The largest growing sector in the cosmetics industry for the past 5 years has been in the natural/organic market. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the terms “green beauty” or “clean ingredients” – chances are, you’re missing out on using some of the purist and most effective products on shelves today.
While “green” brands have been branching into mainstream, there remain just a handful of multi-location retailers who are committed to carrying only cleanly formulated brands. There’s Credo Beauty, which was developed by a team of former Sephora execs, The Detox Market, from one of the founders of green beauty brand Odacite, and Follain, a comparatively more under the radar retailer quietly asserting their position in the market with 2 Boston locations and a recently opened location in New York’s trendy SoHo district that opened late 2016.
I hadn’t planned to visit Follain’s SoHo location although many people had told me wonderful things. I was in the area for an afternoon of meetings and walked around visiting Mansur Gavriel and the Glow Recipe Pop-Up, when suddenly Follain appeared and drew me in immediately.
What do they carry?
“To be Follain approved, a product has to be safe, effective and luxurious to experience.”
100% Green Brands on the luxury end of the spectrum (List of Restricted Ingredients Here)
Brands include the usual suspects like Tata Harper, Indie Lee, May Lindstrom, RMS Beauty, and Dr. Alkaitis to more cult status products like Herbivore Botanicals, Earth Tu Face and True Botanicals. (Check here for full brand listing)
What is the vibe?
Security stationed at the door with multiple sales associates based at the back by the register inside this brightly lit, well organized and clean shop with playful Instagram-ready quotes adoring the walls (which we shared on our Instagram Story day of visit).
Their location in SoHo is pretty ideal. As mentioned above, it’s within close walking distance to so many other great stores and is in a prime shopping neighborhood. Their block is definitely on the trendy, higher end side but not noisy nor crowded – ideal for casual post-brunch strolls.
The shop has kind of a strange layout that I can only describe as three rectangles stacked together from slim and long to square shaped. When you enter you can see to the very end of the store but it is only as you walk further that another alcove of products appears and then when you get deeper to the very end of the store another alcove of products appears as well. It’s a little strange at first but also more private than open layouts where you’re just moving along the sides of the stores. They do hold educational events at the store, so it actually works out that the very inside area is for the privacy of master classes or information sessions while the entrance and middle area would still allow others to peruse the offerings.
Friendly atmosphere or Pretty Woman experience?
There are multiple sales associates and they were mostly engaged in conversation amongst themselves at the back register. I went at a quieter time, probably half an hour before closing but did not feel like I was inconveniencing anyone. In fact when I noticed it was getting dark out and inquired if they needed to close, they reassured me that I should take my time. I was assisted by a sales associate with a friendly demeanor. She let me explore by myself when I was just looking around but I always felt she was available if I had any questions. I did ask for recommendations on a green alternative to hair product for guys that had great hold but wasn’t oil based (greasy) and she asked the others for suggestions as well and they were happy to all pitch in with recommendations. They offered many times to provide me with samples of anything I was interested in, so all in all their team was pretty pleasant and super chill.
Only bummer is that restrooms are not for guests, which is not uncommon in New York but definitely would make the environment more hospitable.
What is the scene?
As I visited near their closing time on a week day, there was only one other person inside enveloped in deep conversation with the associates at the back. She talked about having something to do with the Indie Lee which did make me wonder if this entire green beauty thing was an essential circle jerk.
Joking aside, Follain has an established presence and counts many green beauty bloggers as fans. I imagine their typical shopper is along the lines of that crowd as well. Side note: The other person who was there at the same time as me would not have looked out of place on the Real Housewives of New York // UES Ladies Who Lunch Crowd and their staff could easily helm Into The Gloss. So basically we’re looking at educated, wellness focused, hip to it ladies with a sizable budget.
How is the selection?
Follain carries a broad selection of brands. They’re purists when it comes to ingredients so there aren’t any lines that are “almost there but have some question ingredients” like one might find at Credo.
Their store has all the lines you’ll see on their website, although they may not always carry the full line (i.e. I was trying to find Rahua Freestyle Texturizer and was told they do not stock it) and they also have bulk containers of Follain’s own liquid soaps that you can bring in for refills.
The products are organized by category rather than brand so if you’re looking for a toner, you’ll see all of the toners/mists they carry next to each other on one shelf rather than having to go from brand to brand which I really like. This made comparison simple and the discovery process super efficient as I was able to deep dive entire categories of extensive green offerings within minutes.
Testers are available and kept fresh enough where you’ll actually feel comfortable trying them. Speaking of – it was only through testing the fragrances that I was pleasantly surprised by how decidedly non-basic the luxury natural perfumes smelled, totally exceeded my expectations.
I came away really enjoying their store. There is ample opportunity to play with products, store associates were friendly and helpful while still allowing the freedom to explore, and the setting is every bit as polished as bigger players like Credo and Detox Market.
Follain recently revamped their website, aligning their brand with very sophisticated visuals that feel a step above the bright, Pinterest-wellness type images that their competitors run ad infinitum. I think it’s refreshing and elegant.
The landscape for green beauty is growing and constantly evolving at a rapid pace, Follain’s recent steps show they have their eyes on the prize and have us very excited to see where they’re going!