LONDON — Wellness in the U.K. has been penetrating the mainstream and evolving far beyond matcha lattes, yoga — and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In the post-lockdown era, with people having had the chance to slow down and to rethink their life priorities, spending time and money on taking care of oneself has become top of the agenda.
The definition of self care itself is also rapidly expanding to include sexual well-being, mental health and spirituality — moving far beyond the surface-level beauty products and green juices it started with.
It’s a lot more common to now talk about the power of manifesting, the healing powers of crystals or the sound bath hosted by one’s favorite activewear label without people rolling their eyes or dismissing any of the above as “woo woo.” And this isn’t just happening in markets like L.A., which have traditionally pioneered all things wellness, but across the world.
In the U.K. — where the wellness conversation has traditionally been met with much skepticism — there’s a new wellness and fitness members club slated to open in Notting Hill, offering everything from dance cardio to manifesting workshops and face fitness classes, while Selfridges’ ground floor space just hosted a crystal pop-up, alongside buzzy accessories brands like Jacquemus and Amina Muaddi.
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“People are happy to speak more freely about how the pandemic has affected them. They took more time for themselves and looked to gaining new skills,” said Kirstie Gibbs, founder of jewelry brand Alkemistry which worked with Selfridges to transform part of its accessories hall into a “magical crystal apothecary.”
“We launched our Cinta collection to offer a wearable reminder for people to take time out of their day to practice manifestation. It’s positive to talk about the benefits that can come from healing stones, symbols and pieces that remind you to practice positive thoughts,” Gibbs added.
A host of social media influencers and content creators, who first became known in the fashion and beauty spaces, are also pivoting into wellness post-lockdown, sharing more personal content online, promoting products and stories with deeper meaning attached to them and launching new brands addressing different strands of wellness.
One of them is Estée Lalonde, a London-based creative who recently launched Mirror Water, a platform dedicated to all things self care, selling products ranging from journals to bath salts and publishing content on everything from burnout to hustle culture and therapy.
For Lalonde, there was a clear opportunity to create this new brand and an online space “where people feel heard and seen,” given this shift in perception about all things wellness.
“In my industry, I have noticed that there has been a huge shift in people’s attitudes toward self care. Generally, people do seem to be taking their personal well-being more seriously and finding interesting ways to do that from the comfort of their own home. The pandemic allowed time and space for us all to realize how fast we were going, and how beneficial it would be to slow down and become more in tune with ourselves,” Lalonde said.
On a personal note, focusing on the wellness space also meant an opportunity to create something she was truly passionate about; offer authentic content, and differentiate herself at a time when the influencer landscape was rapidly shifting.
“Since I began creating content over 10 years ago, I’ve always felt that it was my calling, in a sense, to discuss and share my mental health journey online.
“The real reason I think my online community grew was because of how honest I was about the ebbs and flow of life — not necessarily because of my skin care tips,” said Lalonde, who has more than 694,000 followers on Instagram, as well as a popular YouTube channel. “One of the great things about the early days of YouTube was the authenticity, transparency and honesty. I think we’re heading back to content more like this.”
Responding to this new landscape, Lalonde created Mirror Water to provide a more “realistic approach” to wellness, one that doesn’t ask you to eat clean and work out all the time, through online articles; a “Monologues” video series where different personalities get to share their inner thoughts, and a debut product range that focuses on bathing as a self care ritual and includes a bath oil, bath salts and a body balm.
“Our products are there as a tool to help you on your journey and will hopefully help take the edge off a long day,” Lalonde added.
As the conversation around wellness evolves and new brands and concepts crop up, sexual wellness is seen as the last piece of the puzzle.
Kate Tikhomirova, an established London-based fashion influencer, founded Quanna alongside Dmitry Loktionov to address the subject by offering all-natural, CBD products.
As people open up to new definitions of self care, there’s immense opportunity in adding sexual well-being to the formula, according to Tikhomirova, as the market is filled with “subpar products and ingredients which contradict the meaning of intimacy.”
The company’s debut product, Oomf, is a water-based, natural lubricant that is sold online and at retailers like Selfridges. The idea is to expand distribution across Europe and the U.S. in 2022 and use the products as a tool to educate customers around sexual health and start open, stigma-free conversations.
“Due to poor sex education either at school, or even the lack of guidance from primary physicians, many of us have disregarded this portion of our lives. But now we are all reevaluating our priorities and topics like intimate care are becoming less stigmatized because after two years of physical disconnection, we as humans are craving intimacy. So there’s immense potential in the intimate care space,” said Tikhomirova, foreseeing a future where the market offers better quality products and society offers less judgment and shame when it comes to shopping for such items.
As the market evolves, it will also become more common for creatives to talk about their latest Gucci bag alongside deeper conversations about their mental health, sexual experiences or spiritual practices.
“Often a conversation begins by talking about a red lipstick, for instance, and ends in discussing personal confidence. I love that connection and for me beauty, fashion and wellness have always been a type of connector for discussions about more personal experiences,” Lalonde said.
Tikhomirova concurred, arguing that it’s due time women explored all the different aspects of their personalities instead of overly curating their online brand identities.
“Fashion will always be a cornerstone of what I do, but it is not all of who I am. I’m also a sexual being and have a passion for plant power, so I intend to use my platform to educate about CBD while sporting a fashion-forward look, because why not? [We should] stop filtering according to what’s ‘on-brand’ and be allowed to evolve past those curated labels.”