As their theatre-inspired shop opens in the West End, we discuss the architecture of apothecary with the dynamic skincare specialists
It’s been 12 years since Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz launched their botanical-inspired skincare label, one which has become synonymous with simple, trustworthy and directive branding, quietly subverting the overtly Photoshopped and misleading marketing approaches of many beauty brands today. Inherited from the Bauhaus maxim of ‘form over function’, and the International Typographic Style popularised in the 50s, Malin + Goetz’s packaging, a reinterpretation of traditional chemists labels, features a chic sans-serif typeface, which details the directions of application and natural ingredients of each product. Be it a cilantro conditioner or a mojito lipbalm, a bergamot body wash or a Moroccan fig eau de toilette, these are then categorised according to a typeface colour: blue for facial products, green for body and dark red for hair.
"We don’t want to create an environment that is so beautiful and precious that everybody is afraid to touch or to shop the products inside," explains Goetz of the functional commonality between their branding and approach to store design. Seated inside their new Monmouth Street shop, nestled between Seven Dials and Shaftesbury Avenue, the duo are celebrating the opening of not one but two London flagship stores (the second is located on Islington’s Upper Street): their first outside New York City and Los Angeles. "We never thought we were going to open two stores," Malin continues, "but this [store] came online the day we signed the Upper Street lease, and we thought, 'We’ve got to do it!'"
With no two stores designed the same – "it’s against our brand mantra," Goetz explains – the duo’s spatial creations are unified by their merchandise, which like their packaging, is categorised into navigable sections within the store. "Our interpretation of a store space always starts from the neighbourhood it is placed in," says Malin of the Monmouth Street location, which features a storefront imagined as a kinetic diorama and as a stage onto the street, and a tunnel-like entrance lined with velvet. "We saw a really great connection between our store and the theatre district of the West End."
Envisioned by Jonathan Tuckey Design, the London studio behind Southbank Centre’s Archive Studio, and the Egg shop space in Dover Street Market’s new Haymarket location, the store also features simple pressed paper shelving balanced on wooden dowels, and inspired by Tuckey’s Japanese heritage. This balance of tradition and modernity is central to Malin + Goetz’s design aesthetic. Their new Upper Street location features a 19th-century apothecary counter, cast-in-situ terrazzo floor and Douglas Fir lattice shelving, reminiscent of the sculptures of Donald Judd.
"There is a real synergy in creating a history of authenticity in the space," Malin explains. Their Upper West Side store in Manhattan boasts belle époque panelling salvaged from a mansion on Long Island. "I grew up in that area and it’s really the land of the Classic 6 apartment, more like a French flat with 6 rooms," Goetz says. "But we didn’t want to create something pastiche so we installed massive Oculus-like shelving in the panelling, taking something traditional and combining it with the contemporary."
"We’re living in a world where we’re in a sort of monoculture, where you see the same things everywhere," Goetz, who previously worked for the Swiss design furniture specialists Vitra, explains of their unique approach to retail. "Some stores in Mayfair or on Fifth Avenue are exactly the same. Is that really luxury? We consider it to be based on exclusivity of experience."
Celebrating the launch of their inaugural London store openings, the pair have redesigned the packaging of a miniature travel essentials kit to include words used by Americans and the British that denote similar meanings: ‘Slice + Chip Butty,’ ‘Sweater + Jumper’, ‘Potato Chips + Crisps,’ etc. Malin, who previously worked as a beauty buyer at Barney’s, and launched the then unknown brands Nars, Kiehl’s and Stila, attributes part of the phenomenal success of the department store to its level of wit. ‘Its always had a sense of cheekiness and fun,’ he explains. "There is also a great sense of irony in London," Goetz enthuses. "The best thing about having two stores here, is that now we can come back all the time!"