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Retail Road Show

We asked our global reporters to hit the streets in search of innovative store concepts, in terms of beauty and beyond.

We asked our global reporters to hit the streets in search of innovative store concepts, in terms of beauty and beyond. Here, from an appointment-only hipster emporium in London to a well-being boutique in Los Angeles, are the results.

Skins 6/2 Cosmetics
Las Vegas

Skins 6/2 Cosmetics mission is to be a retail haven for luxury goods in their classic form. “It is not about a name brand. It is about craftsmanship. It is about detail,” says Marie Poelmans, who founded Skins 6/2 in Amsterdam with her husband Michiel 10 years ago. With seven stores in the Netherlands, the couple decided to open Skins 6/2 Cosmetics in Las Vegas after being approached by hotel and casino The Cosmopolitan to enter its collection of unique, best-of-class stores. The duo, who moved with their six children to Las Vegas to oversee the store (the children are the six in 6/2 and they are the two,) has carefully selected 50 beauty brands that they believe fit the bill. “There aren’t that many that make the cut,” says Michiel. Among those that have are Ellis Faas, which was started by a Dutch makeup artist of the same name; Jouer, the brand built around a system of connectable packaging; Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrances, and skin care from Dr. Sebagh and FIX Malibu. Prices range from $2.99 for a Love and Toast Chap Stick to $400 for a fragrance from By Killian. The store’s staff is trained on all brands and the service philosophy is simple: highlight products to suit the specific demands of each customer without resorting to the hard sell. “The brands we have are niche, but they’re not complicated. It is just a matter of telling their story,” says Marie. The couple doesn’t want to grow Skins 6/2 Cosmetics so big that it becomes impersonal, but expects to eventually put stores in key U.S. cities. “We want to have a handful of stores where we know our customers and our staff,” says Marie. —Rachel Brown

3708 Las Vegas Boulevard S., 89109; 702.698.7625

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Super A Market

Conservative modern Japanese fashion brand Tomorrowland opened the store Super A Market in February to cater to customers looking for a more original selection of goods. The concept, says a spokesman, is “fun with clothes,” but clothes aren’t the only things on offer here. While the store is designed in Tomorrowland’s signature simplistic aesthetic, the items on offer are surprisingly colorful. From Balenciaga knits and Dries Van Noten sequined jackets to handmade buttons and rolls of ribbon, Super A Market’s selection is decidedly eclectic. The second floor consists of both a bar space and floor-to-ceiling displays of perfumes, candles, cosmetics and Bedouin blankets, which create an intriguing mix of the modern and the traditional. Totes made of recycled plastic shopping bags are displayed alongside skirts and sandals from luxury European brands. “It’s more compact than a European department store, laid out like an American supermarket,” says the spokesman. “But it’s like no other store in the U.S. or Europe. The second floor is almost like a pharmacy, but includes rugs, general goods, candles and tea. It’s a casual mix of healthy, casual items that customers can enjoy all in one space.” —Kelly Wetherille

3-18-9 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku; 03.3423.8428

Free City Supershop Supermät
Los Angeles

Upon entering Free City Supershop Supermät, it seems perfectly appropriate to encounter proprietor Nina Garduno dancing enthusiastically to music reverberating through the 3,000-square-foot shop in Hollywood. Often labeled hippie, Garduno and Free City’s playfulness is evocative of the “make love” innocence of the Sixties and Seventies. (The Joni Mitchell poster, Yoko Ono books and brand sayings like “Life Nature Love” and “Sending Light” help draw the comparison.) But Garduno’s retail vision is very much grounded in the present, a reaction against the same-old, same-old that permeates the retail scene. Free City is a jolt of energy, with its dazzling colors, strong sounds and dizzying array of things to look at, touch and even taste. “It has a sense of fun that has been missing in retail for a long, long time,” says Garduno. The preponderance of the store’s inventory—and all the inventory is on the floor because Garduno doesn’t believe in hiding things—is comprised of Free City hoodies, T-shirts, sweats and more that are hand-dyed and printed, which explains prices that are in the $75 to $300 range. However, Garduno’s merchandising philosophy of showcasing goods that are created with care and foster a sense of community isn’t limited to apparel. She sells bikes by Mission Bicycle Co., almond milk by LifeFood Organic and fragrance by L’Oeil du Vert. She’s also keen on collaborations with other companies, including Burton, Vans and Seilin & Co., to spread Free City’s wings. Explaining why Free City has quickly become Angelenos’ favorite label for everyday wardrobe choices, Garduno effuses, “I really believe—and it sounds corny—it is because of the love that is put into these clothes.” —Rachel Brown

1139 North Highland Avenue, 90038; 323.461.2226

Mademoiselle Bio

From e-tailer to chain store, for Mademoiselle Bio founder Violette Watine, there was but one small step. Watine founded a Web site offering organic products in 2006. Soon after, she opened her first store in Paris, and last May saw the operation merge with the former Naturalia Beauté Bio. A chain of eight stores was formed, offering a well-edited selection of organic cosmetics and well-being products chosen for their efficacy and ethics. The boutiques have glass storefronts and modern, airy interiors. “Well-being is also part of how we design our stores,” says Watine. Each store features at least one treatment cabin, in line with the company’s emphasis on well-being and human contact. “The human angle is very important,” Watine says. “All our salespeople are trained, so they know how to advise the customer and build a relationship, which brings her back time after time.” —Alex Wynne

Various locations

Smart Store

Smart Store is the store that’s not a store. Inspired by a Japanese concept, it’s a members-only space that, for a small annual fee, offers consumers samples of up to five products a week from various categories, including beauty, food and drink. For the brands, it’s an opportunity to test and prelaunch products on a captive audience, and get feedback in return. “We are a buzz platform for brands,” says co-founder Michaël Emica. More than half of Smart Store’s offerings are beauty-related; thus far, brands such as Kiehl’s, Dermalogica and Polar skin care have participated. “At first, we had to approach the brands, but now 30 percent come to us directly,” Emica says. The concept, which opened in June, is located near Boulevard Haussmann. In a minimalist black-and-white space, members are welcomed by friendly, helpful staff . The brands rent space for one month and provide samples. Additional services to brands include product feedback studies and monthly events to build excitement and bring members back. Members pay about $14 annually to sample up to five products per week. Although the products aren’t for sale, some brands include coupons with their samples, and local retailers for each are listed. So far, Smart Store has 2,000 paid members, about 70 percent female, aged 20 to 35, and curious: “It’s not about getting freebies, it’s about discovering innovative new products,” Emica says. —Alex Wynne

8 Rue Blanche, 75009;

The Detox Market
Los Angeles

Romain Gaillard and Valérie Grandury were constantly asked about their favorite products. So the co-founders of the organic skin care brand Odacité decided to open a store showcasing their recommendations. The result is The Detox Market, which opened as a temporary location last year in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. The store offers only one product per category that Gaillard and Grandury can wholeheartedly endorse. Gaillard wanted to curate as much as possible because stores have a tendency to overwhelm him—and he thinks it’s a common complaint. “I was at a really high-end store in Paris, and I was trying to select chocolate, but they had 50 brands of chocolate. There were too many choices. There was so much marketing. I didn’t know who to trust,” he recalls. At The Detox Market, there are products in 15 categories. They’ve been vetted for ingredients (they have to be nontoxic and heavily organic), effectiveness (as compared with natural competitors) and validity (Gaillard’s preference is to meet the creators of each brand, but phone calls occasionally suffice). The selection process can take many months. Brands that have successfully made it through the process include Rahua hair care, Acquarella nail polish, Honoré des Prés Paris fragrances and Kusmi Tea. Prices range from $4.50 to $175. So far, the concept seems to be working. The Detox Market has become permanent in Venice and is planning locations in New York and San Francisco. —Rachel Brown

1524 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, 90291; 310.909.7277

LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Café)

Late Night Chameleon Café, which launched in November, is the brainchild of John Skelton, who’s a former creative director for the London-based men’s online store Oki-Ni and a former buyer at Harrods and Selfridges. LN-CC carries men’s and women’s avantgarde designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester, along with rare music and art and photography books—in a sprawling, underground space that’s located off the beaten track in Dalston, a gritty area of east London. But once customers make their way down an anonymous alley to enter the appointment-only store, there’s an otherworldly feel to the boutique. Skelton commissioned set designer Gary Card to create the store’s interiors, which feature corridors designed to look like an indoor forest, a men’s wear room with stark concrete walls and floors, and a dedicated club space. “We had always wanted to create a physical space where we could express ourselves,” says Skelton, who notes that while LN-CC may specialize in non-mainstream merchandise, business is already strong. “A very large number of [consumers] understood and got on board straight away with exactly what we are trying to do, with everything from the appointment set-up through to the left-field brands that we carry,” he says. “A lot of consumers generally don’t get given enough credit.…I think a lot of the whole ‘commercial’ buying and brand style is just [an excuse] for not really having any vision.” —Nina Jones

18 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EZ;

@cosme Store

Japan’s popular cosmetics review and rating Web site, @cosme, opened its first physical store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku in 2007, merging elements of online networking, professional counseling and traditional retail. There are now five such stores across the country. “Each store displays and sells products according to their respective ratings and reviews on the site,” explains a spokeswoman. “The concept is basically that it’s OK even if customers don’t make a purchase—we just want them to be able to have some fun while checking out and testing new products.” Displays are changed at least once a month, depending on the online rankings of products in various categories, including cleansers, supplements and vitamin drinks, hairstyling products and makeup. Each store also includes at least one trial corner, where customers can test products and immediately rate and comment on them via the @cosme Web site, while employees oversee counseling stations to help customers find products for their unique needs. “If people are just looking to buy something that they’ve already had before, then the Internet is a great place to get it, which is why we also have an online shopping site,,” the spokeswoman says. “But with cosmetics, you really don’t know what you’re getting unless you’re able to try the products before buying something for the first time, so physical stores will always be important in that regard.” —Kelly Wetherille

Lumine Est Shinjuku, 3-38-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; 03.5369.3423


A former stable-block, albeit one that belonged to a noble Roman family, is an unlikely spot for a new perfumery, but Campomarzio70 is no ordinary store. Intended to meet the demanding requirements of fragrance connoisseurs, the boutique is reminiscent of a contemporary gallery space and the type of traditional perfumery that used to line Italy’s tony streets. “It’s for perfume lovers who want to discover, learn and experience olfactory art,” says owner Valentino Di Liello, who opened the store after noting clients in his two high-end perfumeries in Rome were increasingly asking about niche fragrances. To that end, Campomarzio70 features 20 brands, including Grossmith from Britain, Vero.Profumo created by the anticonformist nose Vero Kern, and Yosh from perfumer Yosh Han. The space is divided into salon-style corners to host events, art installations and even food and drink tasting sessions inspired by olfactory families. And for those wishing to avoid the scented crowds (read Russian and Arab clients who prefer a more intimate setting), there’s a VIP enclave complete with dedicated consultant. —Kerry Olsen

Via Vittoria 50/52; 39.06.679.8384

Omaha, Nebraska

The Web is great for finding anything you want at the click of a mouse. Traditional stores are great for providing personal service. is attempting to merge the best of both worlds. Founded as a cosmeceutical e-tailer 13 years ago, jumped from virtual to brick-and-mortar last year with a 16,500-square-foot store in Omaha. The store stocks 170 brands and sells 90 percent or more of each brand’s product lineup, which means 7,000 stockkeeping units are available at any given time. Joel Schlessinger, the dermatologist behind, estimates about 75 percent of sales are from skin care, with Obagi, Skin Medica, NeoCutis, NeoStrata, Lumiere, La Roche Posay and Kinerase among the bestsellers, and 25 percent from makeup, with Colorescience, Jane Iredale and Glo the most popular. The staff numbers about 25 people, half of whom are aestheticians. (A spa room off ers services.) Staff members rotate between Schlessinger’s dermatology practice and the store to deepen their knowledge of people’s skin care concerns. In its first year, Schlessinger expects the store to generate at least $1 million in retail sales. —Rachel Brown

2929 Oak View Dr., 68144; 402-697-6565