Aside from the odd “Italian for Beginners” podcast, most of us probably haven’t taken too many courses since college. But for those in Los Angeles, it’s becoming easier to dip into new skill sets without committing any evenings to a Learning Annex classroom—in fact, it’s as easy as shopping.
While after-hours shopping events are considered de rigueur just about everywhere, a few LA retailers are adding an educational element to the concept. High-end erotic haven Coco de Mer was one of the first to do so, with a program of “salons” in place for the past six years. Helmed by some of the world’s top sex educators, these intimate gatherings school participants in the erotic arts—like this month’s lessons in blow jobs and bondage, led by respected instructor Midori.
Santa Monica shoe boutique Il Primo Passo has started offering courses dubbed “Walk Like a Diva,” where runway coach Queen Jazzmun helps partygoers craft a strut as sassy as that intimidatingly high pair of Louboutins. Eco-salon Vert has been known to hold courses in makeup artistry, while newcomer Beckley is planning to enlist swimwear designers and stylists for bikini fit workshops.
These sessions obviously help spur spending—Il Primo Passo’s Beth Whiffen reports that her newly confident pupils contributed to a spike in heel sales following the inaugural walking tutorial. But above all, they help independent boutiques connect with clients in an increasingly impersonal retail environment. “It’s a great way of building community and credibility,” explains Justine Roddick, co-founder of Coco de Mer. “Our customers feel safe here, and we’re able to help them dispel some of the many myths and bad information that exists about sex. The salons are full of lively discussion, entertainment and fun—they’re a great evening out for everyone involved.”