How an Adult Store Put the Fun Back Into Shopping
Bohemian Glamour in the Southland
The Thrill of the Find
I don't care how much money I have or how much time, I never tire of discovering a new shop. The only thing that can compete with that is rediscovering an old one. After over 20 years as a professional fashion/feature writer for various magazines, newspapers, and the internet, you'd think I'd be blasé about store profiles. With each journey spent walking in a new part of town, that attitude has never surfaced, instead the opposite has happened. My senses awaken, my eyes look for something alluring, my ears listen for pleasant music or conversation and my nose sniffs for the delectable. With each visit I become more enthralled, discriminating and reminiscent of my journalism internships with Florence News and Vintage! Newsletter. Like ghosts that refuse to leave a favorite haunt, the memories of Forte La Vogue and Aaardvark's Odd Ark come back to me. At times an old movie, book, or photograph will cause my nostalgia, motivating me to play catch up. Recently, I saw Cabaret on T.V. and I immediately thought about Pure Delish, the adult entertainment and lingerie store I first profiled in 2011. Located on a lovely palm tree lined stretch of Washington Blvd., in Culver City, California, it always reminded me of Christopher Isherwood's book The Berlin Stories. Decadent and worldly as one of his main characters, Sally Bowles, it was calling my name again. So I went back to see what was going on with them.
Surrounded by Magic
The Old Brick and Mortar
I imagined we'd discuss the state of retail today, how things have changed since I last visited, and what their secret was for success. Then we might recall the good old days of shopping in person, at a "brick and mortar store," where customer service was a priority. Friendly and knowledgeable, in their pink and white striped uniform, the manager Lauren told me, "Halloween is one of our biggest seasons." I was pleasantly surprised to hear this, since not only is it one of my favorite holidays, Pure Delish also uses it to tie-in with their website.
Following a recent renovation their pastel palette seemed to have matured into mauve, black and white. Child-like and sweet, co-owner Kat Petrovski said then, "I wanted it to look like Dylan's Candy Bar. While "people will still smile as soon as they walk in," now it won't be because it's "cute and funny" but because it's "sultry and sophisticated." To direct foot traffic throughout the whole store, the cash wrap desk was transferred from the front to the rear. Now customers can linger over pantyhose, negligees, and other items in well organized sections. All is not serious grown-up merchandising, however, because Petrovski incorporated her passion for "cute" with fun props. A large and dashing red gummy bear, wearing a small black top hat guards the entrance next to a container of equally huge striped lollipops. On the nearby pantie display table, a small purple gummy bear watches over the wares, and in a cozy seating area, an adorable lavender couch, accented with a donut and cookie pillow set beckon softly. This alone makes it worth a visit.
A Nice Arrangement
Retail Then and Now
When I look at how far retail has come, it's hard to imagine that it was first developed as an industrial phenomenon about 1,000 years ago in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Initially known as "trade" merchants, in the common marketplace, sometimes sold goods they created and those made by other artisans. The closest we have to that now is the flea market and the art show.
In the 1800's, the general store appeared in the United States where assorted goods were sold under one roof. A proprietor, with a keen mind and outgoing personality, could become successful by thoroughly knowing how to merchandise his inventory, and making it available to his customers consistently.
By the time the department store came along, shopping had been transformed from a chore into entertainment by such innovators as Aristide Boucicat (July 14, 1810-December 26, 1877) of Paris' Le Bon Marche and Henry Gordon Selfridge (January 11, 1858-May 8, 1947) of Selfridge's in London, England. Aesthetically appealing and emotionally fulfilling for the client who could be waited on respectfully, it was finally possible to "purchase a complete outfit and accessories in one place." For those walking by, with small budgets and prolific imaginations the department stores were just as valuable for them.
Window shopping became an inspiration, as a new diversion, that could lure in future customers with attractive and artful presentations. By arranging new or seasonal merchandise in fantasy vignettes, complete with mannequins and other props, a visual was achieved worthy of a brimming wish list. Around 1825, John P. Bakewell invented the "glass pressing machine," a device leading to the production of glassware thereby reducing its cost of production. Larger "display or shop windows" could also be created for progressive retailers eager to showcase that season's current trends in order to stimulate sales. Francis Place, a tailor in England's Charing Cross Road, was the pioneer of this form of advertising.
Part 1960s/1970s Biba, part 1980s, Heaven the way Pure Delish coordinated their front window displays, on the day I revisited in October 2016, took me back to Berlin again. This time I saw not only Cabaret but Helmut Newton's risque photos as well. Ethereal, but accessible, the sheer pink top I saw on one mannequin and the smoky black two-piece on another would've looked perfect on a '70's Vogue supermodel. It's this kind of classy interpretation, that places this store ahead of Trashy Lingerie, Victoria's Secret and its other competitors.
Lingerie's Gone Mainstream
A New Kind of Retail
Described as a "specialty adult sex shop," that's been around since 2000, they're fortunate enough to be part of a growing wave of erotica, that've made literature like Fifty Shades of Gray and the Crossfire series popular. Combining the elements of a boutique with the technology of the internet, Pure Delish, has resolved the problem of making a trip there as thrilling as shopping online. Whichever you choose, it'll be an adventure worth repeating!
Their positive rep, in today's struggling retail scene, didn't come without drama. Initial opposition, from the community, about their customer base within the adult entertainment field, led to an urban battle that eventually subsided once opponents got to know Petrovski and her staff. The benefits this type of business offers can also be seen in how mainstream lingerie, as a fashion staple, has become. Historically, while it has changed significantly since the 1700s when "stays" were used to mold the body to where we are in 2017 when corsets have been transformed into waist-cinching belts designed by Miuccia Prada and other designers lingerie has even reappeared on the catwalk in '90's era slip dresses.
Now as we experience an unstable, but exciting, chapter in retail it's important to note that stores like Pure Delish succeed because they continue listening to their customers and maintain high standards.
Pure Delish is located at 11160-A Washington Blvd., Culver City, California 90292. For more information please call 310-836-2570 or log onto their website, www.puredelish.com. Their store hours are: Monday and Tuesday (closed), Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday (12:00-8:00 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday (1:00-9:00 p.m.).