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MEET THE LEADER: LUCY LITWACK, CEO & OWNER, COCO DE MER
We recently caught up with Lucy, the CEO and Owner of Coco de Mer, to explore her impact on the luxury lingerie and sexual wellness industry. With a clear mission to empower women and create positive change, Lucy set out to transform this niche brand into a global luxury icon. She shares what she’s learnt along the way, the challenges she’s faced and her advice for aspiring sustainability leaders.
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Hi Lucy! When did you start at Coco de Mer and how long have you been in this role?
I joined Coco de Mer as CEO in 2014, and then led an MBO in 2017. I was just so passionate about the brand – I felt like it had always punched above its weight, but was yet to realise its full potential. It had been considered a niche brand in the past but as conversations around sexual wellness moved more into the mainstream, it had the potential to be so much more – a global luxury brand, focused on female pleasure. That is why I then decided to buy the business. After 3 years at the helm and an entire career in the lingerie industry, I knew that this was the brand I wanted to own and grow. I wanted to place the focus back on women, on the importance of female pleasure and the female gaze as a path to empowerment.
What three things do you think make a great leader?
Having a clear vision is key to keeping things on track and engaging others. Enthusiasm and passion are infectious in all walks of life. Finally, empathy and adaptability are vital these days.
What three things would the people around you say make you a great leader?
In truth I found this so tough, so I asked my team and they came up with three for me; “Driven, inspiring, passionate”.
What is the toughest lesson you learnt?
When I completed the MBO in 2017, sexual wellness was not in the mainstream yet – it really was still a taboo. Male Venture Capitalists who were keen to invest did not see a female owner in the world of erotica as a serious investment, more a frivolous one, and crucially, they did not have the foresight to see that focusing on celebrating women and female pleasure was a good commercial opportunity. Finding the capital on my own was the only way to realise the company vision and my mission, and is testament to the brand we know now.The fact that gender equity is still a conversation truly baffles me. Empowering women is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings. It feels as though we have waves of glass ceilings being smashed, of the patriarchy being rivalled and human rights feeling more balanced and inclusive, but then situations like the overthrowing of Roe vs Wade come along, and FGM is still so prevalent. The female choice and the female body are still being discussed in a way that feels so antiquated and offensive, not to mention the devastating effects these backward steps have on marginalised women globally. And yet the people in power are showing us once again that we need to keep fighting for our rights – to our voice, to our body, to our freedom. The entire ethos at Coco de Mer is based around empowering women and the current status of women in the world today, reinforce that our work is not over and our drive is stronger than ever.
And the most rewarding?
Being a brand with purpose is crucial, and a deep belief in championing women’s causes underpins all my goals for Coco de Mer. As a business, and personally, I work with NGOs and activists in the fight against FGM, in addition to striving to break down taboos around female sexuality. Through this work I have met the most inspiring women – survivors who, despite the challenges they have had to overcome, are full of joy and passion.
What is the one piece of advice you wish you had been given early on in your career?
I would probably say risk more and risk earlier. My younger self had energy and time that I would happily have now! Your power to achieve, even at a very young age, is limitless. Take risks from time to time or you’ll never achieve anything.
What is your immediate focus for creating positive change as a leader for Coco de Mer?
In the short term we are still on a high from our Positive Luxury certification and it’s given the team such a collective drive to keep riding that wave and keep improving our impact, on an environmental and social level. We are clear and consistent about our purpose and driving that forward; waving the flag for female empowerment and pleasure. We will keep striving to educate and celebrate, creating a genuine positive change in society and culture. We will continue to raise awareness for inequalities and injustices against women. We will help end FGM. We will continue to use our platform to highlight and educate on the need for gender equality. By focusing on these matters which feel intrinsically linked to the core of Coco de Mer, we believe that we will be able to help break down the taboos of female pleasure, to encourage a more open conversation and healthier relationships with, and increased respect for, the female body.
And your long-term goals?
I want to shine a light on the extraordinary power, potential and importance of female pleasure and sensuality, providing our customers with a safe place, built by and run by women, creating beautiful products that empower and delight. I’m driven to make sure we help end the barbaric use of FGM. I want to be part of making female pleasure a ‘normal’, healthy and safe discussion, not a fight against the outdated patriarchal system, or a taboo that can’t be tagged on social media – there is nothing to be ashamed of and I want to be part of that understanding. Because pleasure is a necessity, not a luxury.
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