Tell me about Dark Side Creations.
How long have you been doing that?
I’ve been designing rubber since 1994, that’s when I started it all.
How did you get into it?
Getting into rubber is just such a wild and weird story. My husband and I and our young son at the time, we had been racing full-time and we relocated back to Canada in 1994 after living in Florida for four years and doing the NHRA circuit full-time. It was time for our son to get going to school. We didn’t have corporate sponsorship, we had associate sponsorship, but we had made a determination that if we didn’t have corporate funding by the time our son went to school, we were coming back to Canada and we were going to do something else. I always had an interest in fashion, and my husband always promised me that after the five-year plan of racing, it was my turn. I didn’t have time to go to college to get a formal education, and one of the first people we met when we got into town — I think a lot of your Fast Forward readers will remember Barbie from Barbie’s shop. Barbie basically made a dare to me: “You guys used to race on the stuff, make me a dress in rubber.” And that’s how it all started.
We brought in 45-gallon drums of latex rubber because we didn’t know how else to do it. There wasn’t the Internet. And we started making these forms. We would just use acrylic forms and we would make them in the shape of what we thought dresses were supposed to look like and that was the birth of it. Now there’s been a whole lot of advancements since then and everything is very couture-made now. Everything is hand-fabricated and there’s no more of the acrylic forms. But that was the start of my rubber career.
Did you have an interest in the latex lifestyle? Was there a sexual element before that started?
Up until coming to Calgary.... It took us moving to Calgary to discover the whole world of kink. When you’re racing full-time, you have to be completely focused and we were entirely focused on our racing career. The world opened up to me when I actually had the opportunity to pursue something that was purely of interest to me. I fell in love with drag racing because of my husband’s passion for drag racing. I fell in love with rubber design because of my passion for design.
I find it interesting that you’re in Florida and you have to come to Calgary to discover kink.
One of the things we did on the ride up, we purchased the book Different Loving , and that kind of opened the whole world of kink to both of us. My husband was driving and, like I said, our son was just a youngster sleeping in the back, so it had zero impact on him, but reading Different Loving and discovering all of these things, I mean, we drove the 20-some-odd-hour drive back to Calgary with our mouths kind of hanging open. “Wow, where are we going to start first!?” It was a very interesting introduction to the world. But yeah, to have to come to Calgary to discover kink is kind of interesting in and of itself.
It is. It seems kind of counterintuitive.
So, you had Dark Side Creations, and now you have DarkMall.
When did that start?
DarkMall — New Year’s Eve is going to be our third party. So our first party was this summer in June. It was just a group of us, just friends, looking for something to do. I myself, though I am involved in the kink community, I’m not a swinger. So the club environment, you know, to go there once in a blue moon is a lot of fun, but when you’re not actually a player in the swinging environment, you’re looking for something that has a little bit of danger to it, something new, something fresh, and just a group of us came together and decided that we wanted to start doing something amongst ourselves that was going to introduce something new and fresh to the Calgary alternative lifestyle scene.
So, DarkMall takes over the floor of a hotel and that’s where the party happens?
Exactly. And from the get-go, we wanted to set ourselves apart and that’s where the theme rooms came in. The very first party, we introduced the theme rooms. We tried to make them very tame. Again, we just wanted to get an idea of what people wanted in one of these hotel parties. We had read about them on the Internet. Every party, every city does theirs differently. We really thought that the theme rooms would give people something to do instead of just standing around in a hallway just kind of twiddling your thumbs. It gives you excitement every room you look into. And it was hugely successful.
There’s music as well, I understand?
We do. The first party, again, it was so trial and error. The first party we just had music playing. What we do at the hotel where we’re at, the conference room is where we had the food set up, and where we just had the canned music, so to speak, playing. We knew from the first party, you absolutely need a DJ. For the second party we brought it in and it just changed everything. The atmosphere for the second party was just so phenomenal. Just the music playing and because we have enough people, we rent out the entire floor and then our guests, the hotel puts them into the floor below us, and so on and so forth, working your way down. So we had the entire lower floor filled with DarkMall guests. So there was no concern of any kind of noise complaint because the only people down below us were people who were up partying with us. It was ideal. The hotel was so accommodating. For the last party, we always like to have an assortment of good food and the hotel worked with us, had no problem letting us bring it in. New Year’s Eve we wanted to take it up a notch, so we’re having the hotel fully cater it — roast baron of beef, pasta bar.... We’re pulling out the stops.
I know the location is confidential unless you buy a ticket, but is it always at the same venue?
So far, it has been. We have no intention of changing simply because they are absolutely wonderful to work with.
That’s great to have a location that’s accepting because most people would be weirded out by it, especially a business.
That was the one thing we insisted on. We were going to be completely upfront with this, because it wasn’t going to turn into some debacle with them discovering what was really going on. Quite honestly, I think the bell hops and whatnot must argue about who gets to bring stuff up. You know, if we need more towels or we need this or that, whatever it may be, they’re more than happy to bring it up to us. There’s a lot of really wide eyes when they come up to see us.
So you’ve got seven theme rooms. Is that all voted on on the website? I see a poll here on the site.
From the previous theme rooms, we load them up because we like to know what we should bring back and what do we not need to worry about again. So, the rooms that you see on the website are rooms that we’ve had in the past. We’ve changed it up a bit for New Year’s Eve. The BDSM room — we were quite surprised because our parties are aimed primarily at swingers and we thought we were going to have to be very, very gentle if we were going to introduce anything when it comes to kink, hard kink, and our BDSM room was the most popular. For two parties, it was the most popular, and as you can see from the poll, it was rated amongst the top rooms for our theme rooms.
People never cease to surprise you, eh?
Well, what we’re discovering is more and more.... We’re bringing in hosts to start the rooms off. Initially the BDSM room was the only room that actually had a host and he’s a dear friend of ours who’s now involved as one of the owners. So he was very aware of having to tone it down. We weren’t out to shock and surprise. We were out to introduce and let people explore, let their brains go places that are normally taboo for them. By handling it that way, it was very well received and we actually had people waiting in line to experience the room.
So what does the party look like?
The DJ is in the conference room that is quite a large room. We have our DJ area, we have our dancefloor area set up. There’s round tables in there. We have the light show. It’s just a full-out party in there. We actually had a stripper pole in the dance room last time as well. So girls just get to have a wonderful time. Then in the hallway, we change out all the lights so that there’s red lighting, so you have more ambience and there’s a lot of people milling around the hallway as well.
And that’s all on the same level?
Right. Obviously, you can just peek into the rooms. Our rule with the theme rooms is the doors remain open. You get to go around, you get to peek in, you get to see what other people are doing. We try to put as much eye candy as possible, and as a latex designer, there’s a fair bit of rubber on display and whatnot throughout the floor. So yeah, we have all kinds of things that we add to add spice to things and it’s been so well received. We’re just so thrilled.
Do you have a certain demographic that you attract?
We try and place ourselves apart from the swing clubs, so our demographics are more the middle and upper classes. We charge a little bit more, but they get a lot. They have a well organized, well structured venue. They’re going to come in and they’re going to have a good time.
Is it an older crowd? You’d think younger people would be more reticent to attend something like this.
Well, because we are so new, absolutely. I’d say our demographics probably hit around the average age 35 to 45. But we have so many people contacting us now on a regular basis because we are so relatively new, people are just discovering us. For the New Year’s party, we’ve had a large number of 20-somethings that have contacted us. To my knowledge, I don’t know if we’ve gone into the 60-plus crowd, but there is a keen interest from the 20-somethings.
So, three parties a year?
We’re planning on about four a year. There’s just growth. We want to continue moving forward, making the parties bigger and better. What we’d like to do eventually is an entire hotel takeover.
That would be crazy.
It would be crazy but it’s so incredibly doable. The growth has been very organic up until now. It’s been word of mouth and just by track record, people are interested and want to come back. Even after the first event, you know, it was well organized, but nobody really knew what the plan for the evening was because you just had to watch it play out. So from there, we want to be able to cater to other demographics as well. One of our other partners is involved in the leather community and we have aspirations to actually bring leather events and host them at our venue, simply because they are so agreeable to exploring the different kinks that are out there.
So if someone wants to go to one of your parties, what’s the process?
You have to join darkmall.com and from there you establish a relationship with us. It’s not so easy for a single guy to attend. There’s a very limited number of single guys who are allowed into each of our events and there’s criteria. They have to meet face to face with a DarkMall owner, but that just involves them coming out to a meet and greet. Once the spaces are filled, that’s it.
For couples it’s a bit easier?
Absolutely. Well, there’s just more spaces for couples. What we really try and do is we host three meet and greets before the event so that people can come out and start getting familiar with one another, because we really want to turn this into a group of friends. We want it to be very welcoming. There are a lot of newbies that come out to our events and they’re always very pleased at the number of smiling faces and everybody is willing to say “hello, come sit down and chat with me.” That’s always a part of a fun party environment is just making people feel welcome.
Are you surprised or shocked at the growing acceptance of this kind of thing?
No so shocked because I have been involved in the kink community for a long time, whether it’s alternative lifestyle or swinging, whichever way you want to term it, so I do know that the Calgary community is a fabulous community. We are absolutely ecstatic that we’ve been so well received, but we’re also, the group of us, the core group of us, we’re business people, so we know how to run a business and we know how growth is required, so as long as people are interested in coming out, we’re going to keep making the events better.
One final question. I recognize these rooms you have listed. Boudoir photography makes sense, but what is a human buffet?
Ah, for our Halloween party, we based the party on the seven deadly sins. So gluttony, we had to try and come up with a theme for gluttony, so that’s the human buffet. We had a large massage table that we laid out, we put vegetables and fruits, and because it was Halloween, candies, and people got on top of that massage table and turned themselves into a human buffet. I mean, it was so much fun. That was one of the most fun, to go into that room and hear the squeals. It was fabulous.