Three stores that get it exactly right.

Jo Horgan zoned in on the uptown end of the Australian beauty market with her hit chain of Mecca Cosmetica emporiums. Now she is tackling the downtown end with the new concept Kit.

Designed as Mecca Cosmetica’s hip little sister in collaboration with Robyn Coe-Hutshing, the founder of The Studio at Fred Segal, Kit’s highly accessible price points range from 3.95 Australian dollars, or $3.10 at current exchange, for a Natural Products Skincare Tablet up to just 120 Australian dollars, or $94, for a pH Advantage Effective OEC Serum.

The concept was launched as a single stand-alone store in the trendy Sydney suburb of Paddington in May 2005. But although it took nine years to open 16 Mecca Cosmeticas, in just 18 months, Kit is already a six-strong chain. A second stand-alone opened in Chapel Street Melbourne, along with four concept Kit stores within Myer department stores in three states (Mecca Cosmetica has two similar concepts within Myer’s upscale rival, David Jones).

In skin and body care, Kit’s brands include Mario Badescu, Korres, Hei Poa, Cowshed, L’Annine, Pré de Provence and Davies Gate. Color lines include Scott Barnes, Pop, Delux and Jemma Kidd Makeup School, along with Fresh Scents and Stacked Style fragrances, Archipelago Milk soy candles, Mudlark soaps and Mystic Lips lip balms.

Already embracing a range of lip glosses, Kit’s rapidly developing house brand got its first international airing this Christmas, when the new Kit Fragranced Series arrived at Fred Segal. The range’s three fragrances were created by Kit creative director Coe-Hutshing and ingredients include Australian native Kakadu plum, lilly pilly and quandong. There’s a Body Wash, Body Lotion and Body Oil (all 250 ml., ranging from 20 Australian dollars, or $15, to 35 Australian dollars, or $27.

The shop interiors were designed by the same firm behind Mecca Cosmetica, which is Melbourne’s Meacham, Nockles & McQualter. By contrast to Mecca’s futuristic stainless steel and white interiors, however, the Kit stores are deliberately designed down, with an art-studio, jumble-sale vibe: bare concrete walls and ceilings, wooden floorboards, an eclectic, mismatched mix of stainless steel and wooden cabinetry and merchandising units, and quirky lamp shades fashioned from plastic kitchen colanders.

“This is unisex and item-driven, so you can build your own kit,” says Horgan. “Mecca is more cosmeceutical care, blockbuster color, with high levels of service. Kit is like a self-service candy shop or a cult beauty deli.” —Patty Huntington

Tim Swart and Mirko Mangum, two employees of New York skate apparel brand Zoo York, launched Univ, an action sports specialty store in Encinitas, Calif., in October with the goal of connecting the dots between action and lifestyle apparel. The 850-square-foot shop, located roughly 30 miles north of San Diego and just one block from the beach, is the first in what could be a handful of global locations.

Mangum, who is vice president of sales for Zoo York, and Swart, a freelance marketing consultant for the brand, already have signed distribution deals for their existing line of jeans and graphic T-shirts and hoodies—also dubbed Univ—with manufacturing companies in Germany and Australia. Deals with companies in Japan and Australia are in the works. “We have a vintage California aesthetic,” says Swart. “We’ll use the store as a launching pad to broadcast that further….We’ll probably have an international store before we have another domestic one.”

In the meantime, the partners will double the size of the shop in February, expanding their women’s offerings to encompass a full half of the store.

“Right now, women’s [apparel] is half of our business in sales, but only takes up about a sixth of the store,” says Swart. Best-selling women’s brands include the store’s private label, Stüssy; Soda, and 80%20 footwear.

Despite plans for worldwide domination, the shop is loyal to its small-town roots. Miss Wax, the shop’s best-selling accessories brand, is handcrafted by “a local girl who works at a nearby cafe,” says Swart. “There’s this small-town creativity here, and it’s fun to be a part of it and harness it.”

The store’s decor is classic California seaside—with an edge. Wood floors and display pieces are charmingly rough-hewn, lending the shop an easy, unpretentious vibe. “In the Fifties and Sixties, a lot of California places were either midcentury or ski lodge [in design],” says Swart. “This store looks like your grandma’s attic…if your grandma happened to be a Hell’s Angel.” —Emili Vesilind

São Paulo’s hottest new fashion venue is acervoBenjamin, or “Benjamin’s Stockroom,” a multibrand store with forward apparel from dozens of new local designers. Just over a year old, the 3,767-square-foot store, in the chic Jardins shopping district, opened with a wide variety of less-conventional apparel at affordable prices. As such, it’s a big draw for the 20- to 35-year-old set.

“Other São Paulo boutiques don’t have our array of forward designers, which, along with our prices, is why we mainly cater to young women wanting a more cutting-edge look,” says owner Patricia Ruas.

The store’s glass façade makes its interior seem transparent and inviting. Its white-painted wood floor and gray walls are intentionally minimal so that clothes provide color and decoration. They are displayed on counters, racks, mannequins and hangers suspended from nylon cords, dangling at different lengths from the ceiling. Looks on hangers and mannequins are rotated weekly, to change the decor and guarantee all 46 designers equal visibility.

For the moment, acervoBenjamin features just one established designer, Lorenzo Merlino, and four who had runway shows during São Paulo Fashion Week: Merlino, Neon, Jefferson Kulig and Karlla Girotto. The others are newcomers.

The highest-ticket items are from Neon, a maker of vibrant silk kaftans ($500), dresses ($925) and skirts ($800). Its current collection features stylized peacock or cityscape prints. One forward Merlino piece is a voluminous, orange knit blouse ($125) with metal-chain shoulder straps and backstitching that creates a vertical-striped look.

Other items in the store include a sleeveless, high-neck Fifties-style black serge dress with white side snaps ($100) by Nina Becker; a voluminous, navy-blue viscose dungaree dress ($160) by Juliana Jabour, and a blue-and-white-striped nautical-themed polyester strapless dress ($90) by Adriana Degreas.

The store’s only imports are $300 APC jeans from France and $1,000 Botkier handbags from the U.S. First-year sales for the store were at just less than $500,000, say market sources, and are expected to pick up. —Mike Kepp

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