For centuries, if not millennia, jewelry has been a tool of self-expression. From Cleopatra’s snake-shaped necklaces to Schiaparelli’s surrealistic statement earrings, jewelry represents power, creativity and ambition. But jewelry was also a tool to subtly communicate an inner life and desires. Such is the case with Crave’s line of aesthetic pleasure products, ranging from sleek USB-rechargeable vibrators to the new ID and ICON cuffs, a range of luxurious cuff bracelets that double as handcuffs for light, intimate play and up to June 12th available on Kickstarter.
Designed by women, these sophisticated statement pieces are meant to be worn around town as a sign of self-love, personal power and sexual preference. Available in two different models – the ID and ICON cuffs – the leather ICON cuffs are designed for lightweight restraint, while the ID cuffs are a silicone strap option, with watch straps connected by a stainless steel chain to an adjustable ID tag. Both can be clipped to a wrist as a daily reminder of self-love and pleasure.
Design for feminine pleasure
San Francisco-based Crave was co-founded by Ti Chang, a product designer with two decades of experience crafting everything from bicycles to a line of hairbrushes for Goody. With Crave, she hoped to use design to communicate female empowerment—”who you are, what you believe in, and what you desire”. Traditionally trained as an industrial designer, she attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and later received her Masters in Design Products from the Royal College of Art. After embarking on a successful corporate design career, which included working as the first female industrial designer at Trek, She sought ways to align her work more closely with her ideals and interests, and became a critical advocate in founding the Women in Design professional groups the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).
When Chang first launched a small line of intimate accessories that doubled as jewelry in 2008, she noted that most of the products already on the market didn’t just come with a stigma and shame about women’s pleasure , but were often produced by men with very little female R&D. Their flag in the ground became a mission to design indulgence products by women for women. Founding CRAVE with entrepreneur Michael Topolovac saw Chang’s first collaborative design, the Duet Pro, debut on Kickstarter and become the world’s first crowdfunded sex toy. In the years since her work, she has been credited with bringing pleasure jewelry into the mainstream. In 2014, her Vesper vibrator necklace, available in designer metals like rose gold and plated silver, was released and worn by everyone from Cara Delivigne to Janet Jackson, and has been worn at the MoMA Design Store and the Standard Hotel, as well as Saint Laurent and Nordstroms retailers.
“For the past 14 years, I have focused on breaking the taboo and stigma surrounding female pleasure through design,” says Chang, explaining why she strives to create luxury products that enhance the pleasure experience. “I think it is a unique experience when people wear pleasure jewelry that is different from all other pleasure products as it allows people to openly embrace their desires as an expression of themselves in subtle but provocative ways, similar to fashion Chang notes that when she started her company, she wanted to dispel the social stigma surrounding sex toys and normalize a conversation about women’s empowerment. Her innovations are part of a growing field she calls “design activist entrepreneurship.” In 2021, Chang also co-founded Design Allyship to provide resources to designers from traditionally marginalized communities, noting that women designers often do not receive the same employment opportunities as men after graduation and throughout their careers.
Wear your individuality on your sleeve
With the launch of Crave’s ID and ICON Cuffs, Chang hopes to continue helping to democratize sensual adventure and play product design. “For the last two years we have all been at home in a sweat because of the pandemic. However, as life progresses, I see that people think more deeply about how they want to show themselves to the world,” explains Chang, who envisions that fashion lovers begin to become more thoughtful about what they wear in public and take fashion risks up again. In addition, she hopes to continue supporting wearers to express their passion to the outside world.
Choosing to crowdfund her creations allows Chang to conduct real-time product research and development, including identifying what color choices and materials are most requested by her community. But more than these critical insights, she connects with a global community of like-minded design lovers. “With Cuff, I hope to attract new people to the brand who are unfamiliar with pleasure jewelry but are excited to discover its power.” She also hopes to stay true to the company’s roots. “Fashion can be fickle and we want to make sure we bring out what people are most excited about as we move into higher volume production.”
Chang is currently working on several other pleasure jewelry and bedside products that will be launched in the coming seasons. But for now, she’s inspired by the reaction to her dual-purpose jewelry. “We have an amazing community that has followed our journey since 2011, made up of people of all genders but mostly women who love the design of our products and the experiences they enable,” she says, celebrating Crave’s ability to create a… ardent fan to win base. As a seasoned product designer, she also keeps in mind that products like the Crave Cuff have one main function – to be jewelry. Really really nice jewellery. And that certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed as the line’s popularity soars. “I mean, who wouldn’t want a gift of jewelry, right?”
Crave’s ID and ICON cuffs are available on Kickstarter until June 12th.
– Laura Feinstein