Design of new product, website a statement about our commitment


Robin Maryland,  president, ActSensuous
Robin Maryland,
president, ActSensuous

This week was one of the most eventful in the 13 years ActSensuous has been in business.  On Wednesday, we launched a brand new website, coinciding with the introduction of an all-new product — Act IV.

Longtime readers know that I keep this blog separate from the business end of ActSensuous.   In other words, I write the blog for your (and my own) entertainment, and that’s its purpose.  It has always been for everyone, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re an ActSensuous customer or not.  (The vast majority of you aren’t, including those who are the most loyal readers and commenters.  And that’s perfectly OK.)

Many of you have written to me stating your respect and appreciation for my keeping the blog at arm’s length from the company.  (And I appreciate that you appreciate that.)  But, at least a couple of times, I’ve broke my own rule.  Always for a good cause though.

This is one of those cases.  I thought you might like to know the back story behind the launch of Act IV and the new website.

Inauspicious beginnings

I conceived and created ActSensuous in 2001 after discovering I could no longer find the kind of pantyhose I’d always loved.  I had been buying only 100 percent nylon, completely sheer-to-waist pantyhose for years, and all of a sudden this style was nowhere to be found.  I looked everywhere, even online, but at the time, they just weren’t around.  As this was 2001 — the very heyday of the “bear” legs movement (new readers, see explanation in the “About me” section here), it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

ActSensuous customer and friend, Sofie, wearing Act IV Black.
ActSensuous customer wearing Act IV Black.

I finally met the buyer at my favorite department store and asked her about this.  She told me the manufacturer her store was getting these pantyhose from was going out of business.  Just another casualty in what would become an all-too-frequent occurrence in this new era of women preferring to go bear- legged.

Long story short (you’re welcome), I and my partner contacted that manufacturer and offered to buy the last of their inventory.  ActSensuous was born.  My thinking:  If I was distraught about no longer being able to buy 100 percent nylon, completely sheer-to-waist pantyhose, maybe at least a handful of other women were feeling the same way.  I never imagined at that time that hundreds of thousands of women (and men) actually do love this style.

For the first few years, it looked as if I had grossly overestimated the love and desire for — not just this style — but for pantyhose of any kind … period.  Nevertheless, fully understanding the gamble (if not insanity) in starting a pantyhose business during the very height of the bear legs movement, I was determined to try to lead the cause to bring back all-nylon, all-sheer pantyhose — even if singlehandedly.

Somehow, the product I acquired from the manufacturer that was going under wasn’t exactly what I was used to buying.  (Still not sure how THAT happened.)  The quality just wasn’t there, but I was not going to be deterred.  I called our product simply ActSensuous after the name I chose for my company, and at that time, I never dreamed we’d have anything but this one product in three colors (Black, Nude and Suntan).

Enter Act II

But after two years of struggling with a pretty cheap product in a bad market, I created a new product to replace the original.  I called it Act II (thought that was pretty clever) .

Act II was a huge improvement over the original line.  And for the next 10 years, it served its purpose well.  Act II are 100 percent nylon, completely sheer-to-waist pantyhose.  What does that mean?  They are made of nothing but nylon (no Lycra/spandex), and have no gusset panel.  But even though they are sheer-to-waist, I never liked that reinforced area that sits just below the waistband.  It’s called the finger band, and its purpose is to prevent one from puncturing the fabric with the thumb when putting the pantyhose on.

Professional model, Kayla, wearing Act IV Suntan.
Professional model, Kayla, wearing Act IV Suntan.

Since they are all-nylon, we made Act II with a slightly tight knit to prevent sagging.  Act II were wildly popular, and even though I was living with the finger band, there was just one thing that I felt I hadn’t accomplished in Act II.

The reason I always loved 100 percent nylon pantyhose is because of the sensual feel of the fabric moving on the leg (and in the hand of the person touching the leg).  If you don’t know, or can’t imagine that feeling, you ought to investigate this.

To me, there is nothing sexier.  The ActSensuous style of pantyhose is decidedly delicate.  Wearing ActSensuous is like flirting with trouble.  There’s a sense of vulnerability — for the wearer, and for the one who wants the wearer.   The pantyhose have to be treated as the beautiful, delicate, delicious little number they are.  What could be more feminine?

Act II are like that, but that slightly tight knit we used was for more practical applications.  They are delicate and they move.  But not much.

Act III takes stage

So, in 2009, I invented Act III.  It had all the design features of Act II, except they were made in a slightly loose knit.  For a while, Act III captured the hearts of everyone.  Our customers from nearly every country in the world (even Bangladesh), told us that Act III were the softest, silkiest and most comfortable pantyhose they had every worn.  Oh yeah, and the sexiest.

Sofie in Act IV Light Taupe.
A customer models Act IV Light Taupe.

Voila!  I had done it.  Now, customers had a choice: Sexy but practical (Act II), or really, really sexy (Act III).  My work was done here.  Oh wait, not so fast.  Eventually, we experienced some issues.

First, the nylon fabric of Act III was so delicate, the pantyhose were not standing up to the production process.  They were being ripped to shreds.  The answer appeared to be making the panty area out of a slightly more durable nylon mesh fabric, which was supposed to blend with the rest of the product.  It’s pretty much invisible in Cinnamon, Nude and Suntan, but in Coffee and Pink, that mesh area stands out a little.  Black was something else altogether.  It just seems too grainy in places.

Act II changed too.  An unintended cross-stitch crept into the production line, causing a slight reinforcement where the panty and the legs join.  A couple of batches came out that way, but we didn’t know about the issue for a while because the new inventory was integrated into old inventory.  It wasn’t until a few customers asked what the deal was that I even learned about it.

A new door opens

For a while, I was depressed.  My dream pantyhose had flaws.  Under the circumstances, I felt I could no longer state that our pantyhose were “completely sheer-to-waist.”  Let me take a minute here and say that we must have the most loyal customers in the world.  Whenever someone alerted me to an issue in either product, of course, I immediately made adjustments, and our customers were amazingly understanding and supportive.  And loyal.

I vowed to fix the issues, but there was a bit of resistance within our plant in North Carolina surrounding how things were to be done.  Even after repeatedly emphasizing the changes in the production process I wanted, it was a hit-or-miss process in getting Act II and Act III fixed to my own satisfaction.

Ultimately, I saw this as an opportunity.  Since I couldn’t rely on the process for fixing Act II and Act III, I’d just ditch the two lines altogether and start over with a brand new product.   Really, it was the excuse I needed to create Act IV — my vision for the most beautiful, decidedly feminine and sexiest pantyhose available anywhere in the world.

After another missed opportunity for a special campaign honoring Valentine’s Day 2013, I sat down with my buddy, Deb R., Director of R&D, and her assistant, Salina D., and explained my dream of Act IV.

No way!

Both women were totally receptive, but both are also more experienced (and more realistic) than me, and they politely told me the last thing I wanted to hear:  “It can’t be done.”

Professional model Yesenia demonstrates the 100 percent nylon, completely sheer-to-waist  design of Act IV (here, in Nude).
Professional model Yesenia demonstrates the 100 percent nylon, completely sheer-to-waist design of Act IV (here, in Nude).

They said “We really just can’t (translation: ‘shouldn’t’) make 100 percent nylon pantyhose in a slightly loose knit and completely sheer-to-waist in an ultra delicate fabric.  But, if we added a little Lycra to the fabric … maybe.”

Were they kidding me?  They know how I feel about this.  But they said “Just a little spandex.  It’ll make them more durable.”

I might be a bit stubborn (who, me?), and I am the president after all, so we somehow agreed to try anyway.  We came close a few times, but I was never in love with the color, or the texture, or the knit, or the look, or the feel.  We kept trying.  And trying.

I can’t tell you how many times NC sent me samples (I’m in Florida).  When we finally all agreed on something that was close, I’d have a dozen or so pieces made and send them to a few loyal customers/guinea pigs.

I am so grateful to them (they know who they are) for their honest feedback.  I was wise enough to realize I was too close to the process.  I either liked everything or nothing.  I needed the feedback of other girls (some of them professional models).  Their input was so helpful because it gave me the conviction I needed to continue pushing R&D and Quality to go back to the drawing board.

Way!

There were times even I believed Act IV would never happen.  But thanks to the open-mindedness, dedication, hard work and positive attitudes of Deb and Salina, we finally did what we weren’t supposed to be able to do.  We made Act IV to the exacting standards of my longtime vision.

It ended up taking 13 months before we could launch Act IV.  Along the way, we missed Christmas 2013, Valentines Day 2014 and even a March 2014 Mrs. America beauty pageant.  But Act IV are here and all is right in the world (my world anyway).

Act IV are made in a 100 percent premier nylon fabric, and are completely sheer-to-waist.  There is no finger band:  Just a one-piece luxurious nylon yarn from waist to toe for complete evenness in fabric and shade.

We even improved the waistband, making it softer, flatter and more comfortable.

I fully realize that my vision for the perfect pantyhose may be worlds apart different than most people’s.  I know Act IV aren’t for everyone.

All I can say is Act IV are everything I always wanted them to be.  They are the product I dreamed of when I created ActSensuous 13 years ago, and I am proud to offer them to our devoted customers everywhere in the world.

Website

Whenever I need expertise in a support area, I reach out to our customers first.

A longtime customer, Bridget, a professional graphic designer who owns her own studio, has done many projects for ActSensuous.  She’s created some beautiful full-page ads for the program books that are handed out during the beauty pageants we sponsor.

Bridget also created the original artwork of various grizzly bears ripping up our pantyhose for my blog posts, “Why bears don’t wear pantyhose,” playing on my whole “bear” legs terminology.  Bridget also designed the Act III packaging.

Professional graphic design artist David Joseph's packaging cover for Act IV.
Professional graphic design artist David Joseph’s packaging cover for Act IV.

Another, relatively new customer, David, has contributed artwork to ActSensuous, too.  David, also a professional graphic artist who owns his own business, M28create, (dmjdesigner.com), designed the Act IV packaging.  It is the most beautiful and classy packaging we’ve ever used.

And, David gave me a great price — four pairs of Act IV for his wife, Sheri.

Then, he “volunteered” to design our new website.  I was so excited about launching Act IV, I wanted a brand new website to usher it in.

I’m so glad David started when he did because it ended up taking him three months to finish, timing it perfectly with the arrival of Act IV.

After seeing the beautiful packaging design David produced, my thinking was that David would improve the look of the original site.  I had no idea his thought was to create a full ecommerce website.  I couldn’t understand how it was taking him so long, but I knew he was doing this mostly as a favor, and figured he was simultaneously working on other projects for actual paying customers.

Professional model, Melissa, wearing Act IV Suntan.
Professional model, Melissa, wearing Act IV Suntan.

Have you seen the new website?  It is awesome.

I’m still learning how to use it.  Finally, it gives us some control, as in the case of if/when we temporarily run out of a size in a particular color.  Before, we had no way of alerting anyone in real time, meaning customers would order something we didn’t have, and then I’d have to tell them we were temporarily out, and make other arrangements or resolutions.

David is the total professional.  He is easy to talk with, very patient and completely devoted to his work, sometimes staying up until 3 a.m. working on several sites at a time, and making a bunch of little adjustments every time I think of something new I want for mine.  The guy is a saint.

My sincerest thanks to David for creating a website worthy of ushering in Act IV, and reflective of the commitment ActSensuous has to waging the good fight against the bear legs culture.

To our customers all over the world, I appreciate your positive and supportive comments about Act IV and our new website.

We’re all in this together, and together, we’ll bring pantyhose back to prominence.