The Darkroom brand has taken the world by storm the last 6 years and we were dying to know more about the men behind the brand! www.esmale.com sat down with Andres Santana, one half of the power couple behind the brand. This is what he had to say about the brand and many other things!
When did you start your business and what was your motivation?
We started the business at the end of 2016. At the time we weren’t particularly ‘motivated’ to start a business as I was perfectly happy in my job at the time. The only issue was that pay wasn’t great during the winter months which forced me to look into other streams of income. We decided to do our own calendar of my very sexy fiancé (Paul) after seeing other social media influencers do the same. I decided to take that risk and use the last £300 in my account to print 100 calendars (at £30 each). Once launched we sold out all 100 copies within 24 hours. That’s when we realised, we had something here we could capitalise from.
Do you feel that Darkroom Brand is a gay fetish gear brand, or do you also target the straight fetish market?
At the moment we do only cater for gay men but in the future want to branch out our customer base to be more inclusive and cater for anyone.
What made you decide to include in your range Vegan fetish products
Customer feedback! We encourage our customers to give us feedback via email after they receive their purchase. Emails, which we get a lot of, are from customers telling us how happy they are with their items and others who give us really constructive feedback and ideas. For now the range is limited but we are on it and will be expanding this range later in the year!
Who or what influences your new product designs for DARKROOM
That’s a really hard question as there isn’t any direct influence. I’m a very visually absorbing person and detail oriented. So, I will spot something on a gym short for example, a sewing detail on a tank top and think ‘huh? What if that was on the pouch of a jockstrap?’ I’ve also always been an ‘ideas’ person and daydream a lot! Especially when I’m on a treadmill doing cardio, for some reason my brain goes into overdrive and that’s where all my best ideas come from.
Within the Fetish market what do you feel sets DARKROOM apart from the competition
For sure our Strong Steel Collection! With leather, fabric and rubber harnesses saturating the market, creating similar styles in pure steel has set us apart. We tested out our first samples at Folsom in Berlin last year and we had so many enquiries about where it was made, how they can buy it and if they can preorder. So we went straight back, refined the garments so they can also be adjustable and put them on sale.
What did you do before you started DARKROOM?
I used to work for an award-winning marketing agency specialising in real estate. One project I lead the design in won one of those awards (internationally). I’m very close friends with the Managing Director who took me under her wing when she started the business. She’s a true inspiration as I have never met someone with such resilience, drive, and passion. Everything always had to adhere to an impeccable standard along with superior customer service. Hence why her business is doing so well. It was an emotional departure when I decided it was time to go but she was and is still super supportive.
Professionally speaking what do you see as your biggest challenge
Trying to do it all! Anyone who starts their own business knows you have your fingers in many or all the pies. You have to be the designer, photographer, social media marketer, account manager, customer service representative etc. As we continue to grow, outsourcing and employing will be the next challenge.
What has been the most successful product so far?
Anything from our Strong Steel Collection! We do harnesses, jockstraps and full body suits which are all by far our best sellers. These are all cut and constructed by myself in-house so you get a made-to-measure unique product at a good price! We also include a free revision service if anything is needling adjusted.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned in your professional career
The biggest lesson for me personally is learning how to ‘chill’. Things are not always going to be perfect, things will go wrong and mistakes will be made. Rather than throwing a dramatic tantrum which my poor fiancé would have to watch and endure. I now take a breather and refocus that energy on how to fix it and learn how to avoid it in the future.
When you are not working how do you like to spend your time?
Being able to go to the gym and let off some steam. No matter how bad my day could be, a good gym sesh always resets my mindset.
What does your favourite holiday look like?
City breaks! Where you can party until the early hours. Feeling my oats wearing my Dark Room Gear to then grabbing brunch with friends sipping on a Bloody Mary!
Finally, what can we expect in 2022 from DARKROOM
More! We are on a real investment drive at the moment. Bringing in more stock as we are constantly selling out, more collections and more unique pieces. We are collaborating with a very talented latex designer to bring out some really cool new rubber gear.
So, there you have it. All you need to know from the brains behind the Darkroom collection!
With love team esmale!