“Hello, Gorgeous!” said my invitation from Gotham Beauty. My goodness—they certainly know how to get a girl’s attention, don’t they?
I read on, discovering that Gotham Beauty was a website, seeking to function as “New York’s go-to destination for fresh and natural beauty products,” and they were launching their business in New York officially at a soiree in SoHo. Yes, I said, I would be attending.
Though my friend Sara and I had glammed up for the evening, I worried that this night of especially watery and windy weather would wreck not only our makeup but our spirits. However, as we made our way toward 154 Grand Street, where the Gotham Beauty offices are located, a bushel of silver and black balloons alerted us to the party, where we promptly stepped inside, de-coated and dried off. Our makeup and our spirits were instantly saved.
A swirl of stilettoed glamazons and chicly attired gents circled around the space, sipping drinks from Brooklyn Brewery and Honeydrop (some of the party’s sponsors). Gotham Beauty staff interviewed guests, photographers from New York social event site Guest of a Guest snapped away.
Amidst it all, one man bounded from person to person, saying an energetic hello in a British accent. His angular face was dotted with the shine of someone very excited and slightly overwhelmed with the prospects of both the future and the present moment. This man, Richard Annington, is the founder of Gotham Beauty, and prior to the party’s beginning at 6pm he was running around the space with his staff, putting out one small fire after another, from problems with caterers to falling banners and more (“There was comedy happening,” he would say later). But now, everything was beautifully in place.
Halfway through the evening, Richard took the stage, bright white lights shining onto his face. He spoke of the Gotham Beauty mission, to promote the use natural, ethical beauty products in New York and eventually the world. How awful it was, he would say, that we go through our lives using these beauty products that will only ever harm our skin. Full of harmful chemicals like parabens and sulfates, which in large amounts are known carcinogens, we are constantly damaging ourselves. But while selling products that are completely organic, never tested on animals, and free of harsh chemicals, Gotham Beauty seeks to change that, while also donating part of their net profits to charity. Annington thanked all those who made the evening possible, and was met with thunderous applause. Gotham Beauty had now been launched in New York.
Sara and I left, our fair-trade, reusable RuMe gift bags printed with a soy ink logo of Gotham Beauty and filled with the company’s organic beauty goodies (“It’s one thing to say you’re natural and ethical, but it’s quite another to actually make the effort and be it,” Annington says.), feeling a bit more enlightened about the world of beauty products and certainly a bit more glamorous.
A week later I had a chance to sit down with Richard Annington and learn a bit more about Gotham Beauty. The chief property of Gotham Retail Ventures, Inc., Gotham Beauty began in a Starbucks. “I’m a firm believer in bootstrapping,” Annington says; that is, pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. “It was literally selling my old company [in the UK, where Annington is from] and coming over here [to New York]. And then I said, where are we going to work from?” Starbucks was the first place, followed by his apartment. Annington and his partners grew into needing a space, working with cloud computing to get by. Now their office is located in a fabulous space in a SoHo office building with rugged exposed brick, industrial elevators, and glass cubicles—you know, the stuff dreams are made of.
Annington is no stranger to the small business world. He laughs, “I started working for myself because I don’t take instruction well. I’m always thinking of ways to be more efficient, better, to save money. People wouldn’t listen to me when I was 16 and I got frustrated. But now I get to do what I wanted to do without working for someone else.” And Annington saw opportunities when it came to the cosmetics industry.
He saw cosmetics businesses ripping off their customers, placing a premium on items that should have been far less expensive. He decided to sell discounted fragrances, but discovered quickly the kinds of chemicals that go into such products. He then looked to go against this typical chemical-ridden model and produce an ethical cosmetics line. “I knew there was a better way to do cosmetics,” he says. “A way that creates jobs, is ethical, doesn’t harm animals.” And after Annington sold off his previous business, Gotham Beauty was born.
The brand is primarily an online store, since having a brick-and-mortar shop would result in increased prices, based in both New York and the UK. The brands sold through Gotham Beauty follow company’s same ethical model—no harsh chemicals, no animal testing, only natural ingredients. The Gotham Beauty team has hand-picked each of the brands, some of which include Margot Elena’s Tokyo Milk, Love & Toast and Lollia brands, Code SC men’s products, and Living Nature, a company from New Zealand. “We did an in-depth study of the brands. Some I had never heard of, but we really looked behind the brands, and had them send samples to test.” If the team liked it, then Gotham Beauty would stock the product.
Testing knows no boundaries, either. “The team laughs at me when I’m putting lipstick on my hand, but what you put on your skin is important,” Annington says. “By your early 20s, you’ve put so many synthetic things on or in your skin that you’ll never get rid of them. So many people don’t know the long-term effects of these chemicals.” But one of the goals of Gotham Beauty is to fix all of that by selling, and ultimately becoming the primary resource for, ethical beauty products.
The company’s ethics extend beyond their products, though. As previously mentioned, Gotham Beauty gives portions of its profits to charities, which are selected based on location (in either New York or the UK) and on a rotating schedule. Some of these charities include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and New York’s City Harvest, which seeks to end hunger in New York. It’s kind of a “karma boomerang,” as Annington says. “We believe in capitalism, but how about something for the greater good?” Annington even says there are plans for the brand to one day be a non-profit.
For now, Gotham Beauty is still in its early stages, “striving to be 100% perfect,” Annington says. They’re working to make each customer feel valued, from having correct orders arrive on time to perfecting packaging so there’s a true experience of purchasing a product from Gotham Beauty. There is also a signature Gotham Beauty line in the works, and a sample sale planned for April in their SoHo location.
“There’s no ego behind it,” says Annington. “No one’s going to control our ethics. We want the public to be aware of who we are, trust us, look to us for ethical beauty.” Ultimately Annington says the goal is to become theauthority for natural beauty in New York City. Now that Gotham Beauty has officially launched, we can only wish them well and say with a hearty New York welcome, “Hello, Gorgeous!”