What’s the best way to start off the day? With the wellness movement in overdrive, the rituals for new-and-improved living are plenty: hot water with lemon as a digestive wake-up; whole-body dry brushing to boost microcirculation; meditation for a clear mind. But what about a morning romp? Maude—a new collection of pared-down essentials, including condoms, a vibrator, and two takes on lube—is making a case for good sex. “You just bought a $10 juice, but let’s spend some time taking care of yourself in other ways that have similar benefits,” says cofounder Dina Epstein. Like a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter connected to the brain’s reward system. Or some good old-fashioned exercise.
In the wake of the past year’s #MeToo revelations, with headlines dominated by transgressions and tilted power dynamics, it’s refreshing to reconsider sex on its own merits. It’s just as energizing to encounter the level of sophistication, both in aesthetics and in messaging, you’d expect from two thirtysomethings in Brooklyn. Imagine these products for (and by) the sort of person who reads The Gentlewoman, bathes with minimalist bars of Binu Binu soap, and wears a Paloma Wool blouse bearing dainty illustrations of the female form—as cofounder Eva Goicochea has on during a recent meeting. For her, the impulse to disrupt this corner of the market was born out of converging experiences. In the early 2000s, after studying advertising and marketing, she logged time as a California legislative aide in health care; she went on to helm social-media strategy and hiring at Everlane, along with other clients in fashion and tech. Epstein, meanwhile, parlayed her industrial-design degree from RISD into a couple stints creating sex toys—first at Kiki de Montparnasse, then at Doc Johnson, where she was the only woman on the design team. “I did leave the industry for a reason,” she explains, alluding to a locker-room culture that took a toll.
But Goicochea’s vision for Maude convinced the product designer to re-enter—and rethink—the category. The dove-gray Vibe, the line’s three-speed vibrator in ultrasoft silicone, has more in common with round-edged Brancusi sculptures or Eva Zeisel ceramics than novelty-shop kink. (Why must the sex toy be treated like a fetish object, wonders Goicochea, when something like “70 percent of women don’t orgasm during sex? It’s an essential item.”) The all-natural latex condoms—called Rise, in a cheeky nod to the morning theme—come in slim, easy-to-open packaging modeled on diner-style butter cups (“so you know which side is up,” says Epstein). And there are two formulas for the Shine lube: an organic aloe-based version that’s fragrance-free and pH-balanced for women; and a silicone-based one for lasting slip. “We’re an inclusive company, so the idea is if you’re a gay male or engage in anal sex, you use silicone,” says Goicochea, who remembers bristling when potential investors would pigeonhole Maude as a female-focused company. “Women can create companies for humans, too.”
The line launches today on getmaude.com, and while elevated retail placement is likely on the horizon, the founders are taking it slow when it comes to choosing the right partners (fitting for a company championing empowered, safe sex). But one category seems like such a given, it’s shocking how untapped the market is: hotels—where sex and fancy baths seem to be the top two items on the agenda. Maude’s travel-friendly Quickie kit, which includes a vial of lube and two condoms, has just hit the shelves at the lobby boutique inside Ian Shraeger’s Public hotel, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; it might wind up as part of a redesigned in-room menu as well.
Such a crossover of sex and culture will also turn up at the Modern, Maude’s editorial platform, which promises a Monocle-esque breadth of coverage, rather than “ten ways to do X, Y, and Z. We’re not trying to be explicit,” says Goicochea, explaining that the brand’s name recalls a time, a century or so ago, when covertly packaged sexual-health products had to slip past puritanical decency laws. “We’re trying to set the tone.” Already that seems to be working, reports Epstein. Since word about Maude has gotten out, she has fielded thoughtful, if overdue, questions from old-guard competitors in the industry, “like, ‘Hey, is what we’re doing not working [for women]?’ I’m sure that they’re asking for lots of reasons,” she says—profit among them. “But the fact is now they’re asking. That’s such a positive thing.”