-day appearance. And as fees for design collaborations can range from $5,000 to $30,000, according to Macala Wright, former account manager of GCI Group and publisher of Fashionablymarketing.me, convincing brands to shell out has been an uphill battle.

Compensation is also muddled by the fact that fashion bloggers occupy an in-between area in endorsement contracts. They are technically the talent, like any celebrity. But unlike a celebrity, bloggers offer a package—Facebook fans, blog visitors, Twitter followers—and need to engage free of wording restrictions and exclusivity clauses. Brands, accustomed to working with advertorial teams, struggle to give up control. “[Brands] have to know that nobody is jeopardizing anyone’s image,” says Karen Robinovitz, co-founder of fashion blogger agency digital brand architects. “A blogger knows what will resonate with her audience, even if it means never capitalizing her ‘i’s.”

Robinovitz started DBA with former Fleishman-Hillard vp Kendra Bracken-Ferguson after watching bloggers undervalue themselves in deal negotiations. She represents more than 50 fashion bloggers. “We don’t believe every moment has to be paid for,” Robinovitz says, “but once the brands realize what they’re paying for is above and beyond basic editorial coverage, they start to understand.” Driving the point home: Bryanboy, one of fashion’s most famous bloggers who earns six figures a year from appearances and ads on his blog, recently signed with CAA.

(Not everyone agrees that bloggers need agents. Wright has written that bloggers need lawyers, not agents. Others say agencies prey on bloggers.)

But perhaps the most important question for a marketer is: How do brands measure the success of blogger collaborations? The ROI metrics aren’t easy to articulate and there are no best practices. Juicy Couture looks at everything, such as share of voice, sentiment, awareness, referrals, resonations, support response, clicks, fans, retweets, views, etc., says Michelle Ryan, its vp of digital and social media. DBA is developing an algorithm for a brand perception metric that links traffic from its bloggers to purchasing data.

The issue found its way into the news last week when reps from Ann Taylor, Kate Spade, and PR firm Starworks publicly trashed Tumblr’s attempt to sell them expensive blogger-driven marketing partnerships related to Fashion Week, when the platform doesn’t provide basic analytics to its dedicated brand users. But blog-brand partnerships are still relatively low risk, which is why more brands are trying the campaigns on for size. “The beauty of doing something online is that it’s much more forgivable than spending $1 million producing a TV commercial,” Wright says. And with fashion bloggers’ uniquely deep engagement and influence, “the return on that money is much higher than giving Kim Kardashian 10 grand for one tweet.”

Social Media in the Beauty Landscape

Talk about a meteoric rise. Two years ago, Katy DeGroot quit her job as an executive team leader at Target. Today, she’s recognized practically every time she steps into one of the retailer’s stores.

“Usually, the first thing people say is, ‘Oh my God, you’re so small’,” chuckles DeGroot, a 5-foot-3 tomboy version of Mariah Carey in her “Butterfly” phase who is better known by her social media handle LustreLux, “but it’s never really awkward. It’s like seeing one of your friends.”

DeGroot started LustreLux as a Web site with no grand ambitions to become a social media sensation. “I just wanted to create something that mixed my sarcasm and humor into writing and doing a few pictures,” she says. “It was very Millennial of me to not want to listen to anybody and do whatever I wanted to do.”

The appeal of her approach soon became apparent. Two months after LustreLux started posting on Instagram and YouTube, DeGroot was picking up 10,000 subscribers a day. She crossed 500,000 subscribers in eight months and has now amassed more than 2.6 million followers. She’s partnered with brands including Make Up For Ever, Benefit, NARS and Philips to promote products, signed up as a stylist for Ipsy and recently settled in Los Angeles to pursue a full-time career as a social media makeup buff.

DeGroot’s swift ascent from nobody to somebody parallels rapid changes in the beauty landscape caused by social media. “Social media is shaping consumer behavior,” says Shelley Haus, vice president of brand marketing at Ulta Beauty “Scrolling through Instagram, the pictures and videos bring things to life in a way that’s superabsorbable. [Consumers] go to Instagram for beauty inspiration and to learn how to wear this or do that. They relate in a really visual way, and they are getting a sense of urgency.”

The sea change is creating a new generation of consumers, a swelling group of young women who devour beauty content, determinedly search for details about products they covet, itch to try new brands and crave great scores. Increasingly, brands are responding by unleashing newness at warp speed, solidifying relationships with social media stars, ambushing trends and quickening the pace of their marketing efforts. With social media inflaming desire for products, it’s a kill-or-be-killed environment in the beauty business, and the kills can be immediate and very, very big.

To wit: Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit, $29, sold out in minutes when it launched online. Becca’s Champagne Pop highlighter, cocreated with YouTube personality Jaclyn Hill, generated an estimated $20 million in sales during the second half of 2015 and was the biggest single-day seller in sephora.com’s history. Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Matte Palette doubled its sales expectations after the brand partnered with 12 influencers during the year, and the Too Faced Stardust palette, designed with Instagram influencer Vegas Nay, propelled the brand into being one of the strongest performers at Ulta.

Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of digital at Sephora, says Instagram can stoke unprecedented demand. “There is so much more content available to help clients over that decision-making threshold,” she says. “The rise of visual social media has powered not only the ability for a client to explore more, but also make more informed decisions by seeing more images of product on faces and how to use products.”

Survey results bear out the impact of Instagram on sales. In its 2015 study of the U.S. cosmetics industry, TABS Analytics found Instagram is very important in the purchasing decisions of 31 percent of Millennials who are heavy buyers of cosmetics, an 11 percent increase from 2014. “Instagram is becoming much more important to the women who are the drivers in the category,” says Kurt Jetta, ceo and founder of TABS, noting African-Americans and Hispanics are more than twice as likely to say Instagram is important in their decisions. Heavy buyers are 30 percent of the shoppers in the beauty category, but account for 60 percent of sales.

The power of social media to move the merch has given rise to a new breed of brands that live primarily online, such as ColourPop, Sigma Beauty, Dose of Colors and BH Cosmetics, all of which have greater Instagram followings than established brands including Revlon, Cover Girl and Wet ‘n’ Wild. And it has propelled existing brands who have mastered the medium—such as Anastasia Beverly Hills, Tarte and Too Faced—into exponential sales increases.

Wende Zomnir, founding partner and chief creative officer at Urban Decay, says the new breed of brands are effectively mining a distribution channel their larger rivals haven’t mastered—much as the first wave of Indie brands did during the Nineties when Sephora opened in the U.S. “It reminds me of when we started, and [bigger brands] would not go into Sephora. So, Sephora was our venue, and it created a new way of doing business,” she says. “I love watching all of these brands on Instagram. We can completely learn from them. Looking back at department store brands that eventually went to Sephora, you would be mistaken not to.”

Thus far, social media’s impact has been seen primarily with makeup, but as marketers look to apply their insights to other categories, the lessons about what works—and what doesn’t—are being applied across the board. Thus far, the mix includes initiating affiliate programs, linking with social media influencers on limited-edition products (palettes anyone?), peddling vibrant and inexpensive hero items, and celebrating user-generated content.

Visually, Instagram has evolved relatively rapidly. Photo albums rather than billboards garner the highest engagement. A case study by Curalate shows that the brand Sigma Beauty posts four to five user images per day on Instagram to push 24,000 clicks per month to its online product pages. Leveraging a Curalate service titled Fanreel, those pages contain user images pulled from Instagram exhibiting looks fashioned with the brand’s products. Consumers who check out those images spend 12 minutes and 25 seconds on Sigma Beauty’s site, compared to three minutes and 12 seconds when they don’t.

“Consumer behavior is driven by showing the product as it is being used in real life, not necessarily on a white background,” says Matthew Langie, chief marketing officer of Curalate.

Ricky’s NYC president Richard Parrott believes professional hair care will be the next category to take off on Instagram. “That’s a huge opportunity,” he says. “They have the content, but they are not using it so much on social media. They are using it in the professional world.”

On the skin-care front, Haus says, “[Instagram] has lent itself to products that are sexier and, obviously, color is sexy, sexy, sexy, but as people are getting more into skin care, even Millennials, a little bit of the sexy is being put into skin care.”

Masks, which can be displayed in a highly visual manner, are a case in point, with links to how-tos on the immediate horizon as well. Estée Lauder has high hopes for its metallic Advanced Night Repair PowerFoil Mask on social. “It is great to experiment on Instagram with a really visual skin-care product to gauge engagement versus [engagement from] an image of a serum or a cream,” says Geri Schachner, senior vice president of global communications at Estée Lauder.

For its part, later this year, Juice Beauty will launch a mask with a colored formula that contrasts with skin tones to make a skin-care statement on Instagram. To circumvent the issues skin-care posits, brands have honed in on featuring packaging—ingredients such as apples or roses, or symbols marketing like beakers or egg timers.

Because newness is a key driver on Instagram, companies are evolving their launch strategies accordingly. Some brands like Winky Lux introduce new products every three weeks to a month; others, like Urban Decay, introduce iterations of existing bestsellers, such as its Naked Smoky Palette. Taking a cue from Beyoncé’s surprise album, brands are also launching products on unexpected dates like Winky Lux’s product timed with the first snowfall in New York or ColourPop’s to celebrate a collaborator’s birthday.

New trends don’t occur as often as new products, but, when they do, they spur crazes on social media that savvy brands are cashing in on. “The brands that are going to win can capitalize quickly on a certain trend, whether it is through optimized content, a quick-thinking influencer mailing or repurposing products in their line to fit that trend,” says Julia Sloan, vice president of global communications and fashion relations at Nars.

Tarte, for example, jumped on the baking trend with its existing Smooth Operator Clay Finishing Powder and Maracuja Creaseless Concealer, which resulted in a 48 percent bump in concealer sales. When Benefit’s marketing department saw strobing emerge, they packaged together four legacy products in Strobe Your Ego kits and sent them to influencers. The brand’s Watt’s Up Cream-to-Powder Highlighter, included in the package, sold out on sephora.com. “To have a product that’s been around for four years sell out was massive,” says Claudia Allwood, U.S. digital marketing director for Benefit. “That was a lesson. We have to have our finger on the pulse of what’s coming next.”

Both retailers and brands are working harder to get the earliest possible reads on trends. At a gathering of YouTubers, three attendees had colored eyebrows. A month later, Winky Lux released Rainbow Brow Palette, a consistent bestseller that allows users to colorfully brighten their brows.

Ulta scours influencer content daily to detect looks or products that are being repeated and generating their own vocabulary. “Once people attach a name and a how-to to it, that’s when it starts being a trend. We know there’s a groundswell when there is user-generated content around it,” says Haus. Ulta is also working with manufacturers to shorten the nine to 12 months it takes to go from product idea to execution. “We are continually thinking about how Instagram and other social channels have created an immediacy and how do we keep up with that,” says Haus.

Social media is like bam, bam, bam,” says DeGroot. “If you’re not doing it tomorrow, you’re late.”

As user-generated content explodes, brands are ceding control of the flow of information. For the launch of its spring collection, Tarte opted for social media influencers to unveil the products before doing so itself. That strategy netted 20 million Instagram impressions prior to the collection being available for sale, leading to a growth rate of 80 percent for Tarte on Instagram and a 38 percent boost in engagement on the brand’s Instagram account.

Marketers are also improving on identifying the right influencers rather than the most prominent ones. “A brand might have a location in Boston they really want to pay attention to, and they find an influencer who has an audience there,” says Daniel Saynt, founder and ceo of influencer casting and creative agency Socialyte. “They are looking for a demo and audience to hit.”

Long-term deals with DeGroot and other influencers—six-month to two-year contracts—are escalating and the compensation can be eye-popping. Fashion blogger Kristina Bazan, who has 2.2 million Instagram followers, set a new bar by nabbing a reported seven-figure contract with L’Oréal in October. “For the proven influencers, brands are going to try to create long-term relationships,” says Kenn Henman, ceo and founder of uFluencer Group. “Instead of a one-off palette they will create a collection around an influencer. For the smaller influencers, they are going to still be one-offs.”

Going forward, brands hope Instagram and other social media platforms will make images shoppable. Instagram inched toward commerciality last year with the launch of new ad formats but advancements haven’t yet made social media a formidable vehicle for direct sales. During the most recent holiday season, the analytics firm Custora found that social media channels were responsible for a mere 1.8 percent of online sales. “Social media works more [to push] in-store purchasing because it is almost entirely the people who are really into the category that are on social in high numbers,” says Jetta of TABS.

The other challenge is staying ahead of the game. Much as Instagram exploded over the last 24 months, other platforms are gaining speed exponentially, particularly Snapchat and Periscope. Bullish on Periscope, Tarte chief marketing officer Candace Craig Bulishak says it’s ideal for education and live product demonstrations like painting swatches on skin. “People aren’t looking for that highly edited content any more,” she says. “They want to see relatable, raw content. It’s a departure from the highly edited videos and polished photographs we created in the past. Because of this idea of conversational marketing, it makes sense that the future of social is all about live-streaming and connecting with consumers in real time.”

Snapchat captures spontaneity, says Allwood, underscoring Instagram content is becoming curated and intentional. “Snapchat is for those silly moment-to-moment experiences that are fun to share, but aren’t worth crafting a clever caption, filter and requiring an elevated creative effort,” she says, noting unboxing has moved to Snapchat.

DeGroot, who had 1.3 million followers on Instagram as of press time, is spending more and more time on Snapchat. “It’s basically like texting your viewers,” she says. “I’ll ask them about products and what kind of video they’d like to see next. It makes it a lot easier to connect with them. People see who you really are on Snapchat because it’s so unedited.”

How to Sext: The Best Tips and Tricks

TCDBRCI_EC027_H.jpg

In Ways of Seeing, the late John Berger explains that, when viewing almost anything, “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.” This is especially true of sexting, which, in the best cases, exists as an intimate, intentional exchange between two people. A sext can be an image, words, or a combination of both.

Sexting AF, which stands for Sexting Art Festival but knows what you thought it stood for, was designed to explore the intentions behind the way we sext, the reasons we sext, the ways we were sexting before we even knew how to sext, and the best ways to engage as we sext into the future.

“We recognized that sexting was a topic that kept rearing it’s fuzzy little head in discussions about dating, marriage, app hook-ups, male desperation and the evolving media landscape,” explains the festival’s website on the decision to hold a curated evening of lectures and storytelling, which featured, among other experts, Make Love Not Porn founder Cindy Gallop The goal of Sexting AF, and hopefully all sexters everywhere, is to move as far away from that predatory, uncomfortable concept of sexting as possible.

Like anything worth doing, sexting takes practice. Here are 7 things you might not have known about sexting, directly from the experts at Sexting AF.

Sexting isn’t sexting if it’s not consensual

Sending unsolicited pictures or graphic descriptions of your most private parts is exactly like sharing those parts in real life: don’t do it unless you've been explicitly invited to do it. Just like if someone were to expose themselves to you in person without your consent, getting an unwanted sext is a violation and it is never okay to send one. If you want to try sexting, make sure the person you try it with is someone you trust, and that both of you are into the idea and comfortable sending and/or receiving those kinds of messages.

Sexting pictures might be new, but sexting isn't

As Stuart Ewen, a professor at the City University of New York who specializes in visual culture, explained, mirrors are a relatively new concept, and were only mass produced within the last 200 years. Paintings, meanwhile, were really only available to the wealthy for quite a while. This means that our understanding of what ourselves, and our lovers, look like was pretty reliant on graphic, wordy descriptions for a while. Humans have spent centuries perfecting the art of describing bodies, both their own and their partners, in truly staggering detail. It’s an ancient art to engage in, passed down through generations and generations of noble, dignified, and significantly aroused individuals.

A sext sent to you is only meant for you

According to a study released last year, one in four Americans share sexts they receive without permission from the original sender. This is a definite do not in terms of sexting, both etiquette-wise and legally, since distributing these images without permission is a violation of laws in several states. It's also important to note that, depending on your age, even sending your own picture could be a serious violation of the law. But the concern is on everyone’s mind, and, as writer Jane Mulkerrins shared in a personal story, sexting without images is a pretty solid reason to skip the picture part of sexting altogether.

Send nudes the right way (or don’t)

Comedian Olive Persimmon has one rule about sexting images: never the face, never the face, never the face. As stated above, sharing any images of someone without their permission is never okay, but protect yourself always by keeping your face — the most identifiable part of your body — out of the picture. Also OK? Opting out of photos altogether. If your partner is begging for pictures and you don't want to send them, this is absolutely not your problem, and you shouldn't feel any pressure to send them.

If you're sexting someone new, don't assume what worked with your last partner will work now

Social influencer Daniel Saynt points out that molding sexts to a specific partner is important. As a bisexual sexter, he makes sure to craft his most sensual missives to the right person, mood, and scenario. Whether you identify as bisexual, queer, or anything else, everyone deserves your A-game when it comes to sexting, whatever that means to you.

A lot of people are sexting for no reason

Researcher Emily Stasko found that while sexting was generally pretty healthy for a stable, happy relationship, a lot of people participating in the act were just sort of doing it because it was offered. And while it’s unrealistic to imagine that every single time a person types that they’re “about to burst” they’re actually about to burst, it is worth noting that sexting is probably a lot more fun if both you and your partner are at a point in your day when you can really get into it, as opposed to just being bored, or avoiding work.

Sexting should make you feel good

Sending someone details about what you want to do to them and getting back even more details about what they want to do to you should be fun, easy, and ultimately joyful. As Cindy Gallop explained, being able to talk about sex in any form, whether it’s explaining how it works, or just telling your partner what you want, is the key to making this communication-based act successful. If at any point you feel uncomfortable or pressured into doing something you don’t want to, stop. Block a number if you have to. Like every aspect of your sexual life, sending eggplant emojis and extended “ooooohs” should make you and your partner feel good, no matter what. Anything less than that isn’t worth your time.

My Look, My Ego, My Brand

21zJPDIARY1-jumbo.jpg

They perch along the runways like birds on a wire, each with vivid markings: the celebrity editors Carine Roitfeld, working her swag of dusky hair, kohled eyes and killer stilettos, and Grace Coddington, her flame-colored mane framing her face like a cloud; and the photographer Terry Richardson, his downward-drooping mustache lending him the look of a ’70s porn king.

And you won’t need a field guide to pick out professional show-offs like André Leon Talley, descending on the catwalks with a great sweep of his stole; or the fashion scribe Lynn Yeager tricked out like a Kewpie, all cupid’s-bow lips, voluminous skirts and coin-dot spots of rouge on her cheeks; or, in their midst, Anna Wintour, Vogue’s vixenish chieftain, ducking, as the house lights fade, behind precision-sheared bangs and dark glasses.

Members of fashion’s old guard, each has mastered the art of visual self-branding, marketers’ pet coinage for the cultivation of a personal style as quirky, distinctive and easy to read as a box of Cheerios on a grocer’s shelf.

“The front row of any show in any city is a billboard,” said Tom Julian, a branding consultant and director of strategic business development for the Doneger Group, a trend forecasting firm in New York. If such prominent placement once functioned as a showcase for outsize personalities — fashion originals like the fastidiously lacquered Diana Vreeland or the much mythologized Carrie Donovan, flaunting spectacles the size of television screens — it has lately morphed, in Mr. Julian’s view, into a platform on which stylists, music and film and reality-TV personalities and assorted hangers-on can strut their maverick style.

More like avatars, really, second selves fashioned purely for public consumption. Seemingly they are manifesting an innate and highly curated sense of style. But watch, Mr. Burstell said. “They go over their look with military precision, especially during Fashion Week.”

Who can fault them if they embrace the occasion as a continuous photo op? An era with video streaming, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine has only redoubled the impact of an exotically eye-catching look, providing the chance to raise a lackluster profile and even, in the case of the lucky few, to foster a fledgling career.

Small wonder, then, that thriving alongside confirmed eccentrics is a new breed of self-promoters: editors, stylists and bloggers fanning out their plumage in the hope, it would seem, that a bit of canny self-packaging will secure them a place in fashion’s front ranks.

“Fashion’s one big game of status where recognition is everything,” said Daniel Saynt, a founder of Socialyte, a year-old agency that negotiates deals between tastemakers and brands. Having a recognizable image seals the impression that you may be worth talking to, or talking about, Mr. Saynt said, “even if nobody actually knows who you are.”

For every Jenna Lyons, the studiedly geeky executive creative director of J. Crew, a modern-day peacock has alighted: young, consummately Web savvy and unabashedly ambitious.

“These people have found footing in the industry by making a bold statement,” Mr. Saynt said, a case in point being the model Alice Dellal, whose half-razed hair has made her a standout in a forest of competitors.

There is, as well, a handful of bloggers like Susie Lau of Style Bubble, instantly identifiable by her high-contrast color and print combinations and her pert topknot, and the blogging superstar Leandra Medine, whose sassy mélange of high-crown fur hats and football jerseys, harem pants and clogs is the visual extension of her wryly irreverent posts on Man Repeller.

It’s not by chance that Ms. Medine has secured coveted front-row seats at shows like Phillip Lim, Thakoon and Reed Krakoff. The industry, she wrote on her blog this week, “has made room for amateur groupies to carve out their own stud-laden paths.” Her own style is not so much a bid for attention as the untrammeled expression of her personality, she said in an interview.

“In the beginning, I was very strategic about the way I dressed,” she said. “I thought to be noticed that I needed to wear a million bracelets and hold the coolest clutch that I own.”

Now she is more casual, but her style tends to echo an online voice she describes as “a little bit raw, new and unedited.”

“I’m all about the disconnect,” she said. “If I’m wearing a plaid shirt and ripped jeans, I will wear a satin stiletto.”

A more recent fixture on fashion’s front lines is Andy Torres, who has parlayed her blog, Style Scrapbook, into a flourishing television career as a judge on “Elle México Diseña,” a fashion competition broadcast on E! Entertainment. Her blog, a hit with Latinas, began attracting serious notice only after she started posting her own image, said Ms. Torres, who has carved out a profile by assembling clashing patterns and eye-searing graphic accents.

“Nothing I wear ever matches,” she said, “but that’s what works for me.”

Mary Alice Haney, a celebrity stylist, often counsels clients (who have included Jennifer Garner, Kate Bosworth and Jessica Biel) that putting together a red-carpet-worthy look is not just about throwing on an outfit. “It’s about deciding on an image that you want to convey,” she said.

Her own look is calculatedly steamy, said Ms. Haney, who makes a near fetish of wearing plunging necklines and provocative slits, though she tones down the fireworks for Fashion Week.

“I’m on the higher end of sexy,” she said. “I wear YSL, Gucci and Tom Ford. When you see Mary Alice, you know you will be getting something high quality and luxurious but still fun.”

A visually distinctive look, she knows, can lead to a potentially lucrative sideline — most recently, in her case, as the producer and host of the Style Network show “Celebrity Closet Confidential.”

Front-row fixtures like Ms. Roitfeld and, more recently, Ms. Medine (who through her blog has created a direct line to consumers) are among the most hotly courted, said Gregory Littley, the director of strategy at Iced Media, a youth-oriented branding company in New York. Last year Ms. Roitfeld added to her proliferating fashion credits a deal with MAC cosmetics to introduce a limited-edition makeup line, a palette of the tawny colors like those she wears. Around the same time, Ms. Medine agreed to appear in a fall ad campaign for Uniqlo.

Mr. Littley is also keeping his eye on Chiara Ferragni, known for her bilingual blog, the blond salad, but more remarked on for her look, a striking composite of swingy blond hair, painted-on cat eyes and, almost invariably, a leopard-print frock. Like many of her peers in the blogosphere, Ms. Ferragni has become a master of visually conspicuous self-marketing. Only last week her finely calibrated feline look prompted the hair-care brand Redken to name her its global ambassador.

All good. But flamboyance in this industry goes only so far. Long-established editors, as the Vogue editor Hamish Bowles once noted, have grown more self-effacing, the best-known among them dispensing with frippery. Sometimes, insiders will tell you, less says more.

For Mr. Burstell, the Liberty managing director, close-cropped hair and pastel scarves are more than enough to set him apart from the herd.

“A reporter once told me, ‘Ed, you really know how to work a scarf,’ and for me that was it,” Mr. Burstell recalled with a laugh. “I haven’t taken a scarf off in years.”

Inside New York's Most Private Elite Sex Club

tumblr_lxo59yIV6n1rn7ty9o1_500.gif

Members-only sex clubs abound in New York City, with underground orgies, costumed sex parties, and swingers’ revelries, but a secretive bacchanal called NSFW is catering to a different breed of naughty New Yorkers.

Described as “a private club for the adventurous,” NSFW just opened its members-only doors in January, and is a highly exclusive community of sexually daring elites, where members attend exclusive parties, erotic events, and sexy classes taught by world-class instructors.

Membership is restricted to “young, influential and creative New Yorkers,” and the application process isn’t an easy one. “The Council” does a lengthy social life background check on potential members, and digs up dirt on their "social status, ambitions, inner circle, and desire to raise a little hell."

Then, they’re vetted at one of the club’s events to ensure they’re worthy of becoming a member, and once approved, members “pay their dues,” and finally gain access to the club’s private events, parties, and classes hosted at the NSFW Clubhouse, the NSFW magazine, and their online community.

And for people kinky enough to land a membership, only the sexiest of classes are appropriate. The classes section on the club’s website reads:

“Not-safe-for-work adventures include classes taught by our renowned faculty includingSub/Dom and Japanese Rope Bondage, Swipe Right (a photographer led shoot for the perfect nude selfie), How to Cheat at Poker (our mentalist led card hack), Pickpocket Class, Urban Trespassing Yoga, D.A.R.E. (our physician led drug education series), K-Yoga (kratom for a euphoric instructor led class), art openings, art book and magazine launch events and sexy speakeasy parties.”

And that’s not even all of them. NSFW recently hosted moonshine sampling, erotic sketching, and a useful little class called “How To Ask For Sex.” And yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. Expert dirty talk.

NSFW’s signature sex party, Play Date, is hosted every eight to ten weeks, and is held at the NSFW Clubhouse—a lavish penthouse in Manhattan's Lower East Side, where members can indulge in lots of sex, booze, gourmet food, and even bodyguards for the revelers in attendance.

At Play Date, members can be as tame or as kinky as their hearts (and loins) desire. Aside from indulging in straight-up orgies, there are rooms in the Clubhouse were freakier members can experiment with Japanese rope bondage and rougher sub/dom sex. Meanwhile, those looking for a more relaxed evening can "Netflix and chill" while watching erotic indie films.

We spoke to the mastermind behind NSFW, a man who calls himself "Chief Conspirator" for privacy reasons, about what goes on inside the Clubhouse and the benefits of being a member of one of the most exclusive sex clubs in New York.

What inspired you to create NSFW?
I’ve always had an interest in human sexuality, and I think there’s something very strong that connects us through sex, but also through adventurous activities. I wanted to create a place where you could do those things.

Who belongs to NSFW?
We focus on younger individuals, around 25 to 35. We’ve contracted a lot of CEOs, and a lot of individuals from the fashion world. We look for creatives, and people who are actually doing shit with their lives. I think it’s very important that you have a story to tell, and if you’re interacting with people and trying to connect with people, it’s important that you live a life that’s interesting and fun.

 We also look for a certain level of attractiveness, individuals who take care of themselves. We do look for physically fit, attractive members.  

How many members are there?
Currently, we have a wait list of 575 people, and we have about 210 members.

Are there any famous names attending your sex parties?
We definitely have very high-level members, though we don’t like to reveal any of guest lists. But yeah, there are times where someone will be in attendance who is recognizable.

What are some of the classes NSFW offers?
We do classes on sub-dom, and Japanese rope bondage, and we have a class coming up on pegging. We have a "Stripe Right" class, which teaches how to take sexy nudes for sexting. It’s led by a fashion photographer who is very, very well known. He teaches the class, then provides private shooting sessions. He’ll do a photoshoot with members on their iPhones, with lighting, and make them look very sexy. It’s almost like a boudoir photoshoot.

We also have a Netflix and chill event, where people come and we put on a movie, and we make gourmet popcorn for everyone. And there’s booze. The movie is on, but there are places where you can go to talk and ‘chill.’

What are the Play Date parties like like?
We bring together different classes we teach, so we have our sub-dom class, Japanese rope bondage, we have performers doing things on kink, and things like that. We’re going to do Netflix and chill, so we’re going to premiere a movie that was done by Imperial Pictures. It’s this indie erotica company that’s getting huge amounts of attention.

We’re doing a live version of erotic sketching where we have members pose nude for everyone to sketch. It’s a fun night where we get to drink, and it’s just very sexy. The next Play Date is going to be Bacchanalia, so it’s going to be Roman themed. We’re shooting a VR experience for the invitation, so you’ll watch sex scenes happening around you. We’re collaborating with some great photographers for that.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen happen at a NSFW party?
There have been a few people who’ve been proud to christen my bathroom. Let’s leave it at that.

Here's How to Turn a Sexy Rubdown into the Best Sex of your Life

DreGxkc.gif

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: massages are sexy. I mean, what’s not hot about running your hands all over a woman’s body and making her feel good? Nothing. Everything about it is sexy.

Fun fact: There’s even an entire genre of porn about massages gone wild, which means a sensual massage has a lot of potential to turn real sexy, real fast.

But then again, there are also porn genres about real estate agents getting frisky, and people in creepy animal costumes (i.e. furries), so realistically, it would appear as though anything and everything has the potential to turn into sex.

Anyway, you don’t have to be a professional masseuse to give an amazing massage, because let’s face it, not many of us know a goddamn thing about pressure points and back-rubbing technique. But the beauty of giving a massage is that you can just squeeze and knead random parts of her body, and it’ll feel good anyway!

And when you think about it, it's not difficult to figure out that running your hands all over your girlfriend's naked body is probably going to lead to sex, which is why I spoke to tantric massage expert Candice Leigh, who recently taught an entire workshop on erotic massages at New York's naughty club NSFW, about how to execute the perfect sensual massage that will definitely lead to sex.

I hope you'll find this as illuminating as I did.

1. Set the mood.
Just as candles and music set the mood during sex and make everything feel 10 times sexier, you can be damn sure that a little mood music and a couple candles are going to take your sexy massage to the next level, too.

Science has shown that vanilla is one of the sexiest scents ever, which means you can never go wrong with a vanilla-scented candle. So, light one of those, put on a playlist of sex-tastic tunes, and get down to business.

Or, if you have an Amazon Echo, you can use its new feature and tell Alexa you're feeling sexy, or for it to “set the mood,” and it’ll put on a sexy playlist for you. We’re living in the future, folks.

2. Use massage oils.
When it comes to sex stuff, everything is better when its slippery, which is why you shouldn’t forego massage oils. Seriously – when in doubt, lube things up.

But when I say to use oils, I don’t mean to drown her in it like you’re marinating a flank steak. You only need a little bit – just a few drops on your hands to start with, and add more if you want a little more slipperiness.

If you’re going to give her a literal full-body massage, a.k.a. including her lady bits, Candice suggests using coconut oil. You know, because it smells good, it's natural, and it won’t throw off her pH level down there.

3. Treat the massage like foreplay.
Fact: woman love foreplay

Also fact: Many of us don’t pay enough attention to this very important part of sex, therefore it doesn't last as long as it should.

And this, my friends, is why a sensual massage is a great precursor to sex. You're literally feeling her up with oils, you're getting her relaxed and in a totally zen state of mind, and you just happen to be touching her erogenous zones over and over again, so it's basically guaranteed to turn naughty pretty swiftly.

"Women’s arousal sometimes takes longer, and sometimes a man may be at his maximum arousal state, but the woman may only be half way there," Candice says, implying all dudes should take note of this brute truth.

"Erotic and sensual touch can provide so much unintentional foreplay: she is breathing, slowing down her mind, relaxing more into her body by having her whole body touched, and by the time her partner is stimulating her nipples, labia, clitoris -- she most likely is at her maximum arousal state. Her experience and desire for sex may be twice as great!"

4. Take your time.
In life, there are certain things you really, really shouldn’t rush. For instance, a blossoming relationship, foreplay, or a delightful chocolate soufflé in the oven. If you push it and try to make it work before it’s ready, it’s going to be complete shit.

And just like those arbitrary examples stated above, you shouldn’t rush a sexy massage, either.

“When giving or receiving an erotic or sensual massage, let there be so much time and spaciousness for not only the entire experience, but with each body part,” Candice advises. 

“Each body part, erogenous or not, deserves equal time and attention. Taking the entire body into consideration will promote full body orgasms and profound sensational states."

5. Don't try to make her orgasm A.S.A.P.
Sure, I get it, you want to make her orgasm. As good as it feels for her, you feel like your ego is giving you a pat on the back when you manage to get her off. 

However, as I said before, do. not. rush. it. Just focus on touching her, see how she's responding to your touch, and just try to enjoy everything that's happening. 

“Let not the goal be to orgasm, but to enjoy all the moments that lead up to it. the whole experience is orgasmic, not just the actual orgasm.

"Sensual bodywork on its own can be the sexual experience, or the appetizer that leads to sex or other play. Sensual bodywork can be erotic, steamy, playful, silly, but can also illicit a depth of emotion and memory that lives and rests in our genitals if we have the time, sensitivity, and patience to explore it."

With some parting advice on the importance of touch, the founder and 'Chief Conspirator' of NSFW, Daniel Saynt, says: "It’s important for us to practice touch in such a touch free-world. Technology distances us and forces communications that don't connect us to the healing power of touch.

"The "How to Touch" class (which Candice taught) was designed to combat that behavior and encourage sexual and non-sexual touch between consenting partners."

And that, my dudes, is why we should all be giving and receiving massages all the damn time. It feels good, it brings us closer to our partner, and it helps us have sex. What's not to love?

Why Some of Vines’s Biggest Stars are Fleeing

Andrew Bachelor is the single most popular human on Vine, the Twitter-owned, short-form video network that was once described as the future of popular culture. Under the handle @KingBach, Bachelor has developed his own genre of slapstick, seconds-long sketch comedy and amassed a following of 16 million.

When Bachelor finished his last video clip, though, he did not post it to the app that made him a star. Instead, he put “Pervert Life” on his popular, verified Facebook page; it landed on Vine a full two days later.

Three-and-a-half years after Vine launched, and three years after Vine launched him, Bachelor has become one of a growing number of former Vine stars who no longer sees the platform as crucial.

      “Vine never really was dependable,” said John Shahidi, chief executive of San Francisco-based Shots Studios, which has helped Bachelor and a number of other top Vine creators diversify their output to other platforms. “I wouldn’t put our brain energy or focus into making anything exclusively for Vine anymore.”

      These are dark days for Vine, previously one of Twitter’s more successful experiments. Launched as a community for users to share short, six-second lifecasts, Vine quickly found a different purpose: an incubator of Internet meme-makers and comedians. Vine brought you “on fleek,” Damn Daniel, “what are thoooooose?!” and “why the f— you lyin.” It amassed millions of zeitgeisty, younger-than-34 fans: At one point, 1 in 4 American teenagers said they had the app. 

      But a recent report by Markerly, a firm that tracks online influencers, found that 5,000 of Vine’s top 9,725 accounts — including media outlets, professional athletes, brands and celebrities — have stopped posting to the platform. Those who do, like Bachelor and his Shots colleagues Rudy Mancuso and Lele Pons — who have 36 million followers, between the three of them — frequently post their material first to Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. New user growth is stagnant, search interest is way down, and almost all of Vine’s product and business executives have fled in the past four months. 

      “The allure of it has dropped off completely,” said Daniel Saynt, co-founder of the casting agency Socialyte, which tracks and manages social media stars on behalf of major brands. “Once Instagram introduced video, it was over for Vine.”

      Vine’s problem, as Saynt sees it, isn’t so much with Vine itself — it’s that, in the two years since the app’s heyday, other platforms have copied and improved on its concept. Instagram introduced 15-second videos in June 2013, more than doubling the video length and adding editing tools not available through Vine. When Snapchat rolled out Stories four months later, they came complete with stickers, text overlays and illustrations, plus the experimental, disappearing format that had earned private snaps so much hype.

      Meanwhile, YouTube began courting top creators with promises of special perks, such as continuing education and professional studio space. Facebook invited social stars to use Mentions, its specialized app for public figures, and provided tools to help them reach more people and moderate the resulting communities. For creators such as Brittany Furlan — Vine’s fifth most-followed star, with almost 10 million subscribers — that safer and more controlled environment seemed far more conducive to their work long-term.

      “A lot of people chose to leave Vine, including myself, because for me personally, it just turned into a very negative space,” Furlan said by email. “When I first started most of the comments were supportive, then as I gained followers things just got uglier and uglier and it didn’t seem like Vine was interested in doing anything about it. I was getting told to ‘kill myself’ on pretty much a daily basis, and already being someone who struggles with anxiety/depression, it just wasn’t a healthy environment for me anymore. … For some reason, the comments on Instagram and Facebook seem to be more positive.”

      More recently, Facebook has begun offering social stars lucrative contracts to produce live videos. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bachelor, Logan Paul (No. 8 on Vine), Brent Rivera (No. 12) and Jon Paul Piques (No. 42) were among the first batch to ink $119,000 to $213,000 contracts with Facebook. Paul’s Facebook profile is particularly striking, given that the 21-year-old started out filming subway splits and banana peel falls for Vine. Now each of his videos, some with 4 million or 5 million Facebook views, are captioned with an entreaty to like his page and check out his Instagram profile. 

      Desertions like that have further damaged Vine’s cultural cachet, already a fragile and fleeting thing among the Internet set. These days, when brands such as Audi and Moet come to Saynt looking for buzz, they’re only looking at Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook — in that order, he said. And when Shahidi coaches his stable of Vine stars on their next moves, the strategy typically straddles YouTube and Instagram.

      In a written statement, Twitter voiced optimism for the future of Vine, even calling creators one of the company’s five current “product priorities.” In June, the app debuted 140-second videos, which exceeds the length limit on Instagram. They’ve also begun hyping “monetization opportunities for creators” — which sites like YouTube and Facebook already have.

      “Vine is an important part of our strategy, particularly given its vibrant community of creators,” a Twitter spokesman said, “and we’re excited about what the future holds with new leadership.”

      The real question is whether, by the time that future comes, any Viners will be around to see it.

      Market Changes: Goodbye Mega-influencers, Welcome Micro-influencers

      58bb20521900003900bd6c5a.jpg

      Today it’s commonplace for top influencers to earn $5,000 per Instagram post, get free trips around the world and even be gifted new luxury bags every week, but the market is changing, and industry insiders think a lot of this easy money will be gone in 2017.

      Today, having millions of followers is no longer that unique, but the number of companies who can afford to offer long-term collaborations with these influencers are decreasing. What happens when companies can’t afford these collaborations anymore? What happens when the influencer outgrows the brand they used to support? Today I am diving into this topic with the superstar former influencer Elma Beganovich, founder of the first influencer marketing and social media oriented social media agency – Amra and Elma

      Elma and I both agree: companies are becoming more savvy when working with influencers, and it’s probably because in the early days they saw that campaigns weren’t terribly effective. Influencers deleted posts by the end of the day, or they posted about another brand the very next day, diluting the effectiveness of previous campaigns, or the engagement was terrible. If someone has 5 million followers and only gets 5,000 likes on a picture, that’s not a very compelling result, and brands won’t really see it as a success.

      If reach is a brand’s main goal in working with an influencer it’s not enough if they have millions of followers. We all see influencers coming out of nowhere and gaining a massive following, but as a brand, my only question would be if I organized an event with this person, how many of these “followers” would show up? Compare this to a smaller, but more actively engaged account. For example, in Hungary my main Facebook page and Instagram account have around 200,000 followers. Whenever I organized an event in any part of the country, at least 300 people would attend. Would some of these “mega-influencers” be able to attract a similarly sized in-person crowd? I’m honestly not sure, because most of them just build their brand by posting about what they have and how great their life is, instead of focusing on having meaningful conversations with their followers.

      And aside from the quality of interaction these influencers have with their fans, sometimes even the largest accounts are all a house of cards, as Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte, told me recently. Anyone can gain a massive following by posting pictures of luxury bags next to their morning coffee, when in reality the the bag might be fake, and they can barely pay their rent.

      Elma Beganovich got her career start as one of the early superstar influencers, working with her sister on the blog Club Fashionista. “Only a handful of influencers know how to grow social media organically, without paying ad campaigns, and we are one of those few,” she told me during our interview. The difference between the brand they built and the inauthentic accounts I mentioned is that the Beganovich sisters were always very open about what they were going through, and they were building a community they really cared about. It wasn’t just about sharing, it was about caring about their community: liking other people’s posts, really paying attention to those fans who had been around forever and were their biggest supporters.

      The idea for Amra and Elma came out of necessity. Elma told me, “We outgrew a lot of brands we worked with. Brands are getting savvy in terms of how they are spending their budget. They are more budget conscious, and micro-influencers make sense for them. Our clients understand that we know the industry, we have that network, we are well connected within the influencer community. The value we bring is that we understand the other side.”

      Here we are again: influencers, and how the landscape is changing. Superstar influencers are getting so out of touch with their crazy lifestyles that people just aren’t truly engaged with them anymore. The truth is, if there isn’t an honest and loveable personal brand behind their feed, it simply isn’t sustainable. If it’s always about me, me, me, people will unfollow.

      You can easily see the power of Elma and her sister’s accounts, accounts that they built up themselves with care, love, and hard work. They took the time to analyze their followers and they did the work. That’s why they’re still growing, even if their focus is now primarily on building their agency. When I ask Elma about her current focus, she says, “What makes me excited is this change in the conversation that brands are able to have with consumers. They are able to get feedback from so many different venues, while years ago it was really closed-off. Now you can go on Amazon and read these reviews, or Instagram. Basically all barriers are knocked down.”

      Will the Man Running a Sex Party like a Startup be Able to Leave Anyone Satisfied?

      screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-7-00-22-am1.png

      On a Sunday afternoon at 2pm, I rang one of the three new buzzers outside a four-story townhouse in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. I had booked an interview with libertine fashion/tech entrepreneur Daniel Saynt to ask him—amidst swirling controversy and rumors—whether he still thought he could disrupt New York’s secret sex-party scene.

      Silence.

      Five minutes later, I tried another buzzer, and another minute later, the door swung open. Saynt, bleary-eyed, peered out at me with confusion. A beat passed before he recognized me and swung the door open wide, revealing himself to be in a t-shirt and underwear.

      “Do you want me to come back?” I asked.

      “Yes, sorry, can you?” he responded, apologizing profusely. I wandered off to kill time, and when I came back a half hour later, he let me in—fully clothed—and led me on a tour of his recently renovated townhouse, which will soon be filled with sin. We strolled underneath a red glass chandelier in the foyer, past black-and-white photographs of nude women in nature, up the stairs to two more floors and six bedrooms, each with its own keyless entry lock, and then back downstairs to the living room and kitchen, which held a full professional DJ set-up. We spoke bathed in the red glow of a neon sign declaring his venture’s name: “NSFW.”

      That morning the townhouse was empty, but come Saturday night, it will be filled with 90 curious New Yorkers, wearing suits, cocktail dresses, animal-themed masks, and scant underwear, while DJs play sultry house music. A dominatrix will be giving rope and bondage lessons, erotic films will play on the walls, and upstairs—if all goes to plan—the guests will take advantage of those six bedrooms.

      But Saynt isn’t just another rich guy throwing an orgy in his mansion: He’s an entrepreneur who wants to disrupt the nascent sex-positivity movement, and ride it to wealth and fame. In May, his previous effort to throw a cutting-edge sex party succumbed to friction and hostility from the community he was trying to join. Would his most recent attempt blow up, or blow it?

      The state of sex parties

      Sexually risqué events and acts are becoming more attractive to everyday Americans than ever before. Acceptance of the idea of polygamy is on the rise, and polyamorous and open relationships are becoming more visible. Sex-themed events, like Dan Savage’s HUMP Film Festival which gives likeminded strangers the opportunity to watch diverse porn together in public, now tour the US and regularly sell out.

      Definitive statistics on the rise of sex parties are hard to come by, mainly because most operate underground, thrown in personal homes or privately rented hotels. But Ben Fuller, the founder of Modern Lifestyles, a ticketing and event-management service for swinger parties, says his company’s revenue has grown 81% over the last 24 months.

      “In the last few years it’s been exploding,” Fuller says. “The bigger parties are getting bigger. Mailing lists are growing. More people are finding out about it online.” Modern Lifestyles serves close to 100 swinger parties, with 218,000 tickets sold since its launch in 2011.

      There are more than 20 regularly operating sex parties in New York City alone, and they come in all flavors. There are 1970s-style swinger parties where couples come with the intent of swapping their significant others. There are kink and fetish parties in clubs where the emphasis is more on the sweet pain of foreplay than the act of fornication. And there are parties where wealthy men pay for attractive young women to attend in what is basically thinly veiled prostitution.

       Sex positivity is the belief that as long as the acts are consensual and safe, all forms of sex and expressions of sexuality are valid. But there is now a new kind of sex party finding its footing, born out of kink parties but with the edges smoothed and its purpose refined by the ideals of a new generation. These “play parties” are founded on the shared notion of sex positivity, which is the belief that as long as the acts are consensual and safe, all forms of sex and expressions of sexuality are valid.

      Closely tied to the polyamorous and Burning Man (“burner”) community, this tight cohort of New York-based parties are quick to distance themselves from swinger shindigs, which they see as too transactional and self promotional, replete with cheesy posters and online advertisements. Unlike kink parties—which are often held in sleazy basements in the no-man’s-land of midtown Manhattan—they’re more attractive to non-BDSM couples and held in hotel penthouses, Brooklyn townhouses, and event spaces that usually host concerts and weddings. And unlike the parties catering to rich men, tickets are on the affordable side—around $100—and the women are there to have fun, not gold dig.

      While a couple of these sex-positive parties have a slight internet presence, most function as close-knit communities whose jealously guarded guest lists have been painstakingly built over years by word of mouth. The only way to find out about these events is to deeply embed yourself into the burner and electronic-music scene—and demonstrate that you can behave respectfully despite being surrounded by naked bodies.

       These parties [are] a sexual utopia for progressive millennials. “People like the community aspect of it, because it lends itself to a much safer and intimate environment,” says Kaitlyn* (name changed for privacy), who used to be on the leadership team of a sex-positive party we’ll call Elite Embrace, and also serves as a liaison between two others. “They’re trusted people—you have to vouch for somebody to gain entry, and you can’t just find it and show up. You don’t find that at the other parties.”

      As depraved as a sex party may sound to the less adventurous, these new parties hew to their own moral code. Women and men pay the same ticket price to prevent a power imbalance. Affirmative consent—where one must ask permission and get a verbal OK before touching, kissing, or physically engaging in any way—is drummed into attendees before they enter. Recording devices are banned. Experienced guardians are on hand with identifying markers to help out attendees who may feel unsafe. Consent violators and guests who are intoxicated are kicked out and sometimes blacklisted.

      All the rules at these sex parties are geared toward making all attendees—but especially women—feel safe enough to explore their sexual desires, whether that’s group sex or simply wandering around wearing lingerie. In these spaces, they can play (or not) without fear of violence, abuse, or shame. All of these facets make these parties a sexual utopia for progressive millennials.

      So, of course, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to monetize it.

      Sinners and Saynt

      Saynt, 33, is fit and strapping with a trim beard and dark curly hair, cropped close on the sides. He is an intensely public person, sharing updates on Facebook about his progress (and setbacks) in detoxing and relationships, such as the breakup this summer of his boyfriend and girlfriend triad.

      Saynt, whose birth name is Daniel Santiago, was born in the Bronx to poor Puerto Rican parents, and worked hard to escape his neighborhood. He was a straight-A student, but when neighborhood gangs started trying to recruit him, his mom decided to homeschool him. He skipped 8th grade and eventually secured a full ride to college, majoring in an e-Business program, and also took classes in human sexuality.

      After graduating, he started exploring the New York sex scene, walking around the East Village looking for posters for sex events. He took classes on the female orgasm at the sex-toy shop Babeland, engaged the services of a dominatrix, and attended his first sex party. He was briefly a club promoter before founding his snarky fashion blog, FashionIndie.com, which he wrote under the pen name Daniel Saynt.

      In 2005 he got into a very public skirmish with a restaurant owner who canceled a fashion show Saynt was putting on in his space. Saynt took allegations that the restaurant owner had called the black and Latina models “ghetto trash” to the press, won an appearance on the Tyra Banks Show, and then sued the restaurant owner. The $10,000 settlement provided funding to build FashionIndie.com into a juggernaut over the next five years, with 4.5 million unique visitors a month and plenty of cat fights. (He started a particularly nasty one in 2009 by saying of a Vogue fashion editor: ”You’re a blimp… Double breasted suits are for thin people, not people with double breasts.” He then doubled-down and fat-shamed another fashion blogger who critiqued him.)

      Saynt says he’s matured since then. But by presenting himself as a lout, he gained popularity. “We had tons of press and our traffic skyrocketed,” he says. “We had more readers than many fashion magazines at the time did and were able to sell the company because of how much volume we had.”

      He sold FashionIndie.com in 2010 for $250,000 and went to work as the CMO of a fashion label for two years. In that time, Saynt says the new owners of FashionIndie.com weren’t able to achieve Saynt’s traffic, and offered to sell it back to him for the low price of $50,000. He took the deal.

       [Saynt’s] usual social haunts were glittering Manhattan fashion soirées, so he was unimpressed with the production values of these DIY sex-positive parties. 2013 was a big year for Saynt. He co-founded Socialyte, an online-influencer casting agency that connects large brands to digital stars for ad campaigns and sponsorships. He had been in a monogamous marriage for seven years, but realized he couldn’t deny his attraction to men anymore and got amicably divorced in order to pursue a polyamorous, bisexual lifestyle. (His ex is still his business partner at Socialyte, and they are on good terms.) He then jumped back into the sex-party scene, attending upscale parties for wealthy men, like Heaven's Circle.

      In 2014, Saynt was shopping around for funding for Socialyte. Hearing that one of the owners of Nylon was ready to sell because of impending jail time for money laundering, he worked with a group of investors who bought and merged Nylon, FashionIndie.com, and Socialyte, keeping Saynt on as chief innovation officer. It was a messy, acrimonious deal—the founders of Nylon sued after they were forced out—but Saynt got his funding and has since built Socialyte into an agency with $12 million in revenue in 2016. (FashionIndie is dark right now—he says he’s preparing for a relaunch.)

      Saynt’s sexual identity and career were blossoming, but he wasn’t too psyched about the new polyamorous parties he had started attending. His usual social haunts were glittering Manhattan fashion soirées, so he was unimpressed with the production values of these DIY sex-positive parties. With his experience in promoting, digital marketing, and influencer relationships, Saynt thought he could do better.

      Budgeting for hedonism

      “It’s hard work to throw parties. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” swing-party entrepreneur Fuller says.

      Most sex-positive parties only have one stream of revenue: ticket sales. Those price tags must cover everything: the venue rental, which in New York can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, plus décor, mattresses and mattress covers, liquor and mixers for an all-night open bar, the sound system and DJ setup, supplies like condoms, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and all the other fun additional sundries needed to pull off a sex party, such as massage tables and sex swings.

      The venues alone cause more than enough headaches. Hotel managers can be skittish, won’t properly secure the area from crashers, or will try to force the organizers to use the hotel’s DJs or food-and-beverage service. “Venue issues are always huge,” Kaitlyn says. One party we’ll call the Interactive Kink party has been searching for a new venue since the spring, another moves from venue to venue in Brooklyn (but attendees complain that the decorated warehouses are cold and uninviting), and Elite Embrace sent out an email in the spring saying it would take a hiatus while renovations happened to the penthouse it favored. However, a party we’ll call Performance House gets around this by outright owning a townhouse in Brooklyn—which obviously takes a serious investment that not many organizers can afford.

       “It’s hard work to throw parties. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” swing-party entrepreneur Fuller says. To cut down on expenses and build a sense of community, all the work of setting up, staffing the bar, circulating snacks, and cleaning up afterward is done by volunteers, who work for a few hours in exchange for free entry. So in a party of 250—which is on the larger side—only around 150 might have paid for tickets in the end. For 150 people at $100, that comes out to $15,000. With expenses in excess of $10,000, that doesn’t leave much room for a profit. But for most organizers, that’s not the point. “Our parties are about relationship and connection,” says Pierre,* the founder of Elite Embrace. “Of course there is still sexing going on, but we’re not trying to get things from each other; we’re trying to build something together that’s magical.”

      If you’re searching for alternate revenue streams, there’s not much to choose from. Making money off booze, nightlife’s most lucrative revenue stream, is out of the question. Serving alcohol at a sex party falls in a legal gray zone: You need a liquor license to sell or serve alcohol to strangers, and anyway, the New York State Liquor Authority forbids the sale or serving of alcohol at sex or swinger parties. Some parties get around this by having attendees BYOBeverage, treating the party like an event among friends with “contributions” instead of ticket sales, having a monthly membership fee to prove it’s a private event, or selling tickets at the party that can then be exchanged for drinks. But if the authorities decided to raid a party operating in the gray, the organizer might wind up in a protracted (and public) legal battle.

      Most organizers simply want to throw a great party, include as many of their friends as possible—and hopefully break even. “It’s very hard to make money throwing a fetish party,” says Liza*, an organizer of the Interactive Kink party. “I don’t think people get into it to make it a business.”

      Saynt’s sinfluencers

      Despite having attended many sex parties, Saynt had never volunteered at one to learn best practices for keeping things sexy and safe, or had a sit down with the organizers to get the economic lay of the land. Instead, he applied his business experience to working out an alternate model himself.

      After a year of “workshopping” small events at his downtown Manhattan loft, in January of 2016, Saynt officially launched his stylishly subversive lifestyle brand, NSFW. He wanted the business to be the entry point for curious millennials to the world of sex positivity.

      To apply to be a member of NSFW, you submit your Facebook and Instagram for consideration. “We try to get a good idea of whether they’re attractive,” Saynt says. “Where they work, who they’re connected to, how many friends they have, what type of activities and things they do normally.” He is particularly opposed to members being older. “I don’t know if I want to have sex around my dad,” he says.

      These initial NSFW trials were small, from three to 30 friends. There have been lessons about how to cheat at poker, a class on how to safely use illicit drugs, erotic sketching, rope and bondage lessons from a dominatrix, and movie nights called “Netflix and Chill,” where cuddling (and more) is encouraged. The parties usually turn into petite orgies, with small groups of friends disappearing into adjacent rooms.

       To apply to be a member of NSFW, you submit your Facebook and Instagram for consideration. “We try to get a good idea of whether they’re attractive,” Saynt says. Originally, these events were free to members who paid $6.66 a month for access to the NSFW website and its event information, member profiles, and sex- and drug-focused articles lifted from mainstream outlets such as Elle, The Independent, and Gizmodo. He had plans to produce NSFW merch to sell exclusively to members, such as a replica of the cocaine necklace from Cruel Intentions. Saynt aimed to build membership up to 10,000 people in the New-York area alone—which would produce a revenue of $66,000 a month, and just shy of $800k a year—and then open more chapters in other cities. NSFW wasn’t intended to just sate the sexual desires of a small community—it was built to scale.

      While the organizers of the existing sex-positive parties in New York need to break even on every event, Saynt is treating NSFW like a startup, plowing money into it now with the hopes that his efforts will pay off in the future. “We won’t make money for at least two years before this starts making sense. And even if it never makes money, it’s still something I want to do,” he says. “I’m fortunate enough to have something else to make some money that pays me well.”

      These smaller events went well, but the feedback from his guests was that they wanted something bigger. So Saynt decided to try and give them what they wanted.

      Want to make a PlayDate?

      In April, the gif-saturated public web page for PlayDate, NSFW’s first big event, hit the internet. Scheduled for May 14, 2016, the animal-themed party was going to be held in a $31 million multistory townhouse in the West Village. Along with general admission tickets for $150, it had private rooms that could be rented out for groups of friends for up to $7,000. Saynt decided to pay all the staff, and he secured a liquor sponsor, a lingerie sponsor, and an indie erotic-film sponsor, Imperial Pictures, whose models were going to attend the party.

      Although the sponsors for the initial PlayDate were just providing product and experiences, not cash, the party was intended as a test run with the hopes that a successful event could be leveraged to bring in cash sponsors later for either PlayDate or other NSFW events. (For the first time around, Saynt predicted he would lose $8,000.) The strategy was all Socialyte: get young, attractive influencers in the door with the promise of an unforgettable party, then later sell access to that community to brands.

       “We’re building up this community of deviants and focusing on influential and exciting-type people,” Saynt says. “We’re building up this community of deviants and focusing on influential and exciting-type people. Then we can then use that membership to present to brands who are interested in the sex, drugs, or crime space,” he says. And there are a lot of potential partner brands: condom companies, porn sites, kink- and fetish-accessory brands, the marijuana industry, and even the gun industry, Saynt lists.

      “There is a really large opportunity for disruption,” he says. “I realized that there is a very large market and a large marketing budget that has gone underrepresented… With my knowledge in building brands for the last 12 years, I’m confident that NSFW will not only be a strong brand, but that I can also work with brands that are trying to market to more open-minded, adventurous people.”

      He had 270 tickets to sell. Saynt pushed the party out through his social networks, the NSFW membership base, and with ads on dating apps such as Grindr, Thrinder (a threesome app now called Feeld), Tinder, and Happn. He announced it on NSFW’s Instagram, whose followers liked the announcement nearly 4,000 times and left 300 suspiciously repeating bot-like comments (“Excellent!” “Hilarious!” “Best picture ever!”).

      Saynt also reached out for press, and he got it: Maxim declared it "New York's Most Elite Sex Club,” and Urban Daddy called it “the city's best current opportunity for sexual enlightenment.” He even claims theNew York Times was interested in stopping by before the party got started for a tour. But one fear was that with so much press surrounding the party, attendees’ identities could be exposed. “The type of people who go to these parties—teachers, attorneys, professionals, all kinds—are working professionals with careers where, if it got out they were attending a party like this, they could lose their jobs,” Kaitlyn says.

      “The Predator Room”

      The sex-positive community, however, was not receptive. Facebook groups erupted in chatter about the completely tone-deaf landing page. Any mention of consent was buried below a description that promised an “elite” and “exclusive” event for “attractive” and “affluent” attendees—one of the rooms for sale was even called the “Predator Room.”

      “One of my friends texted and asked if I knew about this PlayDate party,” says Eliza* an organizer of the Interactive Kink party. “When I saw the page, I was immediately terrified. I thought somebody is going to get hurt. It sounded like someone trying to sell a kinky party to wealthy men. Often when you cater to rich men who have a lot of privilege, it carries over into entitlement, which carries into inappropriate touching and not accepting social cues.”

      Saynt changed the name of the Predator Room to the “Lion’s Den,” rewrote the landing page, changed the descriptor “affluent” to “influential,” and added in a prominent consent policy. Casual members of the community were mollified, but when the organizers of the other sex-positive parties reached out to him to offer advice on keeping his party safe, Saynt bristled, viewing it as meddling.

      “I started a dialogue with Daniel [Saynt], and one of his responses was, ‘I’m not used to someone asking so many questions about my businesses,’” Eliza says. “Saying that took me aback, because I wasn’t trying to speak about business—I was trying to speak about safety.”

       “Considering they are the sex-positive community, they are very negative,” Saynt says. “We didn’t want to shape his party at all,” Kaitlyn adds. “We just wanted to make sure it fell in line with best practices.”

      Saynt also made the crucial misstep of asking Elite Embrace to “promote” PlayDate to its guest list—he was essentially asking them to sell out the trust of their members and endorse a new and unknown party.

      “The only contact I’ve ever had from Daniel about his party was whether I would sell him my guest list in exchange for a 25% cut of the revenue. I didn’t know what the fuck to say. I ignored [his email],” Pierre says. “He completely did not understand what the principle is in creating a safe party. Our guest list is about protecting the community, the people, and their privacy. We’re not out there promoting.”

      The week before PlayDate was set to happen, the organizers of New York’s other sex parties were emailing their lists and posting on Facebook, warning the community that the party was unsafe and that press would be there. “Considering they are the sex-positive community, they are very negative,” Saynt says. “We’re just trying to do something different.”

      But the other organizers’ pleas had little effect. After dropping the count down to 175 people so the party wouldn’t be too crowded, Saynt was close to selling out the event. He claimed that 60% of the tickets were sold to women (which he saw as an endorsement of the safety of the party), and there were 500 people on the waitlist for NSFW membership.

      Pillow talk

      As PlayDate approached, it became clear that only about a third of the people who would be attending were experienced sex-positive partiers, and the rest would be newbies—inexperienced burners, people attracted through dating apps, and swingers from outside the sex-positive community. “There definitely is a part of the membership who are familiar with the play scene in New York and go to other events,” Saynt says. “But for the most part, when people join, they’re like, ‘I’ve always wanted to go to something, but I’ve never been to anything like this.’ So it’s really newbies who don’t go to Burning Man but who have a desire to be a little bit more open.”

      Sex-positivity organizers continued to bristle: “People who just want to go to a hot-sexy-cool-thing because sex parties are all the rage now but have no experience don’t know how to ask for consent or how to say no,” Eliza says. “I don’t think you can just pull a community out of the air.”

      Saynt ended up announcing he would bring on guardians (who other organizers said were inexperienced), tape door locks down so no one could lock themselves in a room and have their way with someone, and hire guards and an off-duty officer.

      But no matter how many safeguards you put in place, one aggressive guest can ruin the vibe for everyone—or worse. Elite Embrace has built up a blacklist over the years of about 30 people who have been deemed predatory by the leadership team. “I know a high number of dangerous people who were going to attend [PlayDate],” Pierre says.

      Saynt had heard about the list, but when he asked Elite Embrace for it, he was told it didn’t exist. “You get access when you have a system in place for handling people who are not allowed at parties,” Pierre reasoned. “If you don’t show competence in building safety and consent and love into a party, you don’t deserve any help on some level.”

      “I obviously don’t want to have [the blacklisted] people at my event,” Saynt retorts. “If you do truly care about the safety of this community, let me know who these people are.”

       Would the party just flop, with 150 hot people standing nervously around, waiting for someone else to initiate? Emotions were running high, and the relationship between Saynt and the existing party organizers was getting more and more fraught. There was a sense within the community that PlayDate was speeding like a luxury sports car toward disaster: The other organizers had tried to apply the brakes at the beginning, but having been brushed off, now they felt they had no choice but to back off and watch it crash, waiting to say “I told you so.” Would a newbie get drugged or sexually assaulted by a blacklisted predator? Or would the party just flop, with 150 hot people standing nervously around, waiting for someone else to initiate?

      The party organizers who opposed PlayDate had repeatedly said that their first concern was safety. But the move to refuse Saynt the blacklist seemed to indicate that the sex-positive community was simply offended. Offended that he hadn’t consulted anyone before splashing his party across the internet. Offended that he was marketing it as a sex-positive party while blatantly catering to the rich, attractive, and young. Offended that he was commodifying what many viewed as their last sacred space.

      “Why is he actively pursuing press?” Pierre says. “Because he wants his brand and name out there. Not because he has a beautiful story about sexuality.”

      The positive in sex positivity

      Saynt’s business Socialyte is about taking something that used to be authentic—off- cuff social media posts. Would that really be a bad thing for sex positivity, a movement that suffers from a reputation of being for cuckholded men and ugly feminists?

      If NSFW can lead a generation of repressed millennials to take their guilty porn addiction offline, understand their sexuality, and embrace the concept of consent, that’s undoubtedly a good thing—much of the danger and sorrow surrounding sex stems from it being kept in the shadows.

       Much of the danger and sorrow surrounding sex stems from it being kept in the shadows. But it’s also a razor-thin line to walk. That’s because one of the biggest draws of these sex-positive parties is the feeling of being in on a delicious secret—that there is a glamorous side to them that their coworkers, family, and Facebook friends will never know about. If NSFW cracks open this scene to scrutiny from the wider world via a public and scalable business model (and slaps branding on it) it might lose the edge that first attracted its clandestine players. It begs the question: Are there even 10,000 young, hot, and rich people in New York who can be trusted to act respectfully at a sexy party?

      The day of the party finally arrived. But at around 1pm, ticket holders received some bad news: PlayDate was cancelled.

      Emails had gone out with a cryptic explanation that NSFW had discovered it couldn’t guarantee the safety of its attendees. It would need to postpone.

      Saynt won’t say exactly what happened to make him back out of the original venue at the last minute. But to make sure it didn’t happen again, he decided to follow Performance House’s suit and buy his own sin-filled private home—the one that I toured. Saynt lives on the lower level, the upper levels are available to rent on Airbnb. PlayDate aside, it’s already serving as NSFW’s clubhouse, and recently hosted a rope and bondage session with NSFW’s favorite dominatrix.

       

      A happy ending?

      Now, seven months after the original PlayDate was cancelled, it’s finally back on—tomorrow night. The webpage promises four stories of sexy entertainment and classes, including multiple play rooms and beds, deep-house DJs, non-play areas for mingling, “sexual cinema” on the first floor, a gallery of erotic art, premixed cocktails by a liquor sponsor, champagne and “decadent desserts,” plus a Moroccan-style dungeon and a surround-sound system. (And it also has some required reading on “enthusiastic consent.”)

      After all the brouhaha in the spring, however, this iteration feels much more subdued. The event tickets, which start at $100, are behind the password-protected site for members only. There are no rooms for sale, no press, and no negative chatter in the sex-positive Facebook groups.

      Saynt says he doesn’t need to promote the party: There are only 90 spots available, and with NSFW membership now at 375, he doesn’t need to court more. His business model has also changed: He has ditched the monthly subscription fee, and instead of several small parties a week, there will be only one large ticketed event per month. Some of those events might be organized trips to festivals such as Coachella and Burning Man.

      As of this morning, PlayDate has sold out. (Saynt still hasn’t received the blacklist, so it’s anyone’s guess whether anyone on it is attending this weekend.) Overall, the party is much smaller, more relaxed, and more manageable than the huge undertaking Saynt had planned for the spring. It will also probably be full of people who have already met each other at other NSFW events, having attended workshops on rope bondage, asking for sex, and erotic sketching together.

      So perhaps, after everything, Saynt’s first serious NSFW venture could turn out to be a successful cocktail party with a bit (or a lot of) of sex on the side. Not exactly the most exciting event to an experienced sex partier, but to a newbie? Incredible.

      There’s no doubt that many in the sex-positive scene would still like to see Saynt fail. But railing against Saynt’s particular brand of flashy sex positivity is futile. That’s because he has proven over and over again that he can power through drama and criticism all the way to the bank.

      That’s not to say Saynt is cynically using sex-positive language to achieve his ends—he really does believe in sex’s transformative power, and wants to share that with the world. The bigger question is whether by disrupting and monetizing the scene, he’ll ruin it for everyone else.

      As I left the townhouse last Sunday, the thought I mulled over most was how, for such a smart guy, Saynt seemed completely incapable of humble subtlety. When I got home, his latest post on Facebook only proved my point: “Just finished an interview on disrupting the sex industry. Such an interesting life I lead. #sexpositivity”

      Inside The Independents' Digital Strategies

      7704_carre_des_horlogers_sihh_2016_original.jpg__770x340_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale.jpg

      Following the recent SIHH event and in the lead-up to the colossal Baselworld 2016 next month, Luxury Society spoke to independent watchmakers about the trials and challenges of their digital evolution.

      Late last year, Luxury Society published a piece panning 2016 luxury predictions from experts, to gain insight into the future for different facets of the luxury sector.

      Yet, amongst the various generational, behavioural and market forces that were highlighted as trends to watch, the consensus was unanimous that it is digital which will be at the heart of the luxury decision making process for brands in 2016.

       

      “ It’s estimated that 75% of luxury purchases are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint ”

       

      As Neil Cunningham, Managing Director of boutique media agency Cream UK explained: “Luxury businesses need to fully embrace digital because their consumers already have. Globally, 95% of luxury buyers are digitally connected and it’s estimated that 75% of luxury purchases are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint.”

      However, examining more closely how the different sectors of luxury have each adjusted to the digital revolution, it’s clear that luxury fashion, beauty and jewellery brands have, for the most part, been the ‘early adopters’ of digital, with the watchmaking industry one of the slowest to embrace the new era and all that comes with it.

      Daniel Saynt, CEO & Chief Creative Officer at Socialyte – The Influencer Casting Agency, says this is something he can attest to.

       

      “ Much of the industry is set in their way as to how to approach watch marketing ”

       

      As head of the world’s largest influencer casting agency providing curated talents and qualified stats for over 10,000 creators, his firm works with media partners such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Nylon, Glamour, Allure, and Refinery29, amongst others, to cast and create influencer campaigns for various luxury brands across the globe.

      Yet, he admits he has noted the cautious attitude of watch brands towards digital channels and, particularly, incorporating influencers into their marketing.

      “Much of the industry is set in their way as to how to approach watch marketing focusing on celebrity endorsements, events and print. With that mentality comes a bit of fear when it comes to working with influencers, as well as a lack of innovation when it comes to social campaigns. The audience luxury watch brands are trying to reach is relatively small and in speaking with decision makers many feel that digital stars aren’t reaching the customers they want to reach,” he says.

      However, the market is changing and demand is evident for watch brands to be digitally adept – so, as Luxury Society discovered at SIHH this year – the watchmaking industry is at a tipping point, and poised to actively make its mark on digital in 2016.

      It is against this backdrop, and in the lead-up to the colossal Baselworld event for the watchmaking and jewellery industry next month, that Luxury Society investigated the digital aspirations of independent watchmakers in particular, who attended the SIHH event in 2016 for the first time as part of a new section, dubbed ‘Carre des Horlogeres’.

      In the midst of SIHH, which had traditionally been dominated by subsidiaries of the luxury conglomerate Richemont, this year marked a change in the air when, for its 26th edition, the event inaugural welcomed nine independent watchmaking firms into the fold.

       

      “ There is a growing difference between what people call the luxury megabrands, and smaller players ”

       

      However, as the proverbial Davids in a sea of Goliaths – not only at SIHH – but also in the vast digital landscape, independent watchmakers are – once again faced with the age-old challenge of how to stand out and do things differently – as they always have.

      For their part, MB&F – the legendary rebels who draw their strength from off-beat creations and collaborations orchestrated by founder Max Busser – don’t seem concerned about carving their niche – on the contrary, the brand’s Head of Communication Charris Yadigaroglou says the changing definition of luxury on its own is organically providing independents like his brand, with a unique digital voice which rings out above the rest.

      “To set the scene, my little theory is that the definition of luxury is changing in a sense. I feel there is a growing difference between what people call the luxury megabrands, which are certainly a form of luxury, and smaller players.

      “On one hand, those megabrands will be even more and more powerful, and because they’re marketing with more and more sophisticated and powerful machines, I think there will definitely be a need, with at least certain types of customers, for those crazy alternative, off-beat brands – because they’ll want a break from that sort of standard megabrand thing every so often.

      “So as an independent brand, you’ve got to go all the way now, because you have to be super authentic, and exclusive, but you also have to provide access. To strike this balance – we do all of our social media ourselves, in-house.”

      Explaining why their digital initiatives are managed internally as opposed to handing it all over to an agency, Yadigaroglou adds that because MB&F is an independent house, their target markets are niche and, increasingly, more specific than bigger brands – so a mass-market approach, on any level, is something they tend steer away from.

      “We know with the customers who come to us, that MB&F is exactly what they’re looking for. So, if we were to serve them the same megabrand treatment, they’re not getting that alternative vibe.

      Digital is just an addition to the mix though, and although it’s prevalence is increasing, Yadigaroglou says it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ for MB&F.

      “In addition to digital, we are also out there and on the road, meeting people – because we want to maintain that hands-on, personalised contact with our consumers.“If we don’t spend time on the road, and Max (Busser) himself doesn’t spend time on the road to meet people, and they just get to meet the same old brand reps they’ll get from the megabrand, and that means we are not doing our job well.”

      By comparison, URWERK – the award-winning watch brand based in Geneva, Switzerland, known for its avant-garde designs and helmed by Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei – has taken a different approach to date, mainly relying on its trusted retailers across its key markets to spread the word via digital channels.

      “They know more about their individual markets and they can offer a local approach, and we have great relationships with them, they know our product – so we trust them to do that [digital],” he says.

      Yet, Frei attests to the fact that digital is becoming an ever-increasing consideration for the brand – particularly in markets such as China, where social media platforms are poles apart from Western mediums, and often, a maze in themselves.

      “Of course, social media channels particularly and digital is extremely important to us. I don’t think that we would exist with our approach, without the internet, but it also has negative effects next to the positive effects,” he says.

      “China, for example – they have different tools there, and we don’t use them, so it’s something we have to look at going forward and invest in more.”

      Crossing over to De Bethune – a brand renowned for its creativity and boldness in locating and utilising the rarest materials to push the limits and its limited production – one can clearly see the brand’s ethos proudly displayed on its official Instagram page which states that it’s about: “Not doing more, but instead,doing better”.

      Yet, De Bethune Executive Director Estelle Tonelli, for her part, agrees with Frei that more can be done on the digital side of its business, they can “do better”. In short, she is refreshingly transparent as she admits that to date, De Bethune hasn’t been as active in its digital push as is required to best connect with new markets and attract attention from the ‘next generation’ of luxury consumers.

      “As far as digital is concerned, we are slow adopters. So, unfortunately, we are indeed an example of the slow adoption of watch brands towards digital. Our website is not even responsive designed – and it’s a shame – although work is in progress for a new one with improved design and content. For the time being, our digital strategy for social networks [FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram] is also managed in-house,” she reveals.
       
      “I personally think that watchmaking industry is a slow adopter of digital and social media because of the nature of its products. We are always concerned by the content of our messages and want to secure a deep understanding of our ‘know-how’. Also, communication is like distribution: very traditional and conservative. And many people still, wrongly, think that digital is not adapted for luxury products.”

      In summation, she adds candidly, De Bethune has “not invested much in communication”, due to a limited budget – which was traditionally spent primarily on print media and events – but this is something that she is looking to tackle head-on in the year ahead.

      “One has to live in this world and, therefore, consider customers’ changing habits and the daily adoption of digital networks and platforms, particularly taking into account the younger generations.

      “So, we are considering more effectively developing our presence and actions on the digital scene. I would even say that this will be a key priority in 2016,” she says.

      For Finnish watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, changes in terms of his disposition to digital are also on the horizon.

      “I don’t do any market research on this, per se, but I have noticed, of course, that after an event when people come and take pictures and post – interest in the product grows, so I am being pro-active with that and it is a consideration in my business plan, more than before.”

      But he adds that as an independent – and a watchmaker first and foremost – his focus will always remain on the intricate creation of the product, rather than the promotion and marketing of it – and that’s what he says is his strength, and that of the other independents in his league.

      “It’s a very niche market and very specific. So, for me, customers are family. We talk to each other. They might purchase the watch, and then the next year, they come back, then again the year after, so I start to really get to know them,” he recalls.

      “In the end, for me, it is obviously a case of two very different strategies. You have the independents who are more about authenticity, they are more authentic. We really take care of the craft and the art in making a watch, and we’re also very focused on a very niche customer base. Whereas, obviously, with the bigger brands, it’s broader. It’s much, much broader.

      “They have a bigger production volume, so they do big advertising, spend big on marketing … Everything is big. But for us, everything is smaller, but more detailed. I feel like that to me is the difference between us, in almost every aspect.”

      Cast Away Inhibitions with a NSFW Playdate

      nsfw-edits-23.jpg

      The bell rings and you’re greeted at the door by a man in black bunny ears who introduces you to Calvin Klein, the Pomeranian at his side. You climb the steps to the kitchen where you see and smell catered bites and cocktails on your way to the coatroom. Now, it’s time to get NSFW.

      NSFW is a members-only club with monthly dues of, you guessed it, $69. Members, mostly in their 20s and 30s, enjoy classes throughout the month on topics like how to take a sexy selfie, how drugs like cannabis mix with adult play, how to ask for sex and other topics related to kink.

      The top floor of the four-story Williamsburg apartment is for what NSFW calls “penetrative play.” Mattresses, soft lighting, curtains and sheers create an inviting sexy look.

      If you choose privacy for your “penetrative play,” you’re not allowed to lock the door, but you can help yourself to the bowl of condoms on the nightstand. “Guardian angels,” whose halos weren’t delivered to NSFW on time for the March 31 event, walk around the house to make sure everyone is playing by the rules and “enthusiastic consent” is given before any adult adventure.

      The second and first floors are for “chilling out,” but with a DJ, S&M demonstrations, Reiki massage with a shaman and a pop-up sex shop, you’re bound to find some excitement.

      The bottom floor is the “bunny den,” a finished basement turned sex dungeon where mattresses line the floor and toys to tease are tossed on the mattresses for interactive play.

      You don’t have to be a member to attend a NSFW “playdate,” which creative director Daniel Saynt says is not a sex party, but a party where sex also happens. Although, another benefit to the monthly membership is a reduced price on tickets for NSFW’s monthly playdate. Men do pay more to play than women, but according to NSFW’s publicist, the “bunny” who organizes these events figures it’s all fair in love and sex considering women face a wage gap and previously paid a “pink tax.”

      Whether you’re already a pro at tying knots with silk rope or tried to drip candle wax on your partner but sent him to the emergency room (Miss Scorpio can help you next time), NSFW is open to all. 

      High Cuisine: Cannabis Oil-infused 'Dankquet' is a True Gourmet Experience

      marijuana_nsfw_420_sign_dj_2_luc_kordas.jpg

      As marijuana worms its way into the sphere of accepted adult activity, weed-related food products are increasingly becoming a subject of legitimate epicurean exploration.

      Just ask Chef Oscar Toro, executive chef and partner at Jue Lan Club in Manhattan. He doesn’t smoke marijuana — but he recently put his chef’s cap on to prepare a cannabis oil-infused four-course gourmet "Dankquet" on 4/20 at members-only club NSFW.

      “My mother, since I was a kid, has had migraines all her life, like every day,” Toro explained. Taking medicinal herbs alleviated his mom’s pain, and Toro thought, “Let me take a second approach to this, even though I don’t smoke.”

      The kicker in Toro’s CBD-infused food is the oil is not cooked, which means the potency of the high is not “dumbed down," he said.

      “A lot of people incorporate it in the middle to cook with. You don’t have to. If you’re making a vinaigrette, you’re taking an acid and a fat and putting them together,” Toro said, punctuating his point with a whirring noise. “You don’t need to heat them up. … Make things fresh and raw.”

      Fans of food prepared with cannabidiol or CBD oil said it gives them a different experience than normal marijuana edibles.

      “When you eat a weed brownie, you don’t really want a brownie, it’s there to serve a purpose,” said dankquet guest Jing, from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “But this — you get the enjoyment of knowing you’re going to get high, but there is a whole other level of enjoyment where you get to eat this really great food.”

      Cannabidiol or CBD oil is nonpsychoactive and doesn’t cause the same high as regular THC products or marijuana. But it does cause a state of relaxation many users equate with feeling “high.”

      The experience

      The “dankquet” scene at the clubhouse in Williamsburg, where last month's sex party "playdate" was held, was intimate on April 20 (my birthday and the stoner holiday), with guests in dress-code black lounging on pillows around a mirrored table, the NSFW signature red light and Moroccan-style drapes.

      It was a bit difficult walking on a mattress in heels while avoiding sprawling guests’ feet to get to a seat on the couch, and that was before the food was brought out, but those on the floor cozied up. Even newcomers, like me, were treated like an old friend.

      DJ Brayden Vlack kept the beat going while guests enjoyed Gem & Bolt mezcal mixed as a sweet pineapple drink that finished with a nice pepper bite. Booze-soaked fresh blackberries were extra fun after the glass was empty.

      As NSFW’s motto says, the club specializes in legal adventures in sex, drugs and mischief, so every course was infused with legal CBD oil, which is common in hemp oil and can be purchased in Whole Foods stores.

      The clubhouse even had a special guest, seemingly straight-laced Charles who is renting a room through Airbnb. The hopeful actor from Chicago thought he was staying in an art gallery until June, but he said he’s not mad — It’s good for him to get out of his comfort zone.

      Guests ate family-style, some opting for fingers while others, like me, were fed by other people from forks.

      Before dessert, a mentalist (name withheld) performed and blew everyone’s semihigh minds using two guests as hypnosis guinea pigs. Instead of the usual slits for eyes you’d expect a pothead to have, eyes were wide with wonder as the mentalist walked around and performed slight of hand for groups of one or two.

      The CBD dose tapered off as each course was introduced; the effects of the first course crept up on those snacking on the dishes, so everyone was euphorically high just before dessert.

      DJ HardCandy provided the soundtrack to the rest of the evening. A few people fell asleep on the cushions around the table. I got the giggles.

      The meal

      The first course was a raw fluke ceviche with Calabrian chili-hemp oil vinaigrette, nori and micro basil from a farm owned by one of the chef’s friends. Chef Oscar Toro described each course as plates were passed around and told the diners that the fish was locally caught at around 7 a.m. that same day.

      I hate fish. All fish. I pretty much won’t eat anything that swims or lurks underwater, but with fish that fresh, I thought, “This is my chance to try it. Also, it’ll get me high.”

      The next round of dishes served up pan-roasted skate wing, also caught just that morning in Montauk, with an arugula canna-brown butter, chanterelles and spring onions clipped that very morning from Blue Moon Acres farm.

      One NSFW member, also a shunner of fish, described the dish as “killer.”

      The third course was a grilled hanger steak with a rainbow carrot and watermelon radish salad finished with a CBD-infused miso-mustard vinaigrette.

      Eating a subtly CBD-laced meal is "more feasible than being blown off your face with one cookie," DJ HardCandy noted.

      It was tough to only eat one piece of the dessert, which was a tad sloppy without a dish, but by then, who really cared? The meal ended with a ricotta cheese cake with burnt orange, crystallized ginger and blueberries … and yes, CBD — this time from a cannabis strain called White Widow.

      Licking my fingers was a delight.

      Make it at home

      Fluke crudo with CBD-infused Calabrian chili vinaigrette, courtesy of Chef Oscar Toro

      Makes 5 portions

      Ingredients:

      1 pound fluke fillets

      1/4 cup orange juice

      3 tablespoons lemon juice

      2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

      1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

      1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

      1 teaspoon chopped fresh Calabrian chili

      1 teaspoon sea salt

      3/4 cup olive oil

      40 milligrams CBD oil

      Method:

      Slice the fluke into 2-inch, very thin cut slices and set aside on a piece of parchment paper and keep cool. In a medium mixing bowl, place all the remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously to emulsify. On a small plate, arrange 5-8 slices of the fluke fillets in the center of the plate fanned out and spoon two tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the fluke. Serve immediately.

      D.A.R.E. in 2017

      This isn’t your “just say no,” Nancy Reagan-endorsed anti-drug program. D.A.R.E. for NSFW’s “chief conspirator” Daniel Saynt means “Drugs Are Responsibly Entertaining.”

      A weed aficionado and marketer for "sin-fluencers," Saynt said that the most important thing about NSFW is education. From how to participate in BDSM without a trip to the emergency room to enjoying cannabis, people “need an educated experience.”

      Part of NSFW’s $69 monthly membership opens the doors to free classes on taking a multitude of topics, including courses led by a physician who can speak to what damage certain drugs do to the human brain.

      “It’s really, just like, be aware,” Saynt said. “I’ve met a lot of people who do Molly every single week or just go really, really hard on certain things and that’s not how you do that drug without damaging yourself.”

      “We tell them what’s the dangers of taking drugs,” Saynt added, “how to identify if you have an addiction, which I think a lot of people don’t know how to figure that out or they don’t realize it because everyone around them seems to be doing the same type of things.”

      Vegan Crêpes Get Kinky with NSFW Aphrodisiac-laced Dessert

      damiana.jpg

      Our favorite merry kinksters, the people of NSFW, are hosting a pop-up party to unveil their official crêpe—a vegan damiana-infused crêpe with “a bit of badass goodness.”

      The club that shared their 420 Dankquet with us is no stranger to pairing food and bodily pleasures, so we had to ask: What is damiana?

      “Damiana is an herb and natural aphrodisiac which has been found to help stimulate blood flow in the places you’d want that to happen,” a NSFW spokeswoman told us.

      We’re intrigued.

      Damiana is a wild shrub native to southern Texas in the United States, Central America, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. Though used historically as an aphrodisiac, damiana is used to treat all sorts of ailments including bedwetting, depression and constipation, according to WebMD.

      The Happy Herb Company writes on its website that damiana can “produce a mild, emotional uplift” and some sources say it can be inhaled for a slight “high.” Damiana is often smoked or taken as a tea.

      Although you should avoid the herb if you are pregnant or nursing, there are no well-documented interactions of significant adverse reactions, according to drug.com.

      The best idea would be to give your doctor’s office a ring before devouring that sinful, vegan dessert. And of course, you could always share with someone...

       

      How to Attend a Sex Party Without Being an Asshole

      Swinging has practically gone mainstream in recent years, as polyamorous relationships have become more visible then ever, millennials continue to put off marriage, and hook-up culture persists.

      Entrepreneur Daniel Saynt saw an opportunity in the burgeoning sex-positive culture and created a members-only club for "legal adventures in sex, drugs, and mischief" called NSFW in 2015. Based in New York City, NSFW has 500 members and a five-story clubhouse in Williamsburg where it hosts a number of events and workshops, including a weekly sex party.

      While Saynt said most sex parties still cater to "older crowds" of rich men, NSFW is kind of the Soho House of sex clubs, counting young, hot "influencers and creators" among its members. They pay $69 a month (naturally) to mingle in a sexy atmosphere and "play" with like-minded people.

      "It's designed to be a place where there is no judgment and you have the freedom to express yourself sexually," Saynt said. "More and more millennials are thinking this way, and the idea of exchanging love more freely is becoming a bigger conversation."

      Jacqui Rabkin, marketing director at Brooklyn-based club and event venue House of Yes, also said she's seen an increased interest in sex parties from the mainstream. The venue hosts a monthly, regularly sold-out "sensual theatre" party, which encourages "physically and emotionally intimate acts" among guests. While actual sex acts aren't allowed, guests are free to mingle with one another and "play."

      "The party at House of Yes is a good introductory party for people interested in the scene," she said. "Things get sexy, but nothing is full on. So you can get a taste of the vibe and feel of a sex party in a low pressure situation."

      With more sex parties like these popping up in major metropolitan areas, and websites like FetLife and other dating platforms making it easier for people anywhere in the world to organize their own meetups, more and more people are getting into the scene. And as newbies jump on the free-love bandwagon, Rabkin notes it's important they get the rules right on the way in. Here are some ways to have the most pleasurable sex party experience, whether it's your first or 50th.

      Ask Before Touching

      The most important rule for anybody attending a play-focused event is to ask for consent before touching anyone. Sex parties aren't like hitting the club, where strangers can just walk up and dance on one another without permission (in fact, you shouldn't be doing that either). To even join NSFW, members have to attend a class on enthusiastic consent called "How to Ask for Sex," which Saynt says focuses on switching the mentality from "no means no," to "yes means yes."

      "There is a preeminent culture of how people act at clubs around the world where they think they can just come up to a girl and touch her," Saynt said. "When it comes to play parties, the stakes are so much more heightened. We have to educate people that they need to verbalize everything."

      These questions don't have to be clinical, or unnatural, he stressed—a robotic "Are you OK with my hand on your leg?" isn't sexy or necessary. Instead, he encourages attendees to be flirty and clear, turning their negotiations of consent into foreplay.

      "Ask, 'Do you like it when I ___?' when you want to introduce something new," their guide reads. "Throw in some dirty words, and it's hard to imagine that your partner's 'Yes!' won't be full throated and absolutely enthusiastic."

      The vast majority of House of Yes parties aren't sexual: It hosts a regular funk night, daytime "deep house yoga" events, and circus-themed soirees—but sex positivity and creating a safe space for queer and non-white patrons is at the center of all of its work. The bottom of every event page and ticket confirmation carries a list of rules for creating a welcoming environment. "We are obsessed with CONSENT," it reads. "Always ASK before touching anyone in our House."

      At both NSFW and House of Yes parties, monitors patrol the room to keep an eye out for grabby hands and to make sure everyone is feeling safe. Rabkin said another important component of enthusiastic consent is that it is an ongoing process and can be revoked at any time—just because your newfound partner is OK with being tied up doesn't mean she's ready for a whipping. And even if she says she is, she's free to decide at any moment she is not anymore. When your partners feel safe, the environment will be more fun—and sexier—for everyone.

      Don't Be a Creeper

      If you're attending a play party you should, well, actually play. "Other guests aren't there to put a show on for you, so don't just prey around active participants or interrupt their flow if they're in the motion of their ocean," Saynt said.

      Rabkin said a costume requirement at House of Yes plays a big role in keeping out would-be voyeurs. "In general, people are better behaved at a party where everyone is wearing costumes," she said. "It just puts everyone on the same page and helps with the event atmosphere. If you've put in the effort to participate, you're less likely to show up as a spectator."

      If you're too nervous to jump into sexy activities right away, most parties will have a common area to chat with other party goers. Whatever you do, don't stand around and stare like a weirdo while others get it on.

      Bring a Friend

      Avoiding the awkwardness of a first party is easier with a pal (or a sex partner) by your side. It's also safer. Many sexy parties require the buddy system, encouraging participants to sign up in groups of two or more. This ensures that you have a contact if you feel uncomfortable and someone to keep an eye on you and make sure you're safe.

      Keep Up Basic Hygiene

      The same rules that apply to a first date apply to a sex party: Take a shower, brush your teeth, floss, put on some deodorant. Basically, do everything else you would normally before going out to potentially snuggle up with a stranger (or a few).

      Put Your Phone Away

      This should be obvious, but most people don't want photos of themselves engaged in sex acts plastered all over the internet without their consent. Many parties have a strict no-phone policy, but even if they do not, your phone should stay in your pocket throughout the night. Photos should only be taken if the subjects, and everyone in the foreground and background, consent.

      Be Positive and Keep an Open Mind

      One of the more important aspects of affirmative consent is being OK with when somebody says no. "Accept that being at a play party doesn't mean everyone wants to play with you," Saynt said. "Acting like an ass nugget every time someone declines you will definitely get around and will most likely get you uninvited from future events."

      Because of this, it's important to put yourself out there at these parties. The more frequently you ask, the more frequently your advances will be rejected (and accepted!), and it will become less painful to hear "no."

      "People should be doing this anyway," Rabkin said. "It's good to practice in your regular life, and makes the whole process of getting consent in a sexy situation easier."

      That's not the only lesson people can take from sex parties and apply to life, Rabkin said. The open-mindedness and respect she's found in the community has made it hard for her to return to "normal" clubs.

      "It's amazing there are communities that are creating safe spaces for people to express themselves to the fullest extent," she said. "Whether that means expressing a certain sexual orientation or identity, or having sex with a lot of people, I think that's amazing. It's healthy and awesome and how the world should be."

      Here's Why Consent In Gay Spaces Is Important

      We all want to be loved and desired. But getting consent first from partners is an area many of us are still failing at understanding.

      He was passed out on the floor. It was an afters to a weekly gay party for which Shoshana Fisher worked the door. Just coming back from the restroom, Fisher saw her friend passed out on the floor with a group of men trying to take his pants off.

      “One of the guys I was with -- I was the only girl there, it was all dudes -- was doing [Ketamine], and he passed out on the floor. I went over to make sure he was fine and everyone said, ‘He’s fine. He’s just sleeping, let him sleep.’”

      But Fisher says when she came back to check on her friend, the situation became concerning: “I came back a few minutes later and there were guys trying to take his pants off, while he was passed out in the middle of the floor, during the party.” Fisher pulled the men off of her friend, yelled at them, and took her friend to her home.

      This isn’t the first time Fisher has intervened on issues of consent or sexual assault. Recently, Fisher made news for helping a female patron of a bar she worked at arrest and press charges against a man who had sexually assaulted her. But working at gay establishments can prove to be a bit trickier to identify and handle situations of consent than at straight ones.

      “Consent is not something I thought about men giving before becoming friends with so many gay men. Society makes us all think that men all want sex no matter what, and that they’re such sexual beings that they always say yes to sex,” Fisher said. “Almost every single one of my gay friends has a story where they have not consented in some kind of sexual act. And almost every single one of them have a hard time admitting, or understanding, that they didn’t consent.”

      Many men who are interested in men do not understand what consent is or that it is needed for sexual engagement. 

      “Consent can be verbal or nonverbal and is the practice of knowing and confirming that your sexual partner is into what you've got planned,” said Daniel Saynt, a bisexual man and founder of NSFW, a Brooklyn-based private club and digital agency for the adventurous, connecting like-minded millennials with vice-category brands in sexual wellness and cannabis.  NSFW provides members legal adventures in sex, drugs, and mischief while hosting a digital agency for brands and "sinfluencers." Saynt gives workshops on consent prior to NSFW’s playdates. “Nonverbal consent focuses on signals which suggest your partner is down to clown. It's implied versus verbalized and can be a gray zone of uncertainty if you're approaching someone who isn't already a trusted partner,” Saynt defined consent as something that can be given, and taken away, at any point during sexual activity.

      “Verbal or enthusiastic consent is the practice getting confirmation before engaging in any sexual activity,” Saynt said. “It's respect for boundaries and the desire to ensure you're not doing anything that makes your partner uncomfortable or that they fully want to enjoy and engage in.”

      While conducting interviews for this piece, I spoke to almost two dozen gay and bisexual men who have had their consent violated. The men expressed instances in which they lost bodily autonomy at gay bars and nightclubs, as well as at LGBTQ social gatherings. These men shared times other men have grabbed their genitalia over and under their clothing without consent. A violation of consent is sexual assault.

      Sean was unable to give consent when a guy took him home. After dancing at a bar, and having too much to drink, he found himself the next morning in a stranger's bed.

      “He’s not someone I would typically go home with so it was odd waking up to him the next morning. I don’t remember talking to him at the bar or going home with him. I don’t remember having sex with him, but it was clear we did. I left the next morning as quickly as I could without speaking to him,” Sean said.

      According to the CDC, 26 percent of gay men, and 37 percent of bisexual men will experience rape, physical assault, or other types of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. Another 40 percent of gay men, and 47 percent of bisexual men will experience other types of sexual violence other than rape.  

      Casey is one of 26 percent of gay men who have been raped.

      “When I get home, I unlocked my door, and all of a sudden a man rushed behind me, put me in a submission hold, and pushed me into my apartment. He pushed me onto my bed, forcing my face into the pillow. He continued to do his business and when he was done, he left. I never saw his face,” Casey recounted his experience sharing his rape has shaped his view around consent.

      Being grabbed unsolicitedly can be triggering for men who have been sexually assaulted. “A lot of times, even in LGBTQ spaces where I’m supposed to feel safe being gay, I don’t feel safe because I feel like a piece of meat and people can just touch me whenever they want and that’s not OK,” Casey said.

      So what does consent look like? It can look really sexy. “Let’s say I saw a guy at a circuit party or underwear party. I wouldn't just go up to that guy and grab his cock, expecting him to be down. I'd dance with him a bit, or offer to grab him a drink. I'd talk to him and whisper things like ‘I really want to play with that fat monster in that jock. Would you like that?’,” Saynt offered this example on enthusiastic consent in gay spaces. “It's confirming that interest verbally, acquiring consent, and then proceeding to ask for other things, [such as] ‘Come with me to the corner. I want to taste you.’ Consent looks like getting what you want sexually by expressing it and waiting for some enthusiastic agreement if your partner is into it.”

      Editor's note: Last name’s were removed for all individuals who spoke about their experiences of sexual assault for their own safety and privacy.