Meet the FLEX!
TENGA’s newest release, the TENGA FLEX, is both functional and stylish; it’s also impossible to properly explain with only photos, so you have a few GIFs to look forward to. I spoke to the FLEX’s designer to get some insight into how the FLEX was designed, as well as to help explain what makes it unique in TENGA’s lineup!
**The following interview was originally conducted in Japanese — I’ve done my best to keep the translation as true to his original words as possible! -T.
First of all — who are you?
I’m Kai! I’ve been at TENGA for about 3 years, and I’m a product designer.
Tell us a little about the TENGA FLEX.
The FLEX is a reusable masturbator made of two parts: an outer case, and an inner sleeve. The sleeve is removable for easy washing and drying, and can even be flipped completely inside-out to ensure thorough cleaning. It’s also the first project that I’ve led as head designer!
Exciting! Could you explain how to use it?
When you first get the FLEX, it will be in a clear plastic case. Although this package can be thrown away, it was designed to also function as a storage case — it easily pops open and closed again, and can help to both keep the FLEX clean, and stop it rolling onto the floor in the middle of the night.
When you first open it up, you’ll find a stick attached to the cap — don’t worry about that for now, but it will come into play later.
Once you remove the cap, pour lotion inside and around the insertion point — a pouch of TENGA Hole Lotion is included, so you’re good to go right away. (For further uses, we suggest using TENGA Hole Lotion, since it’s formulated specifically to work well with the material used to make our products — and there are 4 variations of hole lotion, all with different features, so you can switch up your FLEX experience that way, too!)
There are a few ways to enjoy the FLEX — of course, it can be used for simple up-and-down stroking, and the case is soft enough that you can press and squeeze to directly affect the intensity and apply pinpoint stimulation where you want it. The ribbed shape of the case also gives it a special twisting movement, adding another layer.
The real showstopper, though, is when it spins — after insertion, covering the air hole at the end will create a vacuum sensation, just like with the Original Vacuum CUP. What makes the FLEX extra special is that when you do this, the whole case twists on its own!
Cleanup is really easy — just pull the sleeve out of the case and rinse it with water, then pat dry with a cloth — but you want to make sure it’s really dry before closing it up, so it’s best to let it air dry. Remember that stick on the lid? Pop the lid back, and boom — it’s a drying stand!
Since the lid closes to keep it clean for next time, any moisture trapped in there can cause some nasty stuff to happen, so proper washing and drying are essential.
Another great point to this stick is that it makes it really easy to put the sleeve back in the case — you can just pop the whole thing back together at once.
You said the spinning movement is unique to the FLEX — is there anything else that sets the FLEX apart?
The case! It’s made of an all-new material we’ve never used before at TENGA, specifically developed for the FLEX — flexible enough to twist, but still rigid enough to properly hold its shape. It has a matte look and feels smooth and soft to the touch, no rough or powdery texture. It’s easy to keep clean, and doesn’t pick up fingerprints or dirt.
There are two versions of the FLEX — what are the differences between the two?
Their names hint at the difference — Silky White and Rocky Black. The outer cases differ only in color, but the inner sleeves are very different in both the designs of the internal details, and the firmness of the material itself. The Silky White has softer material and subtler details, and the Rocky Black is made of firmer material with more pronounced textures inside.
Which do you personally prefer?
I prefer the Silky White.
Wait, no, the Rocky Black. Wait, no — I mean, the black version has more intense sensations… but visually, I like the white version better as a design object…
…do I have to choose?
…we’ll let you get away with it this time, since it’s your first product.
How long did it take to develop the FLEX?
From coming up with the initial concept through to the product hitting the shelves, the whole process took less than a year — it was much shorter than I’d expected. Of course, that meant some real scrambling and more than one late night, but it all worked out in the end.
What was the process for developing the FLEX like?
I had a few goals in mind from the very beginning — at the very core of the project, I wanted to create a reusable item with a removable sleeve that had a soft case. Aesthetically, I wanted simplicity; no words or anything printed on the product. I wanted it to look sleek and elegant. The shape of the case was designed first. The textures inside the sleeves were designed after the case was decided, to make sure that they would complement the shape of the case, not compete with it.
Were there many prototypes or variations during development?
We did make a few different prototypes using a 3D printer, but they really weren’t too different from the final result! I had quite a clear picture in my mind from the start, and we landed on the final design pretty quickly.
What was the inspiration behind the shape of the FLEX?
Origami! The way different folds create different shadows and shapes, and how those folds move with and influence each other. I played a lot with paper when trying to come up with the shape.
To whom would you recommend the FLEX?
I recommend the FLEX to people who want something elegant and stylish — and especially to people who think that adult toys are all graphic or explicit-looking. I hope they will realize that masturbation sleeves come in many different forms!
Is there anything else about the FLEX you’d like to point out?
The spiraling movement! It really is a totally different sensation from anything we’ve produced before. We also spent a lot of time making sure all the details were addressed, right down to the drying stand; we wanted to make sure we carefully considered every aspect of use, beyond just how it feels. I think it resulted in a product that is both fun to use and easy to maintain, and I hope everyone will love it!