While travelling around the US prior to attending the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago this March, I read one of those books sold especially for consumption on planes. I wouldn’t recommend it, exactly, but bits like this quote made me cringe in recognition:
“For years now I've kind of operated under an informal shopping cycle. A bit like a farmer's crop rotation system. Except, instead of wheat, maize, barley, and fallow, mine pretty much goes clothes, makeup, shoes, and clothes (I don't bother with fallow). Shopping is actually very similar to farming a field. You can't keep buying the same thing, you have to have a bit of variety. Otherwise you get bored and stop enjoying yourself.”
― Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic.
I didn’t identify with that book’s heroine, Rebecca Bloomwood, but I can’t deny I’ve got my own crop rotation cycle going on. Currently, it goes something like books, skincare, home renovation stuff, clothes, books.
So when I visited New York, my inner Rebecca insisted we head along to Glossier’s flagship store in Chinatown. It was time for a crop of skincare products to be harvested.
For those not in the know, Glossier is one of the most exciting beauty start-ups on the market. The direct-to-consumer retailer grew out of an online skincare and makeup chat community, Into The Gloss, when the moderators realised they could use their members’ copious feedback to develop a better kind of product.
Glossier products are accessibly priced, but the company is currently only shipping to the US, Puerto Rico, Canada and the UK and not supplying any other retailers, meaning it has the allure of scarcity on its side. I’ve been admiring its rave-reviewed skincare line since the brand was launched in 2014, and my visit was perfectly timed to coincide with the release of its first fragrance.
Finding the flagship turned out to be a bit of an adventure, however. I checked Google Maps four times before entering an unassuming doorway on a seedy-looking street. There were three other girls waiting by an elevator and we eyed each other up before asking: “Are you here for…” “Yeah, this has got to be it, right? “Surely. The sign’s right outside.”
As a group, we took the elevator upstairs to the penthouse suite. It was the right place, alright – we walked out into a fragrant pink world filled with women spraying scents, swatching make-up, sampling creams, snapping selfies and queuing for the counter.
The Glossier flagship is a bit like Cloud Cuckoo Land from the Lego Movie but with more smartphones.
Every item from the Glossier range is displayed gallery-style on plinths, allowing shoppers to test them, handle them and pose with them for Instagram as needed. There’s a bank of sinks in one corner to allow shoppers to wash off excess product, and salespeople in white lab coats roam around giving advice.
To order, you choose your products, fill out a form and join the queue before handing it over to a salesperson at the counter. Paying is card-only for added efficiency. The salesperson passes your form to a behind-the-scenes crew, who pick and pack the order and hand it back to you in a branded bag, complete with a sheet of stickers.
I ended up buying the fragrance, brow pomade, cleanser and four kinds of lip product. At the time, it felt like I was being incredibly restrained.
Rebecca Bloomwood would be proud.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 755 April/May 2018