Santa Cruz-based Camouflage originated in 1980 as a risqué T-shirt shop. Now owned by husband-and-wife team Shannon Collins and Ken Vinson, the 1,700-square-foot shop sells products that offer the “full date experience,” including outerwear, lingerie and adult novelties. The store’s tagline is “Experience the Fantasy,” and Collins explains the main concept as such: “You can purchase just about anything you need for an amazing evening, or explore the fantasies and fetishes that can be difficult to shop for.”
Collins gained her experience in the industry when working for Sears, where she was trained as a bra fitter and worked primarily in the lingerie department. Vinson “a tech guy” spent many years working with Cisco. “We decided to get into this business because we really needed a change in our daily lives,” said Collins. “Having lived in Santa Cruz for many years, we were well acquainted with Camouflage, and felt it was the perfect opportunity to challenge ourselves, and give me the opportunity to indulge in my passion for sexual education and acceptance.”
According to Collins, the store is laid out loosely to resemble the process of a really good date. “The outerwear — dresses, skirts, tops — are closest to the front door, representing the beginning part of the evening,” she explained. “As you move further back away from the front door, you then find lingerie such as bras, panties chemises and camis. Past that is our fantasy/fetish clothing, and the more risqué lingerie, [and] past that is our back room, where we sell adult toys and other adult products.”
Camouflage’s clientele is mainly comprised of women: about 85 percent, said Collins. Of these 85 percent, about half are in the 18 to 25 year range, with the other half ranging between 25 and 40. The average purchase is generally $40 to $50. Among these customers, Collins says the Cosabella Never group has been a top-seller, which she attributed to its “great style” and “even better price point.”
“We also sell a lot of Shirley and Escante because of their flirty style and price point,” she said. “Another great seller for us is the Hanky Panky low rise thong. We do not get a lot of requests for the higher end lines, like the pricier Cosabella or Wendy Glez.”
Although the sexier styles tend to sell better, Camouflage also stocks many Felina and Jezebel styles, and in addition to women’s products, the store also carries men’s underwear from Male Power, Gyz and occasionally Papi and Parks for Recreation. “We primarily sell a lot of thongs for men,” said Collins.
The store holds two annual fashion shows to keep the customers coming back, and also offers a few other events during the year such as in-store pleasure parties and art shows. In addition, Camouflage advertises in The Good Times, a free local newspaper/magazine that is circulated in the country weekly, and they also send out newsletters to the customers inviting them to events and alerting them to new product additions.
Camouflage has also recently created a Facebook fan page that is updated with event and new product information.
Camouflage is located at 1329 Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, California.