Starting this Wednesday, an empty corner of Broadway will look very different. Despite being across from the entrance to the bustling Capitol Hill Station, the former American Apparel store has been left vacant since early 2017 after the company filed for bankruptcy. This week, the space will be filled with rolling hills of live native plants and flowers plus the sleek, pink-centric products of Glossier, the much-hyped New York-based “millennial makeup” company that recently reached $1 billion “start-up unicorn” status.
Seattle is the latest in a string of cities the company has carefully selected over recent years to launch a lavish temporary shop in. The Glossier Capitol Hill shop opens this Wednesday.
Glossier doesn’t want it labeled a pop-up.
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The direct-to-consumer brand that started as a beauty blog and Instagram page prefers to call their six-week Seattle retail stint an “offline experience.” The 25+ locally-hired store employees are “offline editors.” They will be walking around the store in the company’s signature pink overalls not to make you feel like they are there to sell you stuff, but to “foster connections.”
The relatively young but highly valued company goes to great lengths to set itself apart from traditional cosmetics companies, who sell at drugstores or department stores. Glossier only sells direct to consumers, with the help of its website, Instagram (where it has two million followers) and brand reps or micro-influencers. After launching as an online-only business, the company has opened permanent shops in New York and Los Angeles, and temporary retail spaces in Toronto, London Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Temporary Glossier shops are inspired by their temporary homes. The Glossier Miami space was inspired by the city’s art deco architecture, and Glossier highlighted San Francisco’s “food culture” by partnering with a fried chicken sandwich shop.
The Glossier pop-up shops are usually lavishly designed showrooms designed for Instagram hype and brand-building. As for the location, Glossier mostly opts for posh commercial districts such as the fancy developer-generated Miami “arts district” Wynwood, the chic and expensive Marylebone area in London or the gentrified Mission District in San Francisco.
In Seattle, the store is surrounded by a light rail station, an axe-throwing bar, a tea shop, dive bars Nacho Borracho and Highline, as well as a Rite Aid and a Verizon retailer. But the Seattle-based Glossier brand loyalists slash micro-influencers (who the company declined to name) indicated Capitol Hill was the place to be, and the retail space on the corner was available.
The shop was also an ideal blank canvas to transform into a Glossier “experience.” The company says it took inspiration for the design from the region’s natural surroundings. Landscape designer Lily Kwong created an indoor landscape of hills full of locally sourced plants and flowers. In addition to the region’s lushness, it looks like Cal Anderson Park’s Teletubby Hill may have also inspired. At night, meanwhile, the store will bask in a fluorescent purple light meant to nurture the plants. Reusable tote-bags, “plantable” wildflower seed postcards, and sales of a branded reusable water bottle further drive home the eco-theme.
Each $5 of the $15 limited edition water bottle sold will go to local nonprofit Mary’s Place, which is King County’s largest emergency shelter provider for families.
It marks the second time the brand will partner with a local nonprofit or charity.
Now that the company has reached two $100 million marks (one was revenue in 2018, one a capital infusion in March), it is playing in a new league, with different expectations. The company’s recent capital round valued the business at $1.2 billion, edging it over the $1 billion needed to officially reach “unicorn” status.
It remains to be seen what the arrival of the unicorn means to Broadway, which seems to have a new lease on life with the trend of empty retail spaces of recent years reversing.
After years of vacancy, The Broadway Grill property is hoped to soon see new activity, and Glossier neighbor, Broadway’s old sex “megastore” space, is now filled with axe-throwers, and two blocks of intense, transit-oriented mixed-use development near the light rail station are currently underway. On Pike/Pine nearby, large retail spaces are filling up or seeing new activity as well.
But the activation of the former American Apparel space doesn’t necessarily symbolize or signal boom times on Broadway. Its future as a retail space will still be uncertain after Glossier leaves. The pop-up will activate the space for just 6 weeks, until July 7th.
After that, the locally sourced plants will go to a new home. The company says it’s looking to find one for all of them.
Glossier Seattle is open at 200 Broadway E starting Wednesday, May 22nd until Sunday, July 7th. Open every day from 11 AM to 7 PM. You can learn more at glossier.com/seattle.
Should I cross the street and raise the average 20 years? pic.twitter.com/hGbR60pVul
— 🅰️nne-Ⓜ️arie🌊 (@annemarie1) May 23, 2019
Glossier Seattle pop-up 💓💓💓 pic.twitter.com/pQeJWls6VM
— Ofelia (@_ofeliatorres) May 22, 2019
At the glossier pop up pic.twitter.com/ftBfEE2Kjh
— Swagamemnon (@Brendangriffin) May 22, 2019