Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Visit to the Glossier Showroom

I've fallen behind on my promised Glossier reviews (surprising no one, I'm sure), but here's the first of two Glossier-centric posts that I hope will make up for my dereliction. I've been testing Glossier's new mascara, Lash Slick, for the past month, and I finally set foot in the Glossier ~*~showroom~*~ earlier this week. This post will be an account of my time in the showroom, and I'll review Lash Slick later this week. I promise!

It's behind glass because it's a SHOWROOM, GET IT?

The Glossier showroom started as a pop-up shop, but became a permanent fixture in NYC's trendy Soho neighborhood at the end of 2016. Despite my fairly frequent visits to New York, I always found an excuse not to see the Glossier mothership. First, I almost never go to Soho, because I'm not a teenage model, a fashion journalist, or a trust-fund "DJ/actress." Second, I suspected that the showroom experiencebecause everything is an experience these dayswould entail close quarters with aggressively friendly employees, and nothing triggers my social anxiety like attentive salespeople. I like my shopping excursions to be as anonymous as possible, thanks; I hate when capitalism disguises itself as friendship. (Yes, I'm tons of fun at parties!) Third, I'd used store credit to buy almost all the Glossier products I wanted, and I wasn't terribly interested in swatching what remained. This week, though, curiosity got the better of me. If any beauty brand has succeeded in capturing the millennial zeitgeist, it's Glossier; wasn't it my duty as a still-youngish beauty blogger to enter the blush-pink womb?

The showroom is located on Lafayette Street, right at the border of Soho and Chinatown. It's a great shopping area even if you don't have much money (though especially if you do). After browsing Muji (neon gel pens!), Blick Art Supplies (will I never find a water-soluble pen for my embroidery?), and a little covered market featuring local artists/crafters/cheesemongers, I headed toward the brownstone that houses Glossier:


When I walked in, a young woman in a pink jumpsuit asked if I was there for the showroom, then pointed me toward the elevator and directed me to the penthouse level (eyeroll, I know, but the elevator button literally says "PH," so I can't blame Glossier for that). I hope the showroom employees trade off this doubtless annoying task! Riding up to the fourth floor with a few tourists, I noticed that the elevator was scented. I texted my boyfriend about this and he replied, "May your experience be carefully curated."

I arrived at 12:30, just 30 minutes after the showroom opened, but it was already bustling with customers. I can only imagine how hot and crowded the small room gets on weekend afternoons (Yelp reviews confirm my suspicions), and I'd strongly recommend visiting as close to opening time as possible. The space was pretty much what I'd expected: well-lit, painted floor-to-ceiling in millennial pink, perfumed with Byredo Burning Rose candles, and crammed with glass-encased product displays and tables for swatching and sniffing.


Right in front of the elevator is an alcove that conveys a decidedly vaporwave aesthetic:


I was a little disappointed to find that the flowers were fake, though I suppose installing fresh orchids every morning would be beyond even Glossier's budget. Frankly, there was something comforting about seeing the seams behind the tapestry: the fake roses, the scuffs and fingerprints on the pink paint, the wear and tear that New York pollution and foot traffic inflict on the most carefully arranged spaces. I also appreciated the large sink in the corner: it was nice to be able to wash off all the swatches and the ambient grime of the city.


Glossier's other concessions to uninstagrammable reality include plenty of benches where bored husbands, boyfriends, and fathers can sit and check Twitter:


The non-dad clientele was predictably young, though even younger than I'd anticipated: lots of women in their late teens and early twenties, with the occasional set of parents. The pink-jumpsuited employeeswho are unaccountably called "editors"reflected the customer demographics: not a single salesperson looked over 25. Not for the first time, I wondered about the curious discrepancy between Into the Gloss readers and Glossier customers. I've been reading ITG almost since its inception, and I'd estimate that the average ITG reader is around my age (i.e. an older millennial, now in her late twenties or early thirties). But Glossier targets a younger, less beauty-savvy customer. If you've been reading ITG for years, you probably don't need a starter sunscreen and moisturizer, yet that's exactly what Glossier offers. Which is not to say that people my age and older can't enjoy Glossier's offerings: my favorite makeup look is no-makeup makeup with a bold lip, and Glossier provides everything for that look except the bold lip. But a glance around the showroom made it very clear on which age group Glossier's branding is most effective.


Speaking of employees (sorry, editors), there were a lot of them. Like, possibly too many. Their main task is to ring up customers on the iPads that they carry in the back pockets of their jumpsuits, but most of them seemed to have nothing to do but hang out and chat with each other. I understand that their youthful pastel presence is part of the ambience, and that the showroom is often much busier than it was that day, but I don't think I've ever been in a store with so many salespeople per customer. To their credit, they were not at all pushy; in fact, I felt that I was interrupting their conversations by asking for help. A customer experience somewhere between those two extremes would have been nice.


Despite my assumption going in that I had all the Glossier makeup I wanted, a swatching session determined that Lidstar in Lily and Generation G in Like would have to come home with me.

The green swatch is Lidstar in Herb, which looked very patchy. Would not recommend. Lily is more purple and sparkly in person!

Actually buying these items, however, turned out to be surprisingly complicated. I approached one of the employees and asked if I could use my store credit toward my purchase. She told me that there was no easy way to do that: I'd have to get out my phone, log in to my Glossier account, order the items, specify that I wanted store pickup, actually enter the showroom's address just to make sure, and place the order, which she would then fetch for me. Couldn't be simpler! I did all this, but of course I'd forgotten my Glossier password and had to reset it, and the whole process ended up taking several minutes. Considering that a huge part of Glossier's appeal is the affiliate link they give to every new customer, it's bizarre that the showroom hasn't worked out a smoother system for applying store credit to in-person purchases, especially after one and a half years in business.

After completing my purchase, I took the elevator back to the ground floor, feeling that I'd spent a pleasant, if unremarkable, 20 minutes. Would I recommend the showroom to a visitor to NYC? Maybe. If your main purpose in going there is to try Glossier products in person before forking over $18 for a liquid eyeshadow or tiny lipstick, then knock yourself out. But if you're mainly curious about the customer experience that the Glossier wizards have conjured up, I'm not sure you'll come away enchanted. Some things just look better on Instagram.

21 comments:

  1. The Glossier showroom looks a little like my worst nightmare. Tiny and filled with a million salespeople. I mean, the Apple store still freaks me out. Let me wander, dammit, and make it clear where I can pay.

    The store credit hijinks makes me wince, because that's something that should have been ironed out ages ago.

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    1. When I peeked into the stairwell and saw that employee lying in wait, I actually lost my nerve for a few moments and had to walk down the block and back. I'm nowhere near as socially anxious as I used to be, but environments like the showroom (and Apple stores, for that matter!) really bring it all back.

      The store-credit shenanigans baffle me, too. It's almost as if they're trying to discourage customers from using credit at all...

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  2. Interesting. Can't wait for your review of Lash Slick. Most of the reviews have been really positive, but the corresponding pictures aren't so nice - lots of lashes 'bending' in strange directions....

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    1. Spoiler: I really love Lash Slick, though it's not for everyone (I prefer a very subtle lash). For the record, I haven't experienced any bendy eyelashes!

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    2. Thanks. Is it inky black and does it remove easily? I also like a subtle lash!!

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  3. Glossier calling their salespeople 'editors' is the most pretentious thing I've read in a long time. And those jumpsuits!

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    1. The jumpsuits are...a lot. Though they're clearly working for Glossier's brand image, because I recently saw a comment on Glossier's instagram asking if the jumpsuits were for sale!

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  4. I haven't read the whole thing yet because I have to run out the door, but Blick is probably the wrong place to get a water-erasable pen. If you don't have any big box craft stores nearby keep en eye out for smaller sewing shops!

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    1. Good to know, thanks! There's a Michael's near me, but they don't have water-erasable pens either. At this point, I might just try ordering one from Amazon--do you have any recommendations?

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    2. Boy do I! For air/water erasable pens my absolute favorite is this: https://www.amazon.com/Sewline-FAB50027-Air-Erasable-Fabric-Pen/dp/B0083JM7VU
      It's a little pricey, but it's an incredibly smooth rollerball pen, so it's ace for fine lines and rougher fabrics without wearing out like a felt-tip marker would.

      If you're willing to use an iron/hair dryer/clothes dryer instead of water, the Frixion line of pens are my current favorite. They're relatively inexpensive, come in multiple colors (especially handy for freehand sketching on fabric, so you can switch colors as you finalize your design/fix mistakes instead of having to wait for water to dry), last until you erase them (most good water-erasable inks are also air erasable, like the first pen above, which can mean redrawing if you don't tend to knock out projects in one sitting), and are easier to find. I've seen them at Target, Staples, Officemax, etc. The biggest problem I've noticed with them so far is that they can leach the dye out of fabric when you go to erase the lines, so you should make sure to test them on any new fabrics before you get started. Personally though, they make up for it by preventing me from being caught with only a fabric pen when I need to write something down, something that's occurred way more often than I care to admit.

      https://www.amazon.com/FriXion-Erasable-10-pack-Assorted-32454/dp/B01KLLPYXK/ref=sr_1_3_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1528841043&sr=8-3-spons&keywords=frixion%2Bpen&th=1

      Those are the ones I have, that same listing has a ten pack that isn't an add-on only item. But again, you probably could find those locally. I've seen them sold as open stock from time to time, good if you only want to buy one to try out.

      Aside from those two options, I've used water-erasable mechanical pencils and soapstone pencils, but both of those options are finicky enough to only really be worthwhile on fabrics that are too dark to show ink. (Bonus tip: white ink fabric marking pens are not worth it. The lines are always streaky assuming the ink shows up at all and they dry out faster than you can say "this pen is bullshit".)

      I would steer clear of pens like these: https://www.amazon.com/Dritz-Disappearing-Ink-Combo-Pack/dp/B001B9I1Q4/ref=pd_sim_201_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B001B9I1Q4&pd_rd_r=bdc5f07d-6e8d-11e8-857f-05b419bab463&pd_rd_w=fbkFO&pd_rd_wg=dEQYB&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=7967298517161621930&pf_rd_r=CEAXR6C4F7B6ESC46PPM&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=CEAXR6C4F7B6ESC46PPM&dpID=41KYF9RZ4dL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=detail

      https://www.amazon.com/Dritz-Dual-Purpose-Marking-Blue/dp/B00A2H1A3W/ref=pd_bxgy_201_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00A2H1A3W&pd_rd_r=c53ea0e7-6e8d-11e8-8b4e-81248bc33edb&pd_rd_w=vpIxH&pd_rd_wg=JGIfr&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3914568618330124508&pf_rd_r=Y7N70B5CXTP66F9Z57B3&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=Y7N70B5CXTP66F9Z57B3&dpID=318k3dMP3QL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=detail

      because they tend to dry out fairly quickly, and the tips wear down and fuzz up pretty fast.

      Sorry for the massive comment...embroidery is one of my favorite hobbies and I love being able to help people out with it. I hope this helps though!

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    3. Ahhh thank you so much! This is exactly the information I've spent months pursuing in vain! <333

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  5. coffeeatpemberleyJune 11, 2018 at 1:53 PM

    This was really interesting to read, and although I'm kind of into "curated" stuff and the whole aesthetic surrounding glossier and similar brands, I think I wouldn't feel too comfortable visiting the store/showroom. I think I'm not cool/trendy enough when I'm visiting fancy/pretentious stores (even though I shouldn't care and sales assistants should be nice because I can decide who deserves my money). So I enjoyed the saltiness in your post. Your boyfriend's text reply is brilliant as well, by the way.

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    1. Ever since my mom and I were kicked out of Bergdorf Goodman's Comme des Garcons section eight years ago for taking a discreet photo (but actually for not looking rich), I've avoided fancy stores. That said, I didn't find Glossier particularly fancy or pretentious. If anything, it was a little dingier and less curated than I expected, which I didn't mind!

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  6. Thanks. Now I have to have it, and I have to find another product so I don't have to pay for shipping charges to Canada....thanks again.

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  7. I think this just confirms my feelings on Glossier: I wish I could divorce the brand image from the products themselves, which seem generally pretty solid. I can't get over calling sales associates "editors".

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    1. They have zero editorial duties! It makes no sense! The title also feels snobbish, as if Glossier thinks the phrase "sales associate" is somehow shameful.

      And I know exactly what you mean about products vs. brand image. I use Boy Brow and Haloscope almost every day, but Glossier's reputation is so tied up with its branding that I always feel weird recommending its products. I don't want anyone to assume that my endorsement of those products implies an endorsement of all the marketing bullshit Glossier is responsible for.

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  8. But, their customer service is outstanding and they stand behind their products, both of which are rare, so they get an A+ on these fronts. I can overlook their marketing ........

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    1. They definitely have some of the best customer service I've ever encountered! Their no-questions-asked refund policy is amazing. I emailed them to say that Milky Jelly had broken me out, and they immediately refunded the money. It really makes the customer feel like Glossier trusts them not to abuse the system, which is nice.

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  9. This was a fascinating read. I loved the dad zone, complete with a real dad (his sneakers were so white!). Those jumpsuits make me shudder, mostly because what happens if the "editors" (EYE ROLL) accidentally sit down whilst a huge ipad remains tucked into a huge back pocket, seemingly designed for that very purpose? It was all very apt and funny and salty. In my humble opinion, you should write more pieces like this! A little salty slice of New York life, or something like that. Your perspective as a quasi-millennial means that you have one foot in and one foot out. Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed! I really liked writing this post. I wish I had more such things to review, but my life is pretty boring most of the time. And yes, I feel interestingly positioned as an older millennial: social media is intuitive to me, but I naturally approach it with skepticism and distrust. (Then again, I'm a pretty skeptical person in general. It's both a blessing and a curse.)

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