A look inside the magic of Glossier and its new pop-up shop in Chicago’s West Loop.
Glossier coming to Chicago feels oddly like a visit from the Pope. The New York-based beauty brand is globally beloved, but there are only two permanent showrooms in the world today, and they’re located in—guess where—New York and LA. After months of teasing, Glossier opened its first brick and mortar pop up in the Midwest, and even though its only temporary, it still feels like we’ve won some kind of prize.
I visited Glossier’s new showroom on the tail end of opening weekend, and much to my chagrin, it still felt as though they only just opened the doors. But, I bumped and squeezed and excuse me’d my way inside anyway.
Glossier’s new address is 114 N. Aberdeen Street, inside what was once an old firehouse in Chicago’s West Loop.
The showroom uses the existing architecture instead of covering it; going so far as to cut a mirror in half to avoid plastering over the wooden stairs nearly protruding from the wall. Like the brand, the room’s design is pink and white all over and practically made for Instagram, but the walls are decorated with photos by Chicago-based photographer by Deun Ivory. I remark to a young woman in a pink lab coat, “You guys fit right in.”
“I know!” she says, shaking my hand and introducing herself as Cam. Cam works for Glossier in LA and came to Chicago to help the company train new editors. “You need all the help you can get,” I say, looking around at the packed bodies grabbing for products. She nods with wide eyes as if you say, “You’re telling me.” On opening weekend, the store is so packed that security has been brought in for crowd control, and there is a line out the door and down the alley on the side of the building.
When you buy from Glossier, you feel as though you’re buying directly from the manufacturer—a very cute, forward-thinking manufacturer. Products range from $4 to $60. The packaging is simple and straightforward, and the products arrive at your doorstep with a sheet of fun stickers and some free samples inside a reusable pouch made of pink bubble wrap.
The showroom provides a similar experience, except the products are no longer “buy before you try.” All of the bottles and tubes on the floor are testers. Despite the sheer volume of people collecting in the showroom, everything looks and feels clean. Glossier sales associates, called “editors,” are decked in Glossier’s Pantone C pink lab coats. When you’re ready to checkout, find an editor. They will whip an iPad out of their back pocket and check you out on a mobile POS, and your products will magically appear in a pink bag with your name on it. (And, you still get your pink bubble wrap pouch, samples and stickers!)
The pop up also has local makeup artists in a hype. “I thought it was a total dream!” said makeup artist Jessica Monzalvo of the new showroom. “Cuteness every time you turn. The flowers added such a nice fresh, renaissancey touch. I think it’s exciting to see a fresh idea hit Chicago. We’re a dope city and it’s nice to see brands recognize us.” Monzalvo has worked in Chicago for three years. Her clients include Nike, Adidas and Lifetime TV, to name a few, and her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Marie Claire Turkey, Elle Mexico and more.
Her educational platform, Makeup Fix, which she describes as “hair and makeup workshops for the soul,” operates in both Chicago and Mexico to help budding artists prepare for careers in the beauty industry. Monzalvo has collaborated with Glossier in the past and uses the company’s products often. You can check out her work here.
“I love that [the products] are simple, practical and staple. No nonsense makeup,” she said. Her favorite product to use with clients: “Cloud paint!!!! It is the best thing since cheese fries. I absolutely love how instantly beautiful it makes you feel!” (cloud paint, $18)
So, why the craze? My theory about Glossier’s success is two-fold.
The closer a company is to its customer, the better the products will be. Why? Because beauty companies in today’s market need to solve our problems to stand out.
Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Into The Gloss and Glossier, spent the better part of a decade writing and learning about how women of all different backgrounds do beauty. What better way to learn what your customers/readers want in their makeup bags? Through its editorial arm, Glossier identified a gap in the beauty market: Simple beauty products for women who want to wear natural makeup, keep their glow and take care of their skin, but don’t want to spend a ton of time doing it. Glossier has become the brand that solves our problems; want a sunscreen that doesn’t make you shiny? Done; want a brow gel that goes on easy, stays all day and looks natural? Done and done; want to use your fingers instead of carrying around a thousand little brushes? Done, done and done.
“In many ways, I see our physical products as pieces of content,” said Weiss in an interview for Fashionista. “Even though you could describe Glossier as a products company or a tech company even, I actually think that maybe the most accurate definition, if you had to have one for the company, is that we’re a content company and we always have been.”
Not only does Glossier solve your problems, the brand is kind to you. A common strategy used by many beauty companies is to make you feel less so that buying more of their products feels like a solution. Meanwhile, Glossier just wants to be your friend. These are actual Glossier marketing emails:
Subject line: A bathtub is inside this email
Subject line: Good morning.
The majority of Glossier emails have nothing to do with products, but I click anyway. And even when they do center around a product, the copy is cheeky and to the point; Glossier knows that its target customer is busy and wants no fuss.
“We’re not out to make you into someone else or complicate your routine,” reads Glossier.com.
Who would have thought that trying to improve your target buyer’s self-esteem would earn you a posse of loyal customers? I would rather buy from brands that tell me I look good thank you very much, and not from the brand that tells me my split ends are showing.
This concept comes from the brand and not from the marketing department. Glossier thinks of its products like pieces of content, and every product is like an article composed only of a lead and a nut graf: here’s what it does and how it will not annoy you. Simple and easy.
Here are a few photos from the Glossier pop up: