Fort Lauderdale is home to one of the largest and most established fetish outfitters in the world — Fetish Factory — and this Memorial Day weekend, the company is celebrating 21 years of kink.
The Fetish Factory (FF) will host eight official parties across different venues starting Thursday and wrap up with an epic pool party on Sunday. Organizers are even taking over an entire hotel.
We caught up with Danny Ae, who has been the general manager of the Fetish Factory and all its festivities for the past five years:
New Times: How did you get involved with Fetish Factory?
Danny Ae: I started working at FF as one of their go-go dancers for their parties. I was in my late teens and I really loved the music. It was industrial, it was goth. At that time, I was kind of getting into modeling and stuff like that, so I started working there. They also had their retail store and I was very good with customers. I had huge corporate training with customer service, so they hired me to work there as well. I was kind of miserable at my corporate job, so I decided to quit and I was offered the general manager position at FF. And here we are, like ten years later.
What is Fetish Factory?
We are an entity that started as a retail store selling bondage goods, and I guess we wanted to gear more towards the fashion aspect of fetish and that’s what we did. We started mostly with high-drama, high-fashion clothing, latex. Later on, we got into vinyl, and, of course, we wanted to carry some bondage gear because that wasn't here. That was back in 1995 — that didn’t even exist here in South Florida.
After a few years, a lot of people heard about it and a lot of people were buying this stuff. There is a joke that the owner [Glenn Catapano] said, “People just got tired of chasing each other around the bedroom wearing latex.” So he tried to make something that would allow people to combine a night out and where they would be able to wear the stuff that they were buying at the store and be high-drama, high-fashion and release their fantasies. Co-owners and partners Glenn and Donna imagined this perfect glam fetish party where you could go in all your glory of your outfits and in all your perversions and all your flirtatious attempts and anything you want to be.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Fetish Factory?
There are misconceptions about the store and there are misconceptions about the party. The misconception about the store is that we are a sex shop. There are people coming in and asking, “Dude, where is the video booth? Where are the videos? Where are the magazines?” We don’t sell anything like that because we like to present ourselves as a specialty store, and we have incredible fetish goods and gear. We understand that you can go and get this stuff anywhere else and we understand that you can go and get everything custom made, but everybody needs a place to start and we have anything from beginners to advanced users. So we are that place where you can start, where you can learn, and where you can begin to nurse your interests.
Other people think it is a wild orgy. When you learn anything about kink and about fetish it's that kink and fetish is rarely ever about sex. You don’t go to get laid.
Who is welcome to attend the FF parties?
Everybody is welcome to attend; there are really no limits. Our demographics are anyone from early 20s all the way to our oldest customer and guest who is 98 years old. He got his first rubber outfit in the '40s before that was even a thing. We have lawyers, we have cops, we have teachers, a lot of doctors. You can be gay, bisexual curious, transsexual — anything is allowed.
There only a few rules — obviously the dress code is strict; there is no photography and no video; do not interrupt a scene. A scene is when two people are playing. Do not join the scene if you are not invited. Everything is consensual, and rudeness and inappropriate actions are completely unallowed and we have zero tolerance for it.
How does it feel to turn 21?
I started attending the parties when I was 17 with a fake ID and what attracted me the most was the music and the fashion aspects of it. The plasticity and the simplicity of getting married, having kids, going to work, coming back from work, attending your wife, your kids, going back to sleep, wasn’t for me. I always knew there was something else — a lot of weird music that many people don’t listen to, fashion, art, so many different things, I was very in tune with that. At that age I got really in tune with goth music and goth fashion and to the whole culture that was, at the time, very much intertwined with the fetish community because the music was pretty much the same. So I got involved because of the music and the fashion and later on, little by little, I discovered things about myself that made me interested in the psychological aspect to it and also made me interested in the whole resonance. It just vibrates around you when you join a lifestyle like this.
There are two kinds of participation: There are the lifestylers that live and breathe this 24/7 and then there are some people that connect only in a specific moment. It is like laughter: Laughter is always there but something needs to happen that will make you laugh. Kink is the same way to me; it’s just realizing that something is there and that makes you happy. So after 21 years and seeing so many people interested, it feels to me as a huge celebration of liberty and expression and it feels great to know that I left a corporate job that was making me insane to do something that is changing lives.
Can you tell me about the parties that you have coming up?
It is the most enjoyable endurance trial that you can imagine. We have over 100 hours of parties over the course of four days. We have eight parties coming up and we have taken over. We totally bought out the Westin Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. We have several parties starting on Thursday. And on top of that, we are going to have the largest fetish pool party on Sunday at the hotel celebrating Memorial Day Weekend. We have about 2,500 people coming from about 38 different countries. Everything is organized and orchestrated by a small group of us from the store. On Thursday, we are just unleashing fetish mayhem into Fort Lauderdale.
What advice would you give to all the people who are curious about the fetish world but need a little push?
When you go to a nightclub or when you go to a hip-hop club, a couple has to be afraid of their surroundings. A guy has to be concerned if a dude will try to mack on the girl; the girl has to be worried if another girl wants to stick their hands into her boyfriend's ass. That doesn’t happen in these parties because the people that come to our parties are very respectful so that doesn’t happen. You are going to have a much safer environment than anywhere else. I have five bouncers at every party that never have to bounce anyone because there are never any fights or altercations, there are never any issues. So you are going to be completely safe.
Second off, the dress code is simpler than you think. You just need to give yourself a shot. For girls, it is easier. They can just go with stockings and lingerie and then move to something wilder. For guys, I always tell them, get the right pants and then you go from there. You don’t have to participate, you don’t have to perform, you don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is to grab a drink at the bar and just watch this party unfold, and see people coming in their outfits and see people coming together to celebrate their own fantasies.
Fetish Factory's 21st Anniversary Fetish Weekend
Thursday, May 26, through Sunday, May 29, at the Westin Fort Lauderdale, 400 Corporate Drive, Fort Lauderdale; floridafestishweekend.com.