Launching in an emerging market

Kathie Bishop is a medical herbalist and the founder of the intimate pleasure brand Into the Wylde. We talk about what it’s like being part of the new movement of female pleasure and sexual health.

Hi Kathie, we’d love to hear more about your journey in becoming a medical herbalist…

Hi Claire, thanks for asking. Well, I’ve been interested in herbs and natural health since I was a child. I started going to our natural health shop with my mum when I was about 7, and I still have a great relationship with them there now! I grew up in the country and got to know some older country women who would tell me odd bits of folk medicine. I was really interested generally in history and this fitted seamlessly into my childhood. As I got older I really got into folk music, mainly through a love of Led Zeppelin, and one thing led to another and I got fascinated with herbal folk medicine (I consulted my first medical herbalist when I was about 14). Fast forward a decade or so and I decided that I really wanted to train as a medical herbalist: I couldn’t escape my love of herbs and every time I thought about what I wanted to do with my life after my first degree, it kept coming back to that. So I did my conversion science access course in my lunchtimes from work over 2 years (all my previous quals had been in the arts) and applied for my place at Westminster Uni. Although I got into herbal medicine through an interest in folk subjects, and I love the history and traditions of western herbal medicine, I really found my passion in vaginal health through my own story and the stories of women in my clinic. Then the fun began….

You’ve recently launched your new brand Into The Wylde (of which I’m very proud to have worked on with you), what were your inspirations behind this?

I have seen a lot of women in the clinic who often get intimate irritation or infections (such as BV or thrush) after sex.  Not only does this cause intense discomfort, but also shame and disconnection, not only from her partner but from her own body too. I wanted to create a product that would help counter that.  Allowing women to have that connection without fear or causing irritation and instead, taking it one step further, and actually being very kind to those delicate tissues that often take a pounding. This founding principle of connection guides every decision we take at Into the Wylde.

Your debut product is Wylde One – a water-based intimate lubricant, tell us more!

Wylde One is registered with The Vegan Society and the Soil Association. It contains five herbal extracts (aloe, marigold, marshmallow, wild oat and white dead nettle) with other plant-based ingredients.

It has been formulated to match intimate female pH, with an osmolarity that has been shown to be kind to intimate areas. Tests show that it its non-toxic to human cell lines and are compatible with the 3 most common types of (latex, polyisoprene and polyurethane) condoms.

It is packaged in a tube made from wood pulp and plastic so that it can be recycled more easily either.

It’s the result of 6 years of R&D that started life in my dispensary as a soothing product I used myself.  Today she’s an elegant and beautiful product that would look great on anyone’s nightstand. I have to say, I’m super proud of her and what I’ve managed to achieve.

Intimate lubricant packaging

We’ve recently seen a shift in the female intimate health market with organic tampons going mainstream, and lube is following! Do you think many women are aware of what ingredients go into the products they use?

Well, I’d certainly like to think so. I think once the messages reach people then yes – I mean it makes sense, doesn’t it, you can’t un-know the facts can you?!  Give the knowledge about why certain ingredients are far from ideal, give people a lowdown about how their anatomy works and why it is important what you use, and more often than not people will have the power to make better, more empowered, choices.  I think platforms such as Instagram have been instrumental to get the messages out there.  But I think there’s still a long way to go before clean ingredients make the mainstream. Further to go… The more brands working to spread this message the better as far as we are concerned.

We know too well that the sexual health market has been dominated by male-owned brands. Being a woman-owned brand must be an advantage, right?

In this emerging climate I really hope so.  Research shows us that women make most of the purchasing decisions in heterosexual couples, and that remains true when it comes to lubricant. Why then, shouldn’t it follow that women-owned brands design what’s best for women in this department – we don’t have to answer that old question of what women want – we already know! Ergonomically, visually, scientifically, emotionally, and intellectually. We’ve got all the skills, plus our own unique vantage point.

We’re more empowered than ever to talk openly about our bodies and intimate health. There is a shift in the space where women can be more candid in talking about their vaginas. How has ITW approached this as a brand – and how does this compare to its competitors?

We approached it front and centre. Primarily we are a brand based in female physiology and anatomy so we use correct anatomical terms and don’t shy away from them.  I find that many of our comparable competitors have approached it the same way –  they just say it as it is. Euphemisms infantilise grown adults.

Many of the older brands are now playing catch up – it’s curious to see their marketing as they navigate this ‘new’ territory. I like folk to know that its newer brands like us that are really pioneering this message. I think provenance is important. But ultimately as long as the message reaches as many women as possible, that’s the biggest win!

Creating a brand identity

Creating a brand identity

A guest post by Tom Dimond and Will Bouch, founders of Salkan - a backpack brand born by two friends and the love of travel.

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