I started in fashion about 12 years ago. Through fashion and apparel, we saw this emerging urban consumer. So I took a sub-segment within a segment, the urban woman, and I went from there. I didn't have millions and millions of dollars to spend on marketing and advertising budget. So I also had to go where I knew I could compete.
We try to make prevention protection fashionable. We attach it to a trend; we raise the level of sophistication in the way contraception is presented.
I believe that America screams for someone and, in particular, women to present safe sex in a way that would compliment a woman's image. You see shows like 'Sex in the City,' 'Girlfriends,' 'Desperate Housewives,' where women have embraced their sexuality, but they don't have a contraception outlet there that has presented a product in a way that compliments their life style.
I volunteered with an AIDS organization. I saw what was going on with the HIV and AIDS and how it was decimating the black community. I had an idea to link fashion to responsibility. So I started a line of contraception and created a line of accessories for women who carry condoms.
I think for the AIDS rate to slow down, women have to carry condoms, and they have to learn how to negotiate condom use. As a man, if a woman said, 'All you have to do is wear this condom.' …That's it? Are you sure? I don't have to call you? I don't have to do any of that? All I've got to do is wear this?
When you think about relationships, you meet someone, you have protected sex for two weeks and then the condom comes off. We've all done it.
[House of Groove is] in the business of shifting mindsets, making it easier to communicate. You look at how women have grown in the workplace, and how there are a lot of single women out there where they've always had to have responsibility. You're going to compromise on [condom use].
A lot of women say they know what they want and they know how to get it. But when it comes to contraception, for some reason they're afraid to get in the driver's seat. I believe that if you put it in front of them in a way that engages them, they'll use it.
If you look at the channels of distribution right now for contraceptive companies, all of them are in the lower channels of distribution: (drugstores) CVS, Duane Reade, bodegas. The three main players have done the same thing, the same way for many, many years. The packaging hasn't changed since I started having sex. And I'm not a young kid.
None of its sexy. None of it is intelligent at all. I believe they really don't recognize the urban consumer as a viable group. They completely ignore women.
The majority of my business is done in boutique hotels. Where you're in your room, it's that time; you don't want to run out. Now they're right here, all you've got to do is open up the mini-bar.
We do a lot of AIDS organizations, and pieces for a lot of different companies (Gen Art, Baby Phat, Crunk Energy Drink), promoters, trunk shows. We were just asked by MOMA to be part of an exhibit next year called Safe: Design Takes on Risks.
Where we're trying to go to, I've seen some resistance. Where I see the product ultimately is Henri Bendel, Bloomingdale's, Federated Stores—right in the lingerie department. [But the response is] 'This is a family store.' 'A family environment.'
[Our advantage over a big manufacturer is] organizational agility. We can stop on a dime. We see new trends coming out, we can move. Fashion changes every year. There's a new trend, there's new fabrics, we can move with those. Whereas these larger companies, they're not even in that realm of thinking.