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Apothecary beauty brand Aesop invades NYC. Should Kiehl’s worry?


aesop skin-care products new york city

Aesop, an apothecary-style beauty brand from Australia, is taking New York City by storm.

With three downtown stores and a Grand Central kiosk all slated for this summer, this natural-leaning newcomer could kick market-leader Kiehl’s in the Creme de Corps.

Aesop’s primarily plant-based products like Geranium Leaf Body Balm and the Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Treatment command upwards of $100 and are packaged in minimalist brown-glass bottles. Their simple scents appeal to men and women, and are a model of unisexy chic.

That’s not unlike Kiehl’s, a less-clean but beyond-established powerhouse brand. Its signature plastic bottles with not-fussy labels probably make it the most recognized NYC beauty brand. The East Village flagship store, which looks like an old-school pharmacy, trades on the brand’s founding origins of 1851, but the company has long been owned by L’Oreal.

Although Aesop doesn’t use parabens and many other controversial skin-care ingredients that are found in Kiehl’s products, the company is not making a to-do over it.

Aesop store
Expect modern architecture and design, a signature aspect of Aesop stores abroad like this one in Hong Kong.

“Aesop is a solution-based brand,” says Giovanni Lepori, the head of the company’s operations in the Americas. The formulations rely on cutting-edge ingredients, he says. They just happen to be more natural than its cosmetic competitor’s.

Actually, it sounds like Lepori just wants to appeal to New Yorker’s compact bathrooms, where each product becomes a design statement. “Aesop’s customers are curious, cosmopolitan, intelligent, well-traveled and educated, with an appreciation for design and quality and a discerning taste for the best products,” he explains. “In other words, they are New Yorkers.”

With this new kid in town, Kiehl’s might have to do more than pass out free samples. —Melisse Gelula

The Aesop kiosk at Grand Central opens on July 5, followed by three downtown locations this summer at 60 University Place, 232 Elizabeth Street, and a flagship on Bleecker Street, www.aesop.com