Covent Garden isn’t the first place you’d think of as an upscale beauty destination. Chic, coiffed Londoners have long been sniffy about the pavements packed with tourists, strange street entertainers and the Aussie watering holes whose customers are more into pints than pedicures.
But last year something strange happened, an alchemic mix of commercial and cultural factors saw the area become the location of choice for the latest high end beauty boutiques. Why Covent Garden? Perhaps to cash in on the tourist cash from overseas? Perhaps because the arty/theatrical heritage feels right for now? Who knows, but suddenly it’s the place to be. ‘King St is the new Bond St’ declares ex Elle editor Fiona McIntosh, the brains behind Blow Ltd.
Chanel was first (of course) opening in early 2012 in the Piazza. Its first UK store dedicated to beauty is an exquisite jewel of a boutique. Complete with a surprisingly relaxed nail bar, it sells hard to find fragrances and recruits A list make-up artists to perform make over magic. After its success came a plethora of beauty stores like Dior, Jo Malone and Blow Ltd, with Burberry and Miller Harris opening imminently. Residents of northern Covent Garden, MAC and Aveda, have inched closer to the action, with new stores appearing nearer to the market square.
All of the above have fresh, enthralling store designs, but the real point of difference it this: attitude. All of them take a serious approach to service, encouraging (and I mean really encouraging rather than just purporting to) customers to experience, touch and play with the products and perfumes. Providing helpful advice rather than just trying to get the numbers through the till.
‘We modeled ourselves on Apple,’ says McIntosh. ‘It’s a new way of retailing. Less intimidating, less stuffy.’ ‘It’s about going that extra mile to make people feel special’, says Dior boutique manager Chris Miller. ‘Whether they buy one lipstick or one hundred.’
A far cry from the snootiness of the Sloane Street boutiques or the pushiness of some department stores… It’s beauty paradise found.
The beauty industry is buzzing about Blow Ltd. This salon provides express makeovers and manicures to complement the best and fastest blow-dries this side of the Atlantic. To ensure the highest quality service the Blow founders recruited acclaimed industry pros to train their teams. The result? Slick delivery and styles that look great and last.
Blow Ltd , 8 Slingsby Place (just off Long Acre), St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, WC2E 9AB.
The Burberry Beauty Box is the brand’s first UK boutique dedicated solely to beauty and accessories. Housing the brand’s complete make-up collection, including Christopher Bailey’s limited editions, it uses breathtakingly hi tech wizardry to inspire and inform customers. Computer aided personalised consultations and hot-off-the-runway beauty advice - it’s the ultimate new generation beauty destination.
Burberry Beauty Box, 3a The Market Building, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RF.
Beauty junkies feel like they’ve stumbled on nirvana when they arrive at this beautiful boutique. But exquisite design aside, it’s the exclusive products, special masterclasses and friendly vibe that make it extra special. That and drop-ins by big name manicurists Marian Newman and Sophy Robson or make-up artists Mary Greenwell and Kay Montano. Another selling point? A nail bar where the £30 manicure is redeemable against purchase (so buy two varnishes at £18 and it’s free...).
Chanel , Unit 3, Covent Garden Piazza, WC2E 8RF.
Located in King St, just off the Piazza, this new store is a mecca for scent lovers. It features a cosy fireplace and a fragrance bar where you can sniff individual notes to help better identify your favourite Malone creation. And if you’re buying a gift, for £15 it can be whisked off to your chosen London address on a customized Jo Malone Vespa or Morris Minor.
Jo Malone , 11a King St, London, WC2E 8HN.
Opening late December, the workmen were still beautifying Harris’s store when we visited, but plans show the interior promises to be as sumptuous as the brand’s newly rejuvenated packaging. Taking inspiration from its site on the old flower market, Harris’s new boutique will launch an exclusive scent, Le Fleur du Matin, inspired by the bouquets that were once sold here.
Miller Harris , 16 The Market, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RB.
Right next to Chanel this beautiful space is entirely dedicated to beauty and fragrance. With makeovers, a lash bar, manicures and fragrance consultations, this store has a fun, relaxed atmosphere that allows you to browse and explore without feeling intimidated or pushed into purchase. With exclusive to the UK products and internationally acclaimed make-up artists - it’s a true beauty destination.
Dior , Unit 4, The Market, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RA.
Airy and light, the whitewashed walls and a green floor of engraved cement make this space feel thoroughly modern. This is true of the beauty approach too. Helpful, non-pushy staff offer green tea on arrival and dedicate time to ensuring you leave with the best products for you.
Aesop , 7 King St, Covent Garden, WC2E 8HN.