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Selling Glass Sex Toys in Conservative Italy

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Declan Eytan writes for Forbes: »Opposites attract, and the case of Frida Affer could not be a greater testament to that. Affer’s Milan-based erotically-themed concept store which breathes female empowerment and progressiveness, neighbors the headquarters of Ermenegilda Zegna; a menswear brand that exudes patriarchy and Italian tradition. The 30-year-old with a background in fashion styling opened her brick-and-mortar concept store called Wovo, in late 2015.

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30-Year-old Frida Affer is the founder behind the Wovo concept store which opened its doors in fall 2015, on Milan’s Via Savona 45.

Even if most Italians regard Milan as the country’s most progressive city, the presence of Affer’s sexually-fueled retail space didn’t go unnoticed. “We’re a catholic nation, so passing judgement is very much our thing. People have called me a lesbian because of my buzz cut, or they’ll assume that I’m willing to do anything with anybody sexually speaking. I’ve even heard rumors about me hosting orgies inside this store,” Frida Affer tells me inside her space, as we’re seated underneath a breast-shaped light installation created by Milan-based artist Giada Montomoli.

Frida – who had no prior experience in retail when opening her store – dedicates most of her time to the shop located on Milan’s Via Savona 45. She runs the show by herself, without the assistance of in-store personnel. The former stylist is positive about the store’s financial results, which hasn’t always been the case. Initially, Wovo started as an e-commerce platform dedicated to emerging designers. It wasn’t until its founder inserted some latex lingerie items into the product assortment, that a spike in sales followed. Dildos were subsequently thrown into the mix, which currently make for the store’s bestsellers – particularly those made of glass. “The sex toys probably outsell the lingerie. It all started because I had some toys to put on display, but I didn’t believe anyone would actually buy them. The glass dildos are bestsellers right now, and in Italy you can only find those here,” the Milan native shares, who spent three years in London prior to returning to her birthplace.

Glass dildos currently make for the store’s bestsellers.

As far as the profile of those dildo-shopping customers is concerned, ages vary and gender seems irrelevant. “Aesthetically speaking this space will appeal to women more than it will to most men, but half of our clients are male. I have younger guys coming in to buy a gift for their girlfriend, as well as older men coming in to pick up something for their mistress. My oldest client is probably this lady who’s well into her sixties. She’s a very classy woman with a high-paying job. She’s isn’t what most people would consider kinky, but she simply doesn’t pass judgement. She comes here because it’s fun and it’s a free, non-judgmental space. She’ll undress in front of me, try on some latex, and take a dildo. It’s an experience – something she hadn’t done before. She normally shops at Gucci.” Besides the in-store clientele, the brand’s in-house e-commerce platform sees most traffic coming in from Italy, England and France, in addition to the US, Australia and Japan.

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Inside the Wovo concept store.

Regardless of the Wovo venue’s high dose of girl power, its founder isn’t keen on applying the f-word to herself. “I don’t consider myself a feminist. Nor do I believe there’s just one definition of the term. I personally feel like feminists approach everything from a female standpoint, whereas my thing is that I’m very much against passing judgement in general. Whether it concerns a man or a woman.”

Oh, and while we’re at it. Don’t call it a sex shop either. “It’s not a sex shop – I don’t sell porn here and I’m not planning on doing so. It’s kind of on the edge though. Nothing of this nature existed before in Italy. A place which celebrates sexual freedom, dedicated to women.”

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