As a brand made by women, for women, we champion and support other female-founded and female-led companies. Across all industries, only 20% of companies globally are headed by a woman in the top spot. When you look at the lingerie industry, some of the largest global lingerie brands, designed to be worn by women, still have men sitting at the helm. This vastly skews the alignment between how lingerie is created and marketed (by men) and how the women who purchase it want to feel wearing it. As we regularly advocate, seducing yourself comes before seducing anyone else. Many men sitting at the head of the conference table at lingerie brands, directly correlate women wearing lingerie leading to sex. However, as Heidi Zak – co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove – highlights, 99% of the time, women who wear lingerie don’t do it for seduction purposes, but to make themselves look and feel good above all else.Or how men designing lingerie for womens bodies place visuals over fit; still creating the silhouette where everything is pushed up and pulled in, disregarding how a woman's body will actually feel when wearing said lingerie for a period of time.
In line with the lingerie industry, the sex-toy industry has been dominated by men taking the top seat until recent years; in 2017, around 70% of sex-product companies were headed by men, according to an analysis by Unbound, reported in the New York Times.This is unsurprising, as traditional sex toys have been modelled to resemble phallic silhouettes, on the inaccurate assumption that all women crave a phallus, or that all women are satisified with penetration and internal stimulation only. In recent years, female-founded/fronted companies have been changing the game – MysteryVibe’s ‘Crescendo’ toy is a modern, ergonomic design to give pleasure to all bodies, bending in countless ways, with 6 built in motors and the ability to be controlled from a mobile app. Dame’s debut toy ‘Eva’ was the most crowdfunded sex toy in history, and their second creation ‘Fin’ was the first sex toy to be allowed on Kickstarter, raising almost $400,000 in 30 days. Relative newbies to the sex-product game, Maude position themselves as a brand for ‘modern intimacy’, designed for all ages and genders; no hot pink rabbits here. Their ‘Vibe’ vibe, designed for solo and partnered play, is minimalist and chic, looking totally in place in a high-end spa (we all know self pleasure is the best form of self care) or a piece of modern sculptural art in the MoMA. Basically, long story short, women are revolutionising the sex-tech game, and not only doing it bigger and better than before, but also breaking down stigmas around masturbation and female pleasure.
Our newest addition to our Wickedly Inspirational Women series is also paving the way for changing the way we navigate the pleasure product market, and championing female-led brands while doing so. Chlo’e Nichols is the founder of Bear & Lace; the first erotic boutique that specialises in curating the perfect sexual wellness and pleasure gift boxes. Stocking some of the top names in lingerie, toys, bondage and accessories (ours may happen to be in there too...), Chlo’e has created a diverse range of boxes to make shopping for pleasure products, whether for yourself or a lover, easier than ever. With a vast range of price points, areas of erotica, for solo or partnered play, Chlo’e has saved you all the time of trying to scour the internet to find the best products, and not only brought them onto one site, but into one box. For example, if you’re looking to spice up your bedroom antics with a lover, ‘The Couples Box’ features the Eva II (the innovative hands-free invention from Dame), the Orli x Bear & Lace Massage Candle (perfect for a little foreplay), high quality lube and, finally, a luxury antibacterial toy cleaning spray – to keep your toys spick and span and make sure you stay irritation free down there. If it’s a night in for one, why not pop the ‘Solo Female Box’ in your basket? Featuring the Lelo Sila Sonic Clitoral Massager – a cliteral game changer when it comes to oral stimulation simulation – and the Bijoux Indiscrets Slow Sex Finger Play Gel, because whether you’re playing solo or playing partnered, you should always level up your play with a little bit of lube. Also complete with antibac cleaning spray, Chlo’e has thoughtfully planned your pleasure experiences for you, or for you and your partner, to eliminate the stress of shopping.
Still in its infancy, Chlo’e has big plans for Bear & Lace – one of them being to develop a sexual subscription box service. Subscribers will pay a monthly fee, and receive four luxurious, carefully curated boxes throughout the year (birthday, Valentines, Christmas and an anniversary) , based on whether they’ve specified any play-time preferences or if they’ve given the B&L free reign to create a mind blowing experience for them.
It’s time to revolutionise the way you shop for your sexual wellness and bedroom accessories, and put your pleasure in the powerful hands of Chlo’e Nichols. Continue reading for our conversation where we get open and honest on all things: from how she created Bear & Lace, working to close the orgasm gap, how to introduce a toy into the bedroom with your partner for the first time and exploring sexual liberation solo. We’re totally obsessed with Chlo’e, and we know you soon will be too!
So Chlo’e, tell us a bit about yourself... name, age, where you live, what you do?
My name is Chlo’e Nichols, 32 years old and from Hornchurch, in Essex. I am the founder of Bear & Lace, a trustee for Mitchells Miracles and also a casino dealer/inspector in Mayfair.
Can you tell us 5 words to describe yourself?
The first word would be ‘empathy’; I feel and give a lot, perhaps more than I should. Everyone that knows me says I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can be a bit melty but I would rather that than be cold. Secondly would be ‘impulsive’. I can act hastily when I want something. Like one summer, I travelled alone to Barcelona to go on a date with a guy I had never met before. He took me to a sex themed hotel in Gerona that had a mechanical bed and sex sofa. It was outrageously good. The next two are ‘sexually empowered’. I am very confident in my body and my sexuality which is why I Bear & Lace is a dream come true for me. Getting to talk about sex and lingerie all day long is heaven. Lastly, I’m a ‘dreamer’. Maybe it’s my star sign that has my brain wired this way but I love to daydream about fantasy lives. Only now, I have the chance to make my dreams reality.
Okay, now you’ve told us about you, tell us a little bit about Bear and Lace? What was your inspiration/reason for starting the brand, when did you come up with the idea? e.g.Did you have personal experiences with sexual exploration which made you realise there was a gap in the market?
So, Bear and Lace is a new luxury adult gift boutique and, soon to be, subscription service. We curate gift boxes with only the finest lingerie, sex toys, bondage, lubes and massage oils. The idea for Bear & Lace began when I was furloughed from my casino job in March last year. My friend was sharing stories of when his father owned sex shops in Soho back in the 70’s and I was like “that would be the perfect job for me, I bloody love sex toys!” Also, I have been a lingerie addict since I was old enough to wear a bra, and dreamed of having my own brand one day. So, I got to work. I looked at what was available online and found nowhere to purchase ready-made gift or subscription boxes that curated lingerie with pleasure products. This is something I would love a partner to buy for me and after asking around, I discovered I wasn’t alone. Imagine your lover gifting you a box with designer lingerie, the latest luxury toy and some clitoral stimulation oil... it would blow my mind if I had a guy that thoughtful. I wanted to make something special, an experience with a personal touch, whilst stocking only the best quality products.
How do you feel when you wear lingerie as opposed to underwear?
Whether I’m wearing it for a partner, modelling or trying pieces on in a changing room, I instantly feel a surge of confidence that only lingerie can bring out in me. I love the feel of luxurious fabric against my skin and how it accentuates the shape of my body. Nothing makes me feel more empowered than when a lover sees me in a full set of lingerie, with some killer heels and my hair & makeup done. Seeing their eyes burning with desire excites me so much. I find that having more layers to undo brings more intimacy and anticipation. For me, it makes a sexual encounter more intense. I am, in fact, quite a shy person when it comes to guys that I really like, but when I dress up in lingerie, I feel like I’m the one in control. Normal underwear, for me, still has to be pretty and I have to be matching, even when I know no one else will see. It’s like anything in life really. When you look good, you feel good, and whether it’s beautiful lingerie, underwear or even a cute sports bra, they all make me feel amazing in different ways.
How did you go about selecting the brands and products you wanted to feature on your site and in your boxes? Did you want big name brands, products you’ve personally used yourself and had great experiences with, brands that have great ethics and core values?
When it came to choosing products for Bear & Lace, the first thing I did was search for luxury brands, made in the UK. Knowing something is made here makes you feel like you know it has been ethically produced, which is very important to me. In addition to this, I wanted Bear & Lace to be as sustainable as possible. We stock only rechargeable toys that are built to give pleasure for years, and lingerie pieces which are made to be cherished. No single use batteries or fast fashion. Also, being a woman in, what most would see, a man’s industry, I wanted to work with as many female-led brands as I could. I was already a fan of Something Wicked, so I had to reach out to the wonderful Steff with my idea. When she replied with the news that she liked it and would be happy for Bear & Lace to stock her exquisite products, I was over the moon. Something Wicked encapsulates all of Bear & Lace’s values. They are female-led. Their luxury bondage, lingerie and outerwear are made entirely in the UK. They promote female empowerment and their products are of outstanding quality, with timeless designs to be enjoyed for many years both in the bedroom and as statement fashion pieces. Bear & Lace was also lucky enough to get partnerships with Coco de Mer and Bracli. Coco de Mer, also female founded, oozes sex appeal and they have established a strong presence in the world of erotic gifting, so we were thrilled when they gave us the chance to work with them. They also support FGM charities, which is something I am keen to get involved in in the future. Bracli may be founded by a man, but he has certainly been listening to women to make his patented pearl thong intimates. They are handmade in Spain, using European lace and pearls from Mallorca. I personally love the feel of the lace they use, it’s so deliciously soft. For pleasure products, Bear & Lace sought sex positive brands that are inclusive and produce high quality, beautiful toys. Je Joue, Doxy and Mysteryvibe are our UK brands. We also have a direct partnership with LELO, who are the world leader in designer sex toys. Every one of these brands have won awards for their mind-blowing creations. Made with silicone, stainless steel or even 24k Gold, we only have the best at Bear & Lace. My personal favourite is the Doxy 3R Massage Wand, that toy will go everywhere with me for the rest of my life. I believe everyone should have one, EVERYONE! Our finishing touches to the boxes are the lubricants, oils and massage candles. We have just added a new up and coming British made brand called Fleur D’Amour; they blend natural aphrodisiacs with CBD oil to create clitoral orgasm oil and lubricant. I tried the oil last week and almost fell over getting out of bed because I didn’t realise my orgasm hadn’t quite finished. In my opinion it’s magic in a bottle. Mark, the founder, is in the process of making massage oils and candles now which I am dying to try.
What is your favourite piece of Something Wicked lingerie, and why?
This is so hard because I love every piece, but I would have to say the Ava Half Cup set. Bear & Lace’s first video campaign featured this powerful ensemble on my muse, and close friend, Jezebel. When she sauntered out from behind the changing screen, everyone’s jaw fell to the floor. She looked knockout. I have worn this set and what I like most is how cheeky, yet totally boss, it is at the same time and the fabric feels divine on your skin.
You speak of how you want Bear & Lace to play a role in helping to close the orgasm gap. Explain what this is, for our readers who may not know, and why you think it’s so important to actively work on closing it.
The orgasm gap, otherwise known as orgasm inequality, is the term used to describe the difference between couples climaxing. Durex carried out research and found that only 2% of men they asked cannot orgasm, compared to 20% of women. 3 out of 4 women in the same study said they couldn’t orgasm whilst having partnered sex. In the USA, researchers who studied 52,600 people discovered that not only gender, but sexual orientation, affects how likely you are to experience the big O. 65% of heterosexual women asked were having them, compared to 88% of lesbian women and 95% heterosexual men. That is such a huge gap that we must change. To solve this problem, firstly we need better education. The study by Durex found that 30% of the men that were asked, thought women are more likely to climax from penetration over clitoral stimulation. I am not having a pop at guys either, how are they meant to know this when one, no one really told them what the clitoris is, or how to find it? And two, most of us females tend to fake it, as we don’t want to hurt our lovers’ feelings. We need to stop stroking their ego’s and start stroking our clits, ladies. As females, we absolutely have to practice pleasure alone too. How can we expect our partners to magically know how to make us cum, if we don’t know ourselves? Everyone is built differently and therefore we require different tools to get us there. For some, it’s the humble finger, for others it’s a massage wand, and that’s ok. Education, practice and communication are what we require to close this gap. The orgasm gap is important to me because I believe everyone should experience the joy of climaxing. It is one of my favourite things! It is a wonderful and natural gift of nature that should be taught and celebrated. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I was 19. My first boyfriend would never go down on me. It was like a really dumb trend for guys to not eat pussy back then. To the point where I found it completely normal. So, when a guy went down on me for the first time and knew what he was doing, I had the most explosive orgasm ever. Damn, I soaked the back seat of his car, it was glorious. This was like an awakening for me. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on. From that moment on, I told myself I would only be with people that took my pleasure seriously. Through Bear & Lace, I intend to make an impact on closing the orgasm gap with my boxes, as they are a softer way to introduce sex toys into a relationship. We all know how much more likely you are to orgasm using a vibrator than without one. I know that some men can feel threatened by toys and this is something that needs to change. They are your wingman, not your enemy! If you lover is having mind blowing orgasms, through the power of a bedside buddy, then you are definitely going to be having more sex than you were when she wasn’t cumming. Also, Bear & Lace has the personal touch so if you need help, I am here.
At the start of February of this year, it was in the media that Zoe Sugg’s brand ‘Zoella’ was pulled from being featured in a GCSE curriculum as it featured “sexual content aimed at adults”, which included a list of the best sex toys of 2020. It opened up a whole conversation regarding sex education in schools being inadequate; not educating teenagers and young adults about sex for pleasure rather than just sex for the means of conception, or masturbation and sexual exploration. It further emphasised the narrative that male masturbation is widely acknowledged and accepted, and is often discussed in Sex Ed for teenage boys. However, female masturbation is still not taught, under-discussed and deemed taboo. As a brand that sells sex toys and promotes pleasure positivity and sexual exploration, can you give us your thoughts and feelings on this topic? What would you like to see happen in the future with sex education?
From the sounds of things, sex education in the UK has not changed at all from my school days in the early 2000’s. Considering how much more research has been done on the female anatomy since then, I find this absolutely disgraceful. I remember having to watch a video that had clearly been made in the 80’s; it kind of felt like the teachers put that on so they didn’t have to talk about sex themselves. I vaguely remember a teacher mentioning boys having wet dreams, maybe to make them feel less embarrassed about them – who knows. All I know is there was nothing about female pleasure at all. As a horny teen, I didn’t know what to do with myself and ended up losing my virginity very early, because I felt like that was the only way to deal with this feeling that was starting to consume me. If I had been taught about my clitoris – thus giving me the power to understand my body and explore it solo – then perhaps I wouldn’t have had sex at such a young age. Sex is the driving force of our entire existence, so the education on it should be broad and inclusive. Perhaps sex educators can travel around schools with extensive courses, ensuring everything is covered and offering help to those who may need it. I know there are many parents that would object to this, but at the end of the day it is science, so it should be compulsory.
Do you believe there is still a stigma between adults discussing buying or using toys?
I believe that owning a sex toy has definitely become more accepted in the past few years. The influencer generation are pushing sex toys as their self-care regime, and couples are trying to emulate scenes from Fifty Shades (of Grey) with bondage kits. Not to mention the thousands of memes about sex toys all over social media too, which I cannot get enough of. If you see any send them my way, please. Since starting Bear & Lace, I have had loads of conversations with people about the toys I stock. No one seems embarrassed or shy about it. They just want the best chance of a mind-blowing orgasm! On the other hand, some groups in society will always have a problem with sex toys, they won’t change, and that’s ok too. Just as long as they don’t get in my way when I am walking into a boutique in Soho.
What do you have to say to people who are perhaps a bit nervous, or sceptical, about using a toy, or pleasure products such as lube or oils, with a partner in the bedroom? Do you have any advice you could give them?
First of all, communicate! It is the most important thing in any relationship. People who talk about it have better sex. Now I am a huge advocate for lube, stimulating oils and toys, so I recommend experimenting with all of these delights. Do your research together, over a few glasses of wine, and figure out what it is you would like to try. If you need any help choosing, feel free to message the B&L team. I would personally use some toys alone first, so I can practice before I use it with a partner, especially if you are totally new to using a toy. Find out what feels right, then you can look like an absolute pro in front of your lover. However, let’s not forget that sex is messy and clumsy and, above all else, fun! Whatever you are experimenting with, have fun with it. Laugh together when you can’t turn the vibrating cock ring off after he’s cum already, or when the butt plug pops out because you’ve used so much lube. Females who use sex toys are more likely to orgasm than those who do not. So, if you are a woman and think that your partner may feel insecure about you inviting a vibrator to bed, you should tell them this. If they care about your pleasure then they will totally want you to get one. If they don’t, and their ego is worth more than you experiencing pleasure, they need to get in the bin. Of course, pleasure products are for men too, and I understand that, for them, it can be even harder to tell a lover that they would like to try something new. Your pleasure is so important, so please talk about your needs and desires. If there is something you would like to try, the chances are Bear & Lace have a box for it. Say you would like to try anal for the first time, B&L has a box with a beautiful stainless-steel butt plug by Njoy, along with anal play lube by Bijoux Indescrets. It is the perfect introduction.
What is your long-term goal for Bear and Lace?
My long-term goal for Bear & Lace is to be the best and most unique online subscription and gift service, in the sexual wellness industry. I have visions of B&L branded toys, lubes and sexcessories. I am hopeful that, as a society, we will progress more in the future with our attitude towards pleasure, so that sexual wellness brands will be totally normal. Like, you now see more retailers like Beauty Bay and Selfridges stocking LELO toys, in a few years’ time you might just see a Bear & Lace Box for sale in Harrods. That would be wild. The ultimate goal is to spread love and orgasms to as many people as possible.
You state on your website that empowerment is at the core of Bear & Lace as a brand. What specifically does female empowerment mean to you?
Female empowerment to me is a number of things. It is feeling free to live the way I want to live every day and no longer feeling guilty about it. How I dress, who I fuck, and so on. It is realising that together, we are a force to be reckoned with – whether that is in politics or business. We empower one another when we stand together against all the terrible things that we endure as a gender. When the Sarah Everand story broke and so many women came forward with their stories, it gave me the courage to deal with something I had hidden for many years. Girl Power.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people's sexual exploration – do you think it's had a positive or negative impact?
From recent research, it is clear that a lot of us are having less sex. The pandemic has put a huge strain on a lot of people’s finances and health. Being stressed about anything affects libido, so it is not surprising. Despite this, sales in sex toys have blown up, so one can only assume these people are trying to make the most of being at home so much. Myself for instance, I’m single and have been deprived of partnered sex for most of the past year *sigh* but that doesn’t mean my exploration alone has stopped. I feel I have got to know my body better than I knew it before, which is incredibly important. One thing that people definitely have been missing out on is sex parties, they are such a wonderful experience. I can only imagine the scenes on June 21st! Overall, I do believe COVID has had a negative affect on us all as sexual beings. I just hope I can remember how to do it when I can legally have sex again!
What do you do to make yourself empowered/liberated/confident?
I have had a bit of tragedy in my life, which led me to form the mentality that I could die at any moment, so I had better make the most of being here. This may sound a bit ridiculous to some, but there’s definitely people out there who understand. In a weird way, my life experiences gave me the confidence to try new things. I decided that if I wanted to try something, I would, and I wouldn’t wait for anyone to do it with me. For instance, I went to my first sex party a few years ago completely on my own and it was one of the most sexually liberating experiences of my life. That night was unforgettable and I made lifelong friends that I will always have a special bond with. I highly recommend it! I would say more but it’s like Vegas... what happens at KK stays at KK! I have modelled a little bit too, which made me feel great and I have some cute photos to look back on when I am old. Working out regularly definitely helps with my confidence. I am very proud of my body, somewhat of an exhibitionist really. I surround myself with wonderful people. Without my friends and family, I wouldn’t have half the confidence and power I possess today.
‘Female sexuality is no longer a taboo’... do you agree with this statement?
It sucks but yes, it is still taboo. Not for everyone, a lot of the world’s population embrace the wonder that is female pleasure. We have progressed from the times of horny females being charged as a witch and burned at the stake. Although, it wasn’t really that long ago that overly aroused housewives were prescribed vibrators for ‘hysteria’. One day in the future (not so distant please) maybe it won’t be.
What message would you give to your younger self e.g as a teenager?
This is a super tough question for me. My father died when I was 14 and then I kind of went off the rails from then. I guess I would tell myself to seek help, get back to my studies and look after myself. I would tell her to spend more time with my big sister too. We are 12 years apart and we only grew close in the past few years. I wish I had that bond back then. Also, to never get in that first relationship and instead buy a vibrator. Oh, and to save all of my money to start Bear & Lace as soon as I could....
Fill in the blank: “I feel ... in Something Wicked”.
I feel unstoppable in Something Wicked.
A totally wicked woman, right? If you want to explore Bear & Lace incredible gift boxes, visit Bear and Lace and explore all their beautifully curated boxes. Fancy creating your own, or having the B&L team create a surprise for you? Drop them a message via their contact form on site. Want a little more lust-worthy content on your social feeds? Follow them on Instagram at @wearebearandlace, (ppssst, they have an amazing giveaway coming up when they hit 5k followers!). For more content that isn’t suitable for Instagram, you can find Bear & Lace on Twitter at @Bearandlace, and they’re also on Facebook!