MILAN — Whether looking for a new makeup brand to test or a simple cup of coffee, the Espressoh pop-up store installed in 251 Elizabeth Street in New York this week will have beauty aficionados covered.
Dubbed “OhBar” and running through Sunday, the café-like temporary store is the first IRL retail project the Italian indie beauty label has set up in the U.S., a market that is gaining increasing relevance for the brand. According to Chiara Cascella, who founded the company in 2018, over the past year sales increased from 2 percent to 20 percent of total revenues.
To signal the brand’s further ambitions Stateside as well as its ultimate mission of taking Italian beauty across the world, Cascella came up with a brick-and-mortar format that could reflect her home country’s culture of conviviality while offering the holy grail of modern-day retail that is experience.
“In these years we have had the opportunity to experiment with different retail activities and it has always been exciting to see our community interacting with the brand in real life,” said Cascella, referencing for example last year’s project turning some newsstands in Italy into temporary stores.
“OhBar represents a sort of milestone in this sense, a place where the combination of design and tradition best expresses the values of the brand,” said the founder, who’s also planning to expand in Australia in addition to the U.S.
For the pop-up project, Cascella started to scout locations in New York remotely in spring. “Along with the Lower East Side, NoLIta is the best neighborhood in Manhattan to represent the brand, trendy and young but not predictable,” she noted.
Designed and developed by Roman design agency Naessi Studio, the store features furniture inspired by traditional Italian cafés of the 20th century reinterpreted with a contemporary edge via materials such as aluminum, which was favored also for its benefits in terms of lightness and recyclability.
In addition to Italian coffee, the venue offers Espressoh’s full product range, which quickly rose to cult status in Italy thanks to its unfussy spirit. This ethos is in sync with the on-the-go lifestyle of Millennials, the generation Cascella is part of and that represent the core — and most loyal — target of the company.
As embodied by the brand’s name — a pun on coffee, which nods to the key ingredient in its vegan and cruelty-free formulations — Espressoh is best known for its easy-to-use and fast approach to beauty routines, conceived as an alternative to brands banking on vast assortments and professional techniques.
Hence, Espressoh products are intuitive and conceived for multiple purposes. Cascella first launched matte lipsticks that caught the market’s attention with their caffeinated textures, aromas and names, as well as the successful ABC liquid concealer and OhMyGlow foundation available in just four shades that could be adapted to different skin colors and types.
With prices ranging from $16 to $30, the accessible line also comprises the Intenso mascara, the Hey Broh eyebrow fixing gel, the Sweet and Sour eye shadow palette, the Hi Liner liquid eyeliner, the Ohily oil cleanser and the newest Dewy Latte moisturizer and glow booster.
If in the domestic market the ABC concealer is the bestseller, Cascella said that the American customers are particularly keen on Glassy, a blush in a transparent jelly texture that reacts with each person’s pH to offer a customized rosy effect.
The OhBar pop-up in New York marks the first leg of an itinerant project, which will touch base in Milan’s artsy Brera district next month, followed by iterations in Naples, Turin and Rome by the end of the year. The format will roll out in more cities in 2023, too.