Eloise Monaghan sells Honey Birdette to Playboy for $443m

honey birdette eloise monaghan
Image: Eloise Monaghan Instagram

Playboy last week spent $443,000,000 to buy lingerie and sex toy company Honey Birdette. Eloise Monaghan and then-girlfriend Janelle Barboza founded the label in Brisbane in 2006.

Eloise Monaghan said the inspiration for the brand came from her first-ever visit to a Brisbane sex store. Out shopping for a hen’s party gift, she encountered a sales assistant smoking a cigarette behind the counter of a Brisbane adult store.

“I thought there had to be something better.”

Within six weeks, the pair opened their first shop in Brisbane’s West End. Honey Birdette now encompasses 60 stores across Australia, the US and UK.

The stores helped revolutionise sex store lingerie. Those stores, supposedly designed to enliven sex lives, were once infamous for the ugly lingerie they stocked. Most offered a standard range of teddies in unflattering shades of red and pink. The more adventurous retailers sometimes offered a nurse’s uniform in small, medium and large or school girl’s uniforms up to size 26.

A glance over the Honey Birdette range shows how far we’ve come in under two decades.

Early on, Honey Birdette launched stores in Westfield centres Australia-wide, quite an achievement considering shopping centre’s long resistance to adult stores. The company nevertheless faced challenges with litigation between the founders and their major investor following the breakdown of Eloise Monaghan and Janelle Barboza’s relationship.

Bras N Things and Sanity Music owner Brett Blundy invested in Honey Birdette after walking into the company’s Chermside store in 2010.

The danger of the Female Nipple

Honey Birdette frequently experiences run-ins with regulators for their racy ads. Critics frequently deride the advertisements as soft porn.

In 2020, the company censored the Australian version of an ad showing models including Eloise Monaghan and wife Natalie baring all while painted in the colours of the rainbow flag. An uncensored version of the ad appeared in the US and UK.

The problem was caused by the ever-dangerous female nipple. Australia’s Ad Standards define nipples as ‘strongly sexualised or inappropriate nudity’ on women but not men. Eloise Monaghan suggested at the time that ads featuring same-gender couples also attracted less favourable treatment than straight couples.

“Apparently when the gays kiss it’s not as acceptable. Why can we have a man and woman embracing in a perfume advertisement, but when it comes to two men or two women, it’s socially unacceptable and it’s being sexualised?

“We’re not in the business of just creating controversy. We’re in the business of creating love, and these new ad regulations are stricter than they’ve ever been.”

Eloise Monaghan says she does not believe in demographics and designs the brand’s product range or anyone.

She said about the brand’s newest swimwear range, “The Honey Birdette customer can be an 82-year-old woman or a 17-year-old, a gay man or a transsexual. Our customers are so varied.”


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A post shared by Eloise Monaghan (@eloisemonaghan)

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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