Curated retail: BeautyMART

Editing, editing, editing. As any stylist or magazine editor knows, what you leave out is as important as what you leave in. And so in retail, we’re seeing a similar thoughtful curation taking place in order to stand out from competitors. And that’s exactly the premise of BeautyMART, a beauty retail space newly installed on the 3rd floor of Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge. Millie Kendal (of Ruby & Millie fame) and Anna-Marie Solowij (former Vogue beauty director) have assembled their favourite beauty recommendations by cherrypicking only the very best of what the brands offer.

The store opened just before Fashion Week but I wanted to see it for myself before writing about it, and I haven’t been able to get down there until now. What I found after following the arrows from the escalator (a thoughtful touch – thank you Harvey Nichols) was an interactive area full of delightful, playful finds. Merchandising is hugely important to me because I’m an old school shopper. I buy very little fashion or beauty online. I love shops, I like picking things up and it’s important to me how things are displayed. If you have too much amazing stuff together, people feel overwhelmed and won’t buy, but if everything’s too dull, well obviously, that’s not engaging. So you need a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar and it’s a lot harder than it looks to create this successfully.

So what I love in this space is it triggers the urge to buy, especially as a lot of this product is so affordable. The most fun, colourful stuff; the nail and lip products are by far the most exciting. I loved discovering Peggy Sage, an American nail brand from 1925 with the vivdest colours. But as a lip balm nut, I was most tempted by all the pots and tubes – both familiar and not so. Then there are the little tools, culty skincare and hair brands (Elnett, Camay… CAMAY!!) and just the feeling you’re in a foreign market or local drugstore; like if you don’t buy it now you might never see it again. Plus also, there’s a very appealing hands-off approach to selling, so that although my salesgirl was lovely, she wasn’t pushy at all, so I lingered longer.

What I felt was missing was the branded make-up. Yes I was delighted to find MyFace MyMix foundation (I usually have to buy that online) but I was expecting also maybe some choice picks from say MAC, Clinique etc. Possibly it’s too early and this will come later, or possibly it’s considered to be in conflict with the ground floor beauty hall, but I would have liked to see which individual products Millie and Anna-Marie would have selected from those brands. This would likely make me want to try something I hadn’t considered before. That aside, God, I’d so much rather buy my beauty regulars (Carmex, nail polish remover) here than use the bloody self service tills at Boots. Human interaction wins every time! And for the younger Harvey Nichols customers, well, this is like Christmas come early, surely?