It is usual for Western brands to set up shop in developing countries. However, now the tables are turned, as an Israeli business takes space simultaneously in London’s Covent Garden and Berlin.
The brand is Ahava, a skin care business of two decades standing. Its USP is its factory on the Dead Sea, from where its products are sourced. It’s all about special minerals, hence products such as its Low Sodium Dead Sea Mineral Mud Enriched with Aloe Vera, its Facial Calming Moisturizer, and its Stress Melt Butter Salt.
Ahava is the only cosmetics enterprise indigenous to the Dead Sea region, and its R&D department concentrates on making the most of this natural phenomenon. At 32 per cent, the waters of the Dead Sea contain the highest concentration of minerals in the world. Its layers of mineral mud yield concentrations of natural elements, which are ten times higher than normal ocean water. Such finds include magnesium, calcium, potassium, strontium, boron and iron, all of which are exploited in the marketing of products for the maintenance of healthy, supple skin.
Ahava briefed Raylian – which worked on the Wholeman retail concept with JHP (DW 31 August) – to create a retail environment true to the brand’s ethos. The final solution was drawn from elements of about ten concepts created by Chiswick consultancy. ‘The idea was to balance the synthetic, factory-cut finishes of the interior with the products’ raw, natural ingredients,’ explains Raylian creative director Nick Short. This is all being splashed with a bit of Minimalism, as is befitting of a northern European audience.
So the synthetic elements include lots of glass and a couple of features aimed at both attracting and informing the minerally challenged shopper. As customers walk into the store, on the left they spy a floor-to-ceiling molecule wall. This is where Raylian has compacted minerals behind glass, to create a geological stratum.
Molecules appear again in the guise of a sculptural creation. This random form comprises about 40 molecule-like shapes, each lit from within so that it glows. Meanwhile, over the staircase is some text giving information on the beneficial properties of Dead Sea minerals, and right at the back are large monochrome images of Ahava’s preferred model. The synthetic quality extends to the enamel-coated glass walls, which, says Short, ‘work with the Ahava logo, and give a reflected surface’.
The rougher or rawer elements are represented by a limestone floor and horizontally grained timber shelving to carry Ahava’s Siebert Head-designed packaging. ‘We have kept the palette down to a minimum,’ Short adds, with the only metal used being stainless steel.
In merchandising terms, the pièce de résistance is Raylian’s so-called cascade unit. Salt, which builds up in the Dead Sea, forms into layered pools. Coloured glass and minerals are shaped to replicate this natural occurrence for the urban audience. The white counter is topped with green glass, and the creamy leather furniture includes Arne Jacobsen’s Swan chairs.
This 70m2 space is made to work hard. As well as acting as retail space, hand and feet treatments will be on offer on the ground floor, while downstairs, there’s a treatment room and reception area.
Ahava marketing director Gerald Fitoussi explains that he sees the stores as being up against Origins and Kiehl’s, and, in fact, the latter has a shop only a few doors down from Ahava’s site on London’s Monmouth Street.
Ahava’s management selected London and Berlin for reasons of familiarity. ‘We have a lot of business connections in London,’ says Fitoussi. Ahava products were actually stocked by Boots for a couple of years, so he feels that it is a case of building on that initial presence. And the company has headquarters in Berlin.
Both stores are due to open at the beginning of February, with more to follow. The idea is that these first two will act as a blueprint for future retail outlets.
Fitoussi says the intention is to open in other major – mostly Western – cities worldwide. He declines to say how much the private company is investing in this retail venture. But as Short points out, ‘It’s simple, but expensive-looking.’ l