Introducing Ilya, the sex toy shop penetrating the market with unapologetic sex positivity
There’s an ice cream sign posted outside Ilya’s window, overlooking Maginhawa Street. But don’t be fooled by the signage––this sex toy store isn’t hiding behind a front. “We aren’t disguising ourselves as an ice cream store,” says AJ Osmeña, one of the store’s founders. “There’s no reason to hide what we are. We just happen to sell ice cream, too!”
It’s refreshing, honestly, to hear outright that there’s no shame in presenting themselves as is: a store that sells sex toys and a whole assortment of lube and some BDSM paraphernalia. While other sex stores in the metro are dimly lit, hidden in seedy corners or carry a vibe of discomfort all around, Ilya lies on the exact opposite of the spectrum. Bright and colorful, with lots of natural light and tongue-in-cheek sex puns to boot, Ilya looks like it could be selling beauty products or cute trinkets. It looks welcoming and fun and normal––because that’s what shopping for sex toys should be like.
“We believe the discussions in a hushed manner leads to further hushing,” share the masterminds behind Ilya. “Especially for a matter that's intrinsically fine, there's no reason to keep it on the down-low.”
Ahead, we discover their how a first-time visit to a sex toy store led to the creation of Ilya, favorite customer stories and how they’re pushing sex positivity in a country like ours.
What was the lightbulb moment that pushed you to establish Ilya?
It started the first time we went into a sex toy shop here in the Philippines! We expected it to be a fun and interesting learning experience but it turned out differently. When we got in, we were inundated with a ton of exaggerated phallic-looking toys that weren’t in English packaging and music that was blaring loud. The staff was hidden behind the counter and did not once talk nor even look at us. The lights were a bit too bright, which made us feel like we were in a clinic than in a fun toy shop. It was just too much for us first timers!
How has opening a brick-and-mortar store changed the game for your brand?
The shop’s a real good manifestation of what we’re trying to push for this industry: sex positivity! There’s nothing wrong with sex, wanting to learn about it and enjoy intimacy so what better way to show that than to have a physical representation of how cute and swallowable the whole thing can be? The shop also sped up legitimizing the brand and put us on the map (literally and market perception) as a player in the sex toy industry!
We were taken on a tour by the staff in store and discovered that most, if not all, the products sold are imported. How do you pinpoint which brands and products to bring in?
We have a weighted curation process that includes aspects such as the company behind the brand of the product, reviews, quality and make, aesthetic, and, of course, what the customer looks for. We focus heavily on customer satisfaction so what they want, we try our best to bring in! Those that don't make the passing mark don't make the cut and that's most of 'em in the market.
What are some customer favorites among your impressive brand roster?
“[Why not] penetrate the stiff and hard market
with our well-planned brand thrust, right?”
Ilya was a partner for the Kink Karnival that was supposed to happen earlier this year. Do you any other partnerships or projects in the works that we can look forward to?
We love supporting our partners, especially when they're working towards the same goal as us, which is sex positivity. So we partner with groups such as Kink Karnival, Deus Sex Machina, Pineapple Lab, Love Yourself and many various other organizations! We were also the co-presenters of Quezon City International Pink Film Festival that happened on November 14 to 25, 2018.
Drop by Ilya for a stigma-free sex toy shop experience at 189 Maginhawa, Diliman, Quezon City or shop their products online at shopilya.com.
Art Alexandra Lara