Hush is an upscale boutique specializing in adult lifestyle products. They specialize in providing education around these products and healthy sexuality. Think of it as filling in the spaces that your middle school sex ed neglected to touch on. Alana Konihowski is the owner of Hush on 16th Ave. NW and Marva Moriyama is the general manager of Hush on 17th Ave. SW here in Calgary. They have provided lingerie, swimwear and underwear to help add a little heat to the end of our Pride Kickoff Fashion Show.
Pride In Business: Could you tell me a little bit about how you approach your business?
Marva Moriyam: The whole concept of Hush is to have a very inviting space where people can come learn about lifestyle products and explore products and sexuality while feeling like they're in a safe place to do that. So it's more of a modern space. We sell more of like mid- to high-end items and we focus really on body safe choices.
PIB: And what are body safe choices?
Alana Konihowski: Silicone, stainless steel, glass, phthalates free, free of TPE. We're here to just educate because there's a lot of misconceptions on the Internet. So, we're just trying to educate people on safe sex practices and pretty much telling people that masturbation is that okay.
PIB: Can you give me an idea of the sort of information or education that you provide to your patrons on a day to day basis?
MM: We make sure that our staff are very educated on all the products — we actually have like New Sunday Sessions, we call them. So we try and have like a Sunday session pretty once every month at least where we can do product knowledge, we can just talk about things that we want to share with our customers, how we want the experience to be for our customers. The biggest thing is just making sure people are comfortable here. We do special events here, too. In the past, Alana has done events in the past at her location for beginners.
AK: It's like a sex ed course, pretty much. We're finding that a lot of adults actually don't know a lot of safe sex practices. So , we hosted an education course and we just went through the basics.
MM: So we have lots of things planned as well. We have been talking with the Calgary Centre for Sexuality just to do some collaboration with where we can do more on educating.
PIB: Are there any sort of misconceptions or myths you might hear about the adult lifestyle industry?
MM: Oh yeah. People are always surprised when they come into the store at how our store actually looks as opposed to the older versions like adult stores. There is that misconception that it's like a dark, dingy place to be, where people hide out. But it's not that. We really try and make the experience friendlier, more positive, and just open and we try and really engage with our customers so that they understand that we're here to help them and educate them.
PIB: Why do you think people are so hung up on those images of those dark, dingy places stere0types of the past?
AK: I think that was all that was really around. Like when I thought of a sex store or adult store, I always thought of like an old man sitting behind the counter, the DVD racks, and purple carpet and just piles of terrible products. That's what you see in movies and that's what everyone kind of grew up with. So we're really just trying to create a very upscale boutique-y feel. Our space is very clean. It's not cluttered. It smells really great, right. It's bright. All of our locations have white walls and it just makes the products pop out. And it's not overwhelming, which is what some of those old stores can be like.
PIB: What would you say to someone who might be interested or curious about the store but might feel self conscious or embarrassed to come in?
MM: We get those people all the time. We honestly just say "come." We'll help you, we'll let you know it's a totally safe place to talk. We can answer any questions. There's nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Like we just really try and engage with them so that they feel comfortable.
PIB: Would you mind if I asked how both of you got connected to the business?
AK: Just through friends. It just kind of fell into our laps and we both seized the opportunity and we embraced it.
MM: It's actually been eye-opening honestly. I've learned a lot being in this industry, as well, and it's been awesome because you meet all types of people. I think sex is so taboo still in the Western world. We're not as open as Europe or other countries. And I feel like it should be a normal thing. Everyone does it. It needs to be talked about more. I feel like being a part of it, we have the opportunity to do more with it, you know?
PIB: Would you say you see many LGBTQ+ customers on a day-to-day basis?
AK: We're starting to see a lot more. I know that the community in Calgary was very dedicated to a certain adult store and they recently closed down. But I'm seeing a big increase in it.
MM: And also because we sponsored a team this year in the CASA Squad so we've made a big commitment to just be really involved in the community and to put ourselves out there and just show people that we're supporting the community, that we're here to do what we can for them.
PIB: Congratulations again on winning...was it the finals?
MM: Yeah, it was. We're still on a high.
AK: We're very happy.
MM: Honestly, coming on as a sponsor, like first year, we didn't really know what to expect, but for me personally, it's been such an amazing experience because I've met so many amazing people and it's honestly made me more open and I guess more involved in my brother's world. That was just such a great experience.
PIB: You're going to be showing a number of pieces during the Pride Kickoff Fashion Show. Could you give me an idea what that will look like.
AK: Very kinky.
MM: We're doing some basic looks like men's underwear, some swimwear and then we're getting into the kinkier items. We're getting some harnesses and the ladies stuff is a little bit more, I'd say risqué. It's going to be fun. Yeah.
PIB: What do you think having these kinkier looks in a show like this does to further that normalization of kink and sexuality?
MM: I think it just shows people what's out there. I don't think they understand exactly what we have and what we have to offer. And what that looks like on, because honestly people are scared to try things on. I feel like if we show it, then people are more likely to be like, "oh, that actually is really cool” or “I could wear that."
PIB: And you just had some models in for some fittings, correct. Did they have any sort of reactions to the pieces that they'll be wearing?
AK: They're all very pumped about it. They all say the less, the better.
MM: They love everything they're wearing. It's amazing.
AK: It's just about embracing the human body and human sexuality. We have all shapes and sizes modelling for us and it's pretty exciting. It'll be a fun show.