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Free People adds natural beauty to its bohemian brand lifestyle


Free People debuts beauty site and retail
Photos: Free People

After popularizing the year-round Cochella look and proliferating the free-spirit lifestyle into all corners of the country, boho lifestyle guide and shopping website Free People is getting into natural beauty in an equally big way.

“With nothing tested on animals, and almost all natural and organic products (except for things like nail polish), Free People wants to be a one-stop shop of the FP lifestyle—down to her beauty and wellness products,” says curator and senior merchant Jessica Richards (who’s also the founder of clean-leaning Shen Beauty in Brooklyn).

That makes sense for the darling retail brand, which has around 100 stores (modest compared to sister brands Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie) but whose online presence has slayed as a glamorizing modern bohemian scrapbook for thousands of young women who’ve never visited Venice Beach or Joshua Tree but aspire to dress in festival-ready fringe pieces every day.

Free People’s new beauty site is another expression of its pure-and-free zeitgeist, where nature trumps manmade, and beach waves best blowouts. After seeing that natural beauty products did well on the Free People blog, the company tested the level of interest—and it uncovered a passion. “We saw it really resonate with our customer,” whom Richard defines as “independent, creative, and loyal.” Moving from your closet to medicine cabinet shouldn’t be too tricky.

While opportunity to create a demand for natural beauty is huge, “she’s not a girl who wears a lot of makeup,” says Richards. “She loves the dewy, luminous glow—it’s always the glow. Vitality is the reason she likes products.” So there’s a strong emphasis on the connection of beauty and wellness, which is key to Meg Hayne, Free People’s CEO, who has been credited with the brand’s on-going innovation and success (with things like FP Movement to FP Retreats). “Meg wanted this to be about educating on beauty from within,” says Richards.

Some of that will come through in artistic decisions, which has already helped catapult Free People’s success. By eschewing models for the most part and using “real girls, with no retouching, no makeup” for photoshoots, “the cool vibe will play to customers’ intelligence and curiosity about natural brand stories,” says Abby Morgan, director of content development and brand marketing. “We’re elevating organic beauty from its hippie and handmade connotations.”

The brands stocked reflect that, and will range from naturally formulated forerunners like Dr. Alkaitis, RMS Beauty, Rahua, and Pai, to rising stars like Luk Beautifood lipsticks, Kapuluan Coconut Oil, and Sun Potion superfoods. “There will be a piece of content for each of the 680 beauty products available at launch,” adds Richards.

While feature articles on the Free People blog will focus on FP Rituals (beauty rituals), Notes from the Chair (tips from hair and makeup experts), to Mood (addressing aromatherapy and issues like sleep), Free People is experimenting with the relationship of content and commerce. “For the first time,” Richards notes, “beauty articles will live on shopping pages.” (Picture an article about roses next to a product that contains rose.) It’s hard to imagine customers, already immersed in the lifestyle, would object.

And this fall, select Free People stores will have a dedicated beauty section, says Richards (an approach that Urban Outfitters has already had great success with), “and eventually we’ll work on our own organic and natural color cosmetic line and skin-care line.” It looks like fringe, for Free People, is not the final frontier.

Need help with the whole post-workout beauty thing? Gwyneth Paltrow is here to help. And if you’re wondering what products are worth splurging on, here are the moisturizers that are actually worth their $100+ price tag.