Posh spice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am

The SoHo district of Manhattan is best known for its fashion boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and resident celebrities. It can now also say it is home to perhaps the city's highest-class sex shop.

New York City has waged a campaign for some time against the more downmarket sleaze establishments that used to populate the centre of Times Square. But it doesn't seem to have a problem with the quiet growth of intimacy dens for the well-off. The frankness encouraged by TV series such as Sex and the City may have something to do with it, while midriff-exposing fashions have also helped.

The trend includes the arrival of a branch of the London-based sex toys boutique Myla, near Madison Avenue, and several new intimate apparel and accessories stores, such as Catriona MacKechnie. The latest to open is the most luxurious and expensive of them all.

Kiki de Montparnasse fits like a glove (probably a leather one) in SoHo because it fills so many roles: sex shop, art gallery, fashion boutique and celebrity attraction. On the second floor it has an area for intimate art exhibitions or workshops on everything from how to communicate as a sexual being to plan a romantic weekend.

This is about as far from a seedy establishment as you could get. A good-looking man in a dark suit greets you at the door and elegant young women are happy to show you around a beautifully furnished store. Nothing is cheap here, from golden handcuffs (US$150) and embossed paddle (US$175) to lace fantasy mask (US$195). A hand-sculpted, obsidian glass sex toy will set you back US$1,750.

The owners, Andrew Pollard and Jennifer Zuccarini, say they stock the store based on their experience of how difficult it was to plan an erotic weekend together. 'When we wanted a romantic weekend, we would have to buy everything we needed in different stores,' said Mr Pollard. 'So we thought, 'why not have it in one store?''

Since it opened a few weeks ago, there have already been a number of celebrity sightings at the store, which is named after a 1920s-era model, painter and cabaret singer. Among them, according to the New York Daily News, was rock musician and actor Lenny Kravitz, who was reported to have spent several thousand dollars on lingerie and accessories.

Mr Pollard said that the shop has 'an incredible number of celebrities' coming in, though he declined to name them.

The store may be mainly about the serious business of getting in touch with your own sensuality, but the design does include some humour. The lights in the dressing rooms can be set at three different intensities - before, during or after.