A lunch experience raises our consciousness around Zero Waste.

A lunch experience raises our consciousness around Zero Waste.

This past month we were lucky enough to attend a lunch hosted by Package Free Shop and Britain-based #zerowaste restaurant Silo.  Lauren Singer of her blog, Trash is for tossers and CEO of Package Free, found a friend in Silo’s Douglas McMaster online, bonded by their mutual passion of contributing less waste to our environment.  

After years of online communications they finally came together at the Ftizcarraldo in Brooklyn for limited seatings of a 6 course plant-based meal. Prepared by the Silo team, they used fresh and local ingredients sourced from Brooklyn Grange and Blue Hill Farm.

Throughout the meal we were educated on how the dishes were prepared using only a handful of elementary ingredients, that were then transformed into complex and rich bites.  This evolution was made possible through chef McMaster’s innovative techniques - i.e. our third course was lined with a compost treacle; created by reducing composted unused vegetables down to their natural sugars.  Each course was not only waste free but carbon negative through offsetting efforts.

Package Free contributed repurposed Eileen Fisher textiles for the napkins, bathroom towels, and each diner would only have one fork and knife to reduce water usage.  The beautiful tulips decorated above the dining tables were eventually consumed, paired along with homemade cheese curd in the last seating. As Mcmaster stated, “Humans must be tactful to use the same creativity that caused waste - to reduce it”.

Besides a delicious lunch, we weren’t sure what to expect.  How do socially conscious retailers like Package Free make more of an impact in their community outside of their brick and mortar/online presence?  In this case, the combined knowledge and passions of Silo and Package Free Shop partnership created a truly unique, enlightening and inspiring meal.

Click through each photo block to relive the experience with us!

Will Art Save The Store?

Will Art Save The Store?

The Color Factory, a NYC “Experience” set out to explore the colors of the big city. Was the experience just plain fun… or pushing us to see our world differently and expand our horizons?

Glossier’s Millennial-Pink, Tech-Based Beauty Community Really, Really Works

Glossier’s Millennial-Pink, Tech-Based Beauty Community Really, Really Works

Tech is changing everything, retail included. At Riley Group, we’re always studying retail technology and how it enables ecommerce brands to really make a splash in their brick-and-mortar locations. This week, retail guru Olivia Horvath will walk us through cult-like beauty startup Glossier’s tech-driven path to cosmetics queendom — and a breathtaking showroom in downtown Manhattan. 

Step Into Glossier’s World: The Showroom

When you first enter Glossier’s showroom at 123 Lafayette Street, you’re greeted by a young woman dressed in a millennial-pink jumpsuit. The employee “showroom editor” guides you up an elevator to the brand’s penthouse showroom. 

Already, the experience is unique. I know I’m going to encounter something special . 

When the elevator doors open, I step into Glossier’s world. It feels like I’m inside the mind of a beauty-lover’s fantasy land — and I am. The space is bright and white with a minimalist design. There are accents of Glossier’s brand colors, millennial pink and bright red, throughout the store. 

Entering Glossier is a multisensory experience. I smell fresh rose, thanks to scented Byredo candles. The music is familiar and makes me feel comfortable and a part of. 

Of course, this is all by design. Glossier’s business model is all about building a community around its products. 

A Community Steeped in Self-Love and Shelfies

Glossier, a beauty brand launched in 2014, was started by Emily Weiss, who’s now the company’s Insta-famous CEO. 

Weiss started the very successful beauty blog, Into the Gloss. Into the Gloss launched in 2010, showcasing the beauty routines “Top Shelf” of diverse, successful women.
The online blog series focuses on the beauty products and routines that make women of all shapes and sizes and skin colors feel beautiful. Requisite pics of well-stocked medicine cabinets are adorably called “shelfies”, a play on pop culture’s “selfie”. 

Weiss crowdsourced knowledge from her blog and infused it into every aspect of the makeup and beauty brand we now know as Glossier.  When the company first launched, it began with a totally-perfected, quite small line of products. For sale were a moisturizer, lip balm, a tinted moisturizer, a concealer, and beloved eyebrow gel “Boy Brow”. 

By keeping the product list short, Glossier redefined essentials. The products became must-haves with the help of targeted social media advertising and a rapidly growing, cult-like following. 

The line has expanded to include lip stains, eyeshadows, a perfume, night serums, and other products. Still, the collection is well-curated and quite small when compared to competitors’ offerings. And the price point is moderate. While not drug-store cheap, no one item breaks the bank. 

The brand eagerly interacts with followers on Instagram and Twitter, and has built a community there. Some Glossier fans are famous (think Beyoncé), but many others are just like me. We are all give the same attention and clout. 

Glossier has mastered — and perhaps even helped define — millennial aesthetics, both online and in-person. I really felt that come to life as I wandered the floor of their flagship showroom.

Makeup as Something Worth Showcasing 

The Glossier products themselves are perfectly merchandised on top of acrylic and glass displays, surrounded by unobtrusive mirrors. You can view and test the products right on the showroom floor, but it doesn’t feel like a regular department store. It feels like you’re in an unpretentious, interactive art gallery. It’s fun, it’s special, and it’s tactile. 

Display cases for the brand’s products are simple but stylized, and surrounded by BRRCH floral arrangements. Soft pink, white, and bright red flowers add a vibrant-but-feminine touch to the intentionally understated showroom.

Glossier, in its spirit of community and womanhood, often collaborates with other female designers when designing its space. BRRCH’s principal, Brittany Asch, has long worked with the brand, and the two companies have a mutually beneficial, publicized-on-Instagram relationship. 

Sales Associates Rely on Tech, But Know Their Makeup

The showroom “editors”, clad in their pink jumpsuits, eagerly chat with customers about their beauty needs and wants. They’ll aide you in crafting your own haul of products via handheld tablets. I feel like I’m in a fancy pharmacy. 

While tech moves the customer through the purchasing funnel, it does not dominate the conversation. It is used by the sales associates as an aid. I still feel the human touch to my in-store experience. 

Upon Checkout, An Iconic Shopping Pouch

Once I am done exploring, shopping, chatting, and testing, I can check out using my online profile. All of the products I’ve added to my virtual cart are then pulled, prepared, and given to me in the signature pink, bubble-wrap style pouch.

This pouch is so much more than a shopping bag. It is a symbol that proves you’re part of Glossier’s network of confident, beautiful, diverse women. This little pouch has helped shape the Glossier community.  Around since 2014, it is adored by consumers for its plethora of uses. Glossier lovers use the pouch as a toiletry bag, handy wallet, even a fashion-forward clutch.  

Also provided upon checkout: Stickers! These cute, playful stickers are half-branded, half-just-plain-fun, and are more free marketing for Glossier. They’re always adorned on my phone phone case. I want to be a part of Glossier’s club, and the brand makes it easy, fun, and cute to join. 

Glossier For All 

While Glossier is intune with the millennial lifestyle, the brand is neither ageist nor close-minded about beauty ideals. The products are streamlined and classic, but still fun and modern. I use them, and so does my mother. 

Anyone can. That’s the vibe the brand gives off. 

Glossier has long-supported women of all different backgrounds, ages, and shapes. I really feel that when I shop, whether it’s online or in-store. Glossier promotes self-love and body positivity through carefully executed campaigns, but I also feel it in the showroom and in every last detail.

#Glossier isn’t just a hashtag, it’s a community — and a damn good business model.   

My trip to Adidas.  The store Nike would have built in the past.

My trip to Adidas. The store Nike would have built in the past.

After having a good experience at the new Nike flagship, I was excited to hit the new Adidas flagship up on 5th avenue.  There was quite a bit of media hype over this store and I was interested in comparing.  While I really liked both store experiences, my top line insight is Adidas is more prescriptive of a traditional flagship store right down to its location.  It was big and bombastic and dramatic.  In my opinion, Nike's choice of SoHo, it's community strategy, it's service strategy, and the nuanced expressions of the strategy in the design, are reflective of a greater level of sophistication in the experience putting Nike one step ahead of Adidas.  Adidas is the store Nike would have built in the past which is probably testament to Nike's experience and resources as a global brand.

That said, the Adidas store is impressive and captures the unique street edge of the Adidas brand. What really struck me was the product design and collaborations.  I found myself constantly being pulled into the product on the shelf and there's a lot to look at with four floors and multiple categories. While Nike chose to champion Running, Soccer and Basketball, Adidas has a wider range of product categories and as a result offers more choices.  I'm not a fashion designer, but their product collaborations are good and the Pharrell Williams product is a must-have kind of hot.

The use and branding of technical materials is both impressive and engaging to the touch. Adidas brands and labels a lot of technology which you eventually tune out but it's always there to reinforce their expertise.  One of my favorites fabrics is a paper material used on jackets.  It's lightweight, tough as nails and elegant all at the same time. 

Both Nike and Adidas are great merchandisers but I noticed a unique layering technique at Adidas.  Displays were like mini-scrap books, layering photos, signs and a range of product to bring athletes and product stories to life.  

One of the most unique features of the store is a bleacher section built into the stairs.  It's not an unexpected element, especially for a "stadium store" concept, but the positioning of the grand stands is both useful and entertaining.  The area will serve the store well both as a resting spot for weary 5th avenue crowds as well as a mini-stage for store events and product launches etc.  From the street one looks up to the fans facing them as if the street is the playing field.  A unique and fun perspective.

The music is, of course, spot on and put me in a great mood.  While Adidas doesn't have a strong service statement they've teamed up with a professional training company and certified trainers roam the store talking to guests about whatever sport they play offering advice on how to train better, deal with injuries and of course what products can help them be a better athlete.  Like Nike they utilize technology to evaluate a runner's stride in order to make product recommendations.  Overall, the staff supporting all of this was very energized and seemed genuinely excited to be there.  

Both stores seem to be new chapters for Nike and Adidas as they battle it out in NYC. I'd say both customer experience are well thought out down to the details and both transport you into their brands.  As a fickle customer they've both convinced me and won me over.  Despite all the technology and promises of personalized data points, it's the product design I can't live without.  I now have products I "must have" from both brands to complete my look, not to make me a better athlete (they can't fix this :) but I appreciate their effort.  



Nike Soho put me 'in the game, on the floor, in the match.'

Nike Soho put me 'in the game, on the floor, in the match.'

This season, thanks to the Nike running store in the Flat Iron district, I've been happily sporting a few pairs of Nike's and I've made a few satisfying trips to that location where I first noticed Nike's new commitment to service.  So, when I read about the new Soho flagship I was so excited to get over to see this new breed of Nike stores.

In perfect form, when you walk in your senses are overloaded and you're transported to what feels like a pro-level athletic event.  The booming music puts you in the middle of a half-time event at an NBA game but you're not looking down from the bleachers, you're looking up from the floor.  A massive video wall welcomes you in and draws a clear line in the sand.  Nike SoHo is 'at your service' in four very specific ways..which they list.  While the store reinforces the commitment to service, it's the employees or "Athletes" as they call them who do a great job delivering on the promise.  

This new flagship seems to mark a new chapter in Nike's story departing from the brand temples of the past.  It is literally larger-than-life occupying four floors in SoHo but it's more authentic and it means business. It's kinetic and feels more active and in-motion rather than the staged drama of it's predecessors.  As the guest, you're no longer the spectator.  You're 'in the game, on the floor, in the match.'  Teams of mannequins tower over you like the 'gods of the sports' without being specific to any one athlete. Could that be you? Video puts you in a moment or you see your reflection in the surfaces and you're part of the picture.  The store interacts with you passively and actively.  You're among the athletic gods but you're next to them, rubbing elbows, comparing your height to theirs.  Product (as technology) is hero and reinforced around every corner.  Yet while the soft apparel product is positioned as technical, but approachable, the technical product is positioned as soft and human. They've brilliantly gone anti-tech with the Nike / Apple watch and presented it in human non-intimidating super simple terms that stand out against the technical apparel environment. 

In the last year, I've done a lot of work around guest experiences that connect authentically with the community and that's exactly what Nike is trying to do here.  When I spoke to one of the Athletes she said, "We are here to make sure you guys in the community, in Soho, have what you need." So while it sits in a global tourist destination its message is local.  Welcome Soho.  

It was an inspiring visit to the Nike Flagship SoHo. I felt genuinely welcomed, engaged and inspired. Have a look at the photos and see for yourself but you cannot have this experience through any digital means.  It's only through a visit that you will you have this experience.  Isn't that the bar that all retail stores need to hit today?

Comments from my Nike Running Store experience - Flat Iron District

One thing that immediately struck me, beyond the must-have styles and wonderment of how they continue to advance the design of tennis shoes, was the onslaught of personal service.  It is clear that Nike has implemented a service program defined by a "personal" level of service for everyone.  I'm not a known 'big spender' nor do I call ahead and ask for a personal shopper, but that's exactly what I got at the Nike Running Store and I walked away feeling like I now have a go-to store and guy who would do anything to make sure I'm happy with the shoes on my feet.  

What did he do?  What you would expect however he actually did it.  He got to know me, stayed with me through dozens of considerations, offered advice and a bottle of water and shared information on the local Nike running and work-out clubs.  He made it clear that this was "Nike...at your service."  Bottom line, he be-friended me in a normal not too overly friendly or weird sort of way and then wrapped up my shoes in a great presentation and sent me on my way. 

My 'Creative Morning' at Etsy HQ

My 'Creative Morning' at Etsy HQ

I joined a group called Creative Mornings.  It's a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. The organization is a bottom's up community comprised of local chapters across the globe. Their manifesto is:

Everyone is creative.

A creative life requires bravery and action, honesty and hard work. We are here to support you, celebrate with you, and encourage you to make the things you love.

We believe in the power of community. We believe in giving a damn. We believe in face-to-face connections, in learning from others, in hugs and high-fives.

We bring together people who are driven by passion and purpose, confident that they will inspire one another, and inspire change in neighborhoods and cities around the world.

Everyone is welcome.

This month the theme is "Fantasy" and Randy Hunt, the head of design at Etsy spoke on the power of Fantasy in storytelling comparing a famous architect's premeditated and well designed funeral with Kanye West's Saint Pablo tour highlighting the power of design to transport us into fantastic places. Randy Hunt is an amazing guy and Etsy headquarters is proof of his skills as the architect of the brand's expressions.  

Here is a peek into the public floor (6) where Etsy Labs and the Etsytorium both live.  The curation of art and craft, the Etsy voice in signage and design choices as well as the functionality of the space made it a morning to remember.  

High Street Flagship Stores Contracting

High Street Flagship Stores Contracting

In a recent article published by the Business of Fashion, rents on major high streets in New York and Hong Kong are dropping.  On New York's Fifth Ave rents dropped from $3500 to $3000 a square foot and vacancies are up to 15.9% from 10% earlier this year.  Brands are pushing back on high rents and looking for ways to cut budgets.  While they are not abandoning the thought of a flagship store they are looking for less expensive "cooler" locations.  

This is yet another sign of pressure on the retail store model needing to become cheaper and more nimble for brands and for consumers.  Again this makes me wonder, with the pressure of online sales on retail stores, are developers, brands and store designers reacting fast enough with solutions that move product in the real world in different ways? 

(read the full article:  "Why retail flagships are no longer hot properties," BOF, Nov 18, 2017)