The Beauty Stores, Near and Far, That Are Destinations in Their Own Right
Beautifying ourselves, and seeking out the best inventions with which to do so, has been a source of comfort for millenniums. In Egypt’s Karnak village, beginning in the 16th century B.C., temples served as early shops and produced scented oils used for perfuming the living, embalming the dead, softening the skin and hair, covering up bad breath and easing sore muscles. In 17th-century Europe, apothecaries sold raw materials — plant oils, mineral powders — that enabled patrons to whip up their own potions to disguise concerns such as gray hair and wrinkles. And as the definition of beauty has evolved, so, too, has the function of the beauty shop. Today, when we tend to think of beauty in more holistic terms, the places that sell creams, powders and pigments are often more than merely points for picking up curative goods: They can be sanctuaries for gathering, broadening the mind, stimulating the senses and perhaps even stirring the soul. In a year when it’s been difficult to physically visit shops, their value has never been more apparent. Here, as part of T’s Beauty & Luxury issue, we pay tribute to just some of our favorite beauty institutions — the sort of spots that feel like discoveries — from a centuries-old perfumery in New Delhi to a sustainably minded apothecary in Vienna to a futuristic emporium-cum-gallery in Seoul.
A history of modern beauty in four chapters.
Chapter 1: On the rise of strong “oriental” fragrances that reflected the political and cultural landscapes of their time, the 1980s.
Chapter 2: On ’90s-era advances in weaves, wigs and other Black hairstyles that ushered in a new age of self-expression.
Chapter 3: On botanical oils, a simple fact of life in much of the world that, here in the West, began to take on an almost religious aura in the 2000s.
Chapter 4: On men wearing makeup, a practice with a long history, but one that has really taken off in the last decade.
Merz Apothecary, Chicago
Founded by the Swiss pharmacist Peter Merz in 1875 as a dispensary for herbal remedies, Merz Apothecary on Chicago’s North Side was bought, and saved from closing, by the Indian-born pharmacist Abdul Qaiyum in 1973. Today, arranged within the store’s hand-carved wood-paneled interior are roughly 9,000 products, some of which — the Austrian folk herbalist Maria Treben’s digestive Swedish bitters, for example — have been stocked for decades, while others are more of the moment, including a gold-infused beauty oil from NØ Cosmetics, which a Merz staffer describes as “a German Glossier with simple, clean and vegan ingredients.” Qaiyum’s son, Anthony, who is now the company’s president, grew up practicing his family’s Ayurvedic traditions and is especially fond of the shop’s medicinal herbal tea selection. “We offer more than 150 single herbs,” he says, “and many of our blend recipes were created by my predecessors more than 100 years ago.” 4716 North Lincoln Avenue, merzapothecary.com.
Aedes Perfumery, New York
When Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner opened their boudoirlike perfume shop in the West Village in 1995, they focused on hard-to-find fragrances — the kind they spotted in their friends’ well-appointed bathrooms. Today, their selection includes the Parisian perfumer Serge Lutens’s bold, spicy scents; the heady creations of the 223-year-old French perfume house Lubin; and the New York brand Nomenclature’s intriguing synthetic-molecule blends, such as a vegetal musk extracted from hibiscus seeds. This summer, Aedes will debut its reimagined in-house fragrance line. And the shop appeals to the other senses, too: Now located on the Lower East Side, it’s filled with darkly romantic displays of candles, incense, topiaries, feathers and abundant flower arrangements — by Bradl’s count, “never less than five.” 16A Orchard Street, Manhattan, aedes.com.
Atelier Beauté Chanel, New York
Part boutique and part workshop, the Atelier Beauté Chanel calls to mind one of the French fashion house’s fantastical runway backdrops: The 2,900-square-foot space is decorated almost entirely in crisp black and white, and is filled from floor to ceiling with beauty products. Cult classics like Chanel No. 5 and Rouge Noir nail polish are arranged alongside the brand’s latest releases in stations that correspond to the steps of a routine (cleanse, treat, define). In the makeup area, a gallery wall contains 200 samples of lip gloss and lipstick in cylindrical pots modeled after the Vendôme column in Paris, and in the perfume suite, you can blindly sniff Chanel fragrances on paper blotters, without knowing the names of each, to discover which you’re most drawn to. (The process, says Christine Dagousset, Chanel’s global development officer, uncovers a lot of “unconscious memories and emotions.”) As a parting gesture, each customer receives a ceramic bracelet scented with their favorite perfume. 120½ Wooster Street, Manhattan, atelierbeaute.chanel.com.
Muse, New York
An avid perfume collector and fragrance blogger, Kimberly Waters opened Muse on the parlor floor of her Harlem brownstone in 2017. Designed to feel warm and welcoming — bottles are displayed like personal objects atop mantels and stacks of books — the shop is open by appointment only, so Waters can personally guide visitors through the selection. “It’s important to meet folks where they are and connect with them organically,” she says. And to avoid overwhelming the senses, she carries just 10 fragrance brands at a time, prioritizing artisanal blends such as the Swedish-Ghanaian perfumer Maya Njie’s spicy, earthy creations and Nasomatto’s complex floral extracts. 66 Edgecombe Avenue, Manhattan, museexperiences.com
Shen, New York
Founded in 2010 by the former fashion stylist Jessica Richards, Shen offers classic and under-the-radar clean beauty and self-care products — such as Roén brow pencils, the French hair colorist Christophe Robin’s lavender hair oil and the Nue Co.’s skin-hydrating supplements — in a minimalist environment that feels like a chic friend’s bathroom. Richards tests everything obsessively and will candidly tell you what will (and won’t) work for you. Or you can see for yourself — a four-room spa in the back offers treatments (pore-detoxifying scrubs; collagen-stimulating microneedling facials) that incorporate the shop’s skin- and body-care offerings, and store associates can place samples of makeup onto freshly sanitized painter’s palettes, allowing you to safely try out the formulas. It’s a hygienic move but also one that, as Richards says, “takes you back to what the true concept of beauty is: artistry.” 138 Court Street, Brooklyn, shen-beauty.com.
Freedom Apothecary, Philadelphia
Inspired to create an inclusive beauty space for all women, particularly Black women, Bonkosi Horn and Morrisa Jenkins opened Freedom Apothecary in 2019. “Wellness hasn’t always been for us,” says Horn. “We wanted to build something that we hadn’t experienced yet.” Their light-filled shop in the city’s Northern Liberties neighborhood features stylishly packaged nontoxic products from brands founded by women of color — “It’s important to provide a platform for others who look like us,” says Horn; “we rise by lifting others” — including cleansing milks from Amenda Beauty, a skin-care line inspired by Jamaican rituals, vitamin-rich face masks from the California-based brand Dehiya and rice powder blush from the Australian natural cosmetics company Ere Perez, in addition to Freedom’s in-house collection of revitalizing face oils and body butters. A spa at the back of the store offers customized facials and beauty consultations. 736 North Second Street, freedomapothecary.com.
Monastery, San Francisco
“I’m a minimalist,” says the California-born aesthetician Athena Hewett of her approach to skin care. It’s an attitude she inherited from her Greek grandparents, who created simple skin-healing tonics from sage, rosemary and olives grown in the family’s fields and groves in the Cyclades. Those ancestral recipes inform Monastery, Hewett’s line of gentle botanical oils, gels and floral concentrates, which she sells at her sparsely adorned Noe Valley shop. Her newly launched treatment studio is a calming space accented with handmade pottery and sprigs of eucalyptus, and offers purifying facials inspired by time-honored rituals — including her grandmother’s technique of massaging cleansing oils into the face, then removing them with a soft cloth — meant to nurture a natural, healthy glow. 4175 24th Street, monasterymade.com.
‘Awa & ‘Ōlena, Honolulu
It’s no surprise that Hawaii, with its abundance of native flora, excels when it comes to natural beauty products, and some of the islands’ best plant-based formulas can be found at Amanda Watkins’s peaceful shop in Honolulu. The selection of locally produced and minimally processed offerings includes lotion from Ua Body, a skin-care company based on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, which soothes sunburns with pikake flowers; fungi powders from the wellness purveyor Malama Mushrooms in Kailua-Kona; and the Honokaa-based brand AO Organics’ face mask, which uses volcanic clay to clear pores. The kava (‘awa) and turmeric (‘ōlena) in the shop’s name are both “canoe plants,” says Watkins, meaning they were “brought here by the first Polynesians to arrive in Hawaii by canoe.” Watkins herself moved to Oahu from the mainland in 1999, adopted a natural beauty routine and, as she says, “never looked back.” 1152 Koko Head Avenue, awaandolena.com.
Thirteen Lune, online
For Nyakio Grieco, beauty is about sharing rituals. As a child, she learned to exfoliate her skin with crushed coffee grains and sugar cane during visits to her grandmother’s coffee farm in Kenya. In 2002, Grieco, who is based in Los Angeles, launched her own skin-care brand, Nyakio, based on such traditions, and last year, she co-founded Thirteen Lune, a digital beauty store centered on community and storytelling. Ninety percent of the clean, nontoxic skin-care, hair-care, wellness and makeup products it sells are from Black- and brown-owned brands, whose founders share advice on the site’s Shop Talk section (a podcast is also in the works). The goal, says Grieco, is to amplify and celebrate beauty “for all colors.” thirteenlune.com.
Coqui Coqui, Mérida, Mexico
The hoteliers Francesca Bonato and Nicolas Malleville infuse the air of each of their properties with scents inspired by the surrounding region, but the perfumery on the ground floor of their Mérida hotel is especially charming: Set in a 1903 townhouse, the space captures the bohemian glamour of Yucatán’s capital with its crystal chandeliers and carved wood tables, which display the couple’s 18 botanical fragrances — often defined by notes of lime, tobacco, rose and agave, and housed in elegant glass bottles. A palm-lined courtyard leads to a spa, where treatments make use of the local flora: there’s a coconut milk and hibiscus flower soak (enjoyed in an outdoor tub), a papaya and Mayan honey exfoliation scrub, an anti-inflammatory pepper leaf body wrap and rebozo massage — an ancient Mexican practice that involves wrapping the body in fabric and rocking it to relieve tension. Calle 55 Number 516, coquicoqui.com.
Loto Del Sur, Bogotá, Colombia
The Bogotá native Johana Sanint trained as an architect before becoming a soap maker in 1999, creating cold-pressed formulas inspired by Latin American botanicals. Now, her brand, Loto Del Sur, includes a range of skin-care products, as well as aromatherapy and home fragrances, that are crafted in Colombia with “the power of plants and rigor of science,” she says. Ninety-five percent of her ingredients — including the Chilean wild roses in the company’s Elixir de Belleza Orgánico face oil, the Argentine verbena in her liquid hand soap and the Sonoran desert jojoba in her Crema Souffle face cream — are natural. And even the geometric floor tiles in her seven shops in Bogotá are designed locally, in collaboration with the Colombian architect Guillermo Arias. Various locations across the city, lotodelsur.com.
Fueguia 1833, Buenos Aires
Julian Bedel’s unique fragrances draw on a diverse range of references from his native South America. Some scents recall specific rituals: Los Humos Sagrados, for example, features holy woods — palo santo, sage and agarwood — which are traditionally burned “from Patagonia to Salta to clean our spirits,” he says. Cuentos de la Selva, meanwhile, has a zesty bergamot and smoky benzoin aroma designed to evoke a sacred initiation ceremony in Mesopotamian culture. And then there’s Vicuña, a musky ode to the South American animal of the same name that “recreates the feeling of smelling its neck,” says Bedel. Using more than 100 different notes, Bedel produces his fragrances in small batches of just 400 bottles and at his shop in the elegant Recoleta neighborhood, visitors can not only experience the latest elixirs but also sniff the past five years’ worth of blends in the store’s vintage cave. Avenue Alvear 1680, fueguia.com.
Claus Porto, Porto, Portugal
Since 1887, Claus Porto has been making fragrant soaps shaped in distinctive oval slabs and wrapped in strikingly patterned decorative papers. Portuguese artists once painted the labels by hand, and in 1904 the brand won the gold medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair in Missouri for its artistic creations. The company’s history is especially evident at its Porto flagship, a 19th-century townhouse filled with antique factory equipment, archival records and bath and body products including Musgo Real, a crisp vetiver cologne from the 1930s, and the 1950s-era Alface almond oil soap, both of which are still in production. “Our best things are still made the way they were back in the day,” says Aquiles de Brito, the great-grandson of Achilles de Brito, one of Claus Porto’s founders. Rua das Flores, 22, clausporto.com.
D.R. Harris & Co., London
Among Londoners and those who appreciate well-made products that stand the test of time, D.R. Harris is a cherished portal to the past: Founded in 1776 by Dr. Henry Harris, a surgeon, and Daniel Rotely, a pharmaceutical chemist, the apothecary has sold herbal after-shave colognes and floral perfumes to a discerning clientele for over two centuries — and has supplied goods to the British royal family since 1938. Best known for its grooming supplies such as citrus and fern talcum powder and vetiver-scented soap, the shop still mixes prescriptions and offers thoughtful services such as same-day delivery by bicycle. And it keeps in step with the times by prioritizing sustainable practices, including using responsibly sourced badger hair for its shaving brushes. 29 St. James’s Street, drharris.co.uk.
Perfumer H, London
Though she was trained in the classical methods of perfumery in Grasse, France, Lyn Harris is anything but traditional. Following her instincts, she says, “allows me to break rules on every level, which is very much my character.” She started working with natural ingredients in the ’90s, before it was popular, and today she’s drawn to rather idiosyncratic notes, which have earned her fragrances a dedicated following. “The smell of rain on dry stone on a hot summer’s day” is a favorite, she says, along with atmospheric whiffs of green ferns, mineral salt and metallic ink. In her London shop, you can watch her creative process unfold as she crafts perfumes, candles and aromatic pantry items — “smell and taste are so intertwined,” she says — including cucumbers pickled with lemon zest and juniper berries. 106a Crawford Street, perfumerh.com.
Dover Street Parfums Market Paris, Paris
The latest outpost of the multibrand store Dover Street Market has the feel of certain Parisian épiceries where you go to hunt for specialty cheeses and jams, only here the treasures are niche perfumes and emerging beauty products. The brainchild of the designer Rei Kawakubo and her husband, Adrian Joffe, the shop displays its wares in hollow pillars with egg-shaped openings: Look inside and you can see everything from Atelier Materi’s minimalist French floral scents to La Bouche Rouge’s sustainable lipsticks to Frama’s refillable Swedish hand wash to the Los Angeles-based aesthetician Melanie Simon’s highly stabilized, skin-brightening Serum C. Pop-up exhibitions take place every so often — the avant-garde hair artist Julien d’Ys, who frequently collaborates with Kawakubo, has displayed his custom-dyed wigs in the past — so you never know exactly what you’ll find when you stop by. 11 Bis Rue Elzévir, doverstreetparfumsmarket.com.
L’Officine Universelle Buly, Paris
For Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac, mining the past never gets old. In 2007, Touhami revamped the French candle brand Cire Trudon, established in 1643, and in 2014, he and de Taillac set their sights on L’Officine Universelle Buly, a Parisienne perfumery and apothecary founded in 1803. The couple dusted off the company’s recipes, reimagining its offerings with cleaner botanical ingredients while still retaining the quirky, old-fashioned charm of products such as mint tea-flavored mouthwash, multipurpose beeswax creams and an array of “highly specific plant oils,” says de Taillac, who finds that plantain macerate is “very efficient after mosquito bites.” The rue Bonaparte shop — the first of 15 worldwide — is a trip through time; it’s lined with handsome glass cabinets and marble-topped countertops, which speak to de Taillac’s relaxed style of French wellness. “Counters,” she says, “are very important for conversation.” 6 rue Bonaparte; buly1803.com.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy
Founded by Dominican friars in 1221, Santa Maria Novella began as a pharmacy for members of the order, offering healing rose waters, curative balms and soothing pomades made with herbs from their monastery’s garden. In 1612, the Council of the Dominican Convent established a shop on Via della Scala to sell other carefully mixed plant-based formulas to the public. The Acqua di Santa Maria Novella, a so-called anti-hysteric water infused with calming and digestive costmary, mint and cinnamon, was an early hit, along with Acqua della Regina (“Queen’s Water”), a refined citrus perfume commissioned by Caterina de’ Medici in 1533. Today, that original location is still intact, and functions as a shop-cum-museum with gold-lacquered walls, vintage copper distillery pots, a herb garden and delightfully specific products — such as lavender smelling salts, almond paste hand cream, lily-water body tonic and potpourri-scented wax tablets — the beauty of which hasn’t faded with time. Via della Scala, 16, smnovella.com.
MDC Cosmetic, Berlin
With a pale wood interior and modern arched windows, MDC, in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, cultivates a quietly cool vibe. Founded in 2012 by Melanie dal Canton, the store specializes in well-designed beauty products with interesting back stories, such as the fashion designer Frank Leder’s German Oak Bath Oil, a herbal elixir infused with acorns and oak leaves collected from the Grunewald forest (“Leder has a hunting license and walks a dog there,” dal Canton explains) and hammered copper balls used for eurythmy, a movement-focused art form and therapy pioneered by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century (dal Canton herself was raised on the practice). The store also sells a woody in-house fragrance and soap, made in collaboration with Geza Schoen of the Berlin-based perfume line Escentric Molecules, and the nearby pink-toned MDC Cure spa expands on dal Canton’s vision of beauty — “for me, care and well-being extend to all the sense organs,” she says. Knaackstraße 26, mdc-cosmetic.de.
Saint Charles, Vienna
Saint Charles is a cluster of wellness properties in central Vienna founded by the sixth-generation Austrian pharmacist Alexander Ehrmann. The Apothecary, designed with vintage cabinets that date back to 1886, dispenses roughly 300 medicines made with sustainably harvested plants and flowers — including lavender from Austria’s forested Waldviertel region — while the Cosmothecary carries natural face-, body- and hair-care products (the Apothekerseife hand soap, created with the Viennese perfumer Lederhaas, is especially popular). The Hideaway spa offers holistic treatments (muscle-relaxing rubs with magnesium sourced from the Zechstein salt beds, for example) and the rustic Alimentary restaurant serves local cheeses and seasonal vegetables with which you can refuel after a visit to the Complementary, a studio for meditation, qigong and yoga. Various locations in Vienna, saint-charles.eu.
The Lotte, Accra, Ghana
A concept shop wrapped in curvilinear panes of glass, the Lotte is well known in Accra for its mix of experimental and established lines by African designers. In addition to fashion (high-waisted culottes), art (antique bone wall hangings) and home décor (wax-print lampshades), the shop carries a wide selection of beauty products from women-owned Ghanaian brands: Nokware’s traditional black soaps, enriched with cocoa pod ash; Skin Gourmet’s healing baobab- and shea-butter body balms; and skin-tone-enhancing foundations from the makeup artist Sacha Okoh’s SO Aesthetic line. “The craftsmanship passed on generationally to local artists needs to be celebrated,” says Adeline Akufo-Addo Kufuor, the store’s founder, of supporting homegrown talent, so that, she adds, everyone can “experience beauty from our part of the world.” Stanbic Heights, Icon House, thelotteaccra.com.
The Shop Accra, Accra, Ghana
Eyetsa Lorraine Ocloobe’s great-grandmother was a highly respected tradeswoman who helped women organize and sell dried fish in Ghanaian markets in the early 1900s. Ocloobe is continuing this tradition, on the outskirts of Accra, with her flourishing shop, which she sees as a place for community and collaboration. Alongside organic, locally made beauty goods (aloe body scrubs, tea tree hair oils), it stocks mud-cloth accessories displayed in white wooden crates, similar to the type Ocloobe’s great-grandmother used (“to organize and transport delicate things,” she says). Tables and stools, made from reclaimed timber, encourage visitors to relax and stay awhile. And a salon in the back offers natural hairstyling services, while a cafe serves fresh juices. “For me, beauty is not just products but a space where people experience the culture,” says Ocloobe. Omanye Street, Osu, theshopaccra.com.
L’Atelier by Héritage Berbère, Marrakesh, Morocco
The perfumer Marie-Jeanne Combredet was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and trained in Grasse, France, before co-founding Héritage Berbère in Marrakesh in 2008. Her beautifully layered scents, made with macerated ingredients to produce concentrated elixirs that are meant to be sprayed on the skin or in the home, celebrate the region’s “precious essences,” she says, and evoke “a trip around the mythic towns and oases of Libya, Egypt and Algeria.” Many of her creations — including Basra, a heady blend of saffron, rose, cinnamon and oud — are unisex, and at her studio, a pristine space that resembles a laboratory, with ingredients displayed in glass jars, Combredet also creates bespoke fragrances. Most bottles are finished with delicate tassels crafted by local artisans. 366 Sidi Ghanem, heritageberbere.com.
Asia & Australia
Green Bar, A’ali, Bahrain
Bahrain’s desert climate has historically made cultivating certain crops difficult. Yet thanks to wells and irrigation, the island now has a diversity of plants — which inspired the entrepreneur Reem Al Khalifa to launch her brand, Green Bar, in 2006. The small-batch beauty and scent range features mint, mulberry, rose and palm grown on her family’s land (other ingredients are sourced from nearby), and honors the area’s rituals and customs. Lip balms moisturize with cold-pressed date seed oils — the fruit is a symbol of the harvest in Arabic culture — and soaps are made with a traditional, gentle Syrian recipe that requires them to be aged for nine months to reduce their alkalinity. UV-protective glass bottles preserve the botanical formulas, which are sold in a pantry-like shop that also houses a cafe serving nut milks, homemade breads, cheeses and herbal teas. Shop 32, Riyadat Mall, greenbarinc.com.
Gulab Singh Johrimal, New Delhi
Founded in 1816, Gulab Singh Johrimal, situated in the lively Dariba Kalan bazaar, is one of India’s oldest perfumeries. Known for its extensive collection of essential oils and attars (blends made from multiple plants, woods and spices that are hydro-distilled over a base of sandalwood oil), the shop preserves the centuries-old Indian deg bhapka technique, in which ingredients are heated in a copper pot (deg) and piped into a receiver (bhapka) to create pure, concentrated elixirs, each varying slightly from the next. The perfumery, which has been passed down through generations of the Lala Gulab Singh family, also specializes in hand-rolled incense, both agarbatti and the slightly smokier dhoop variety, as well as soaps infused with jasmine and amber. 467 Chandni Chowk, gulabsinghjohrimal.com.
In Korean herbal medicine, ginseng is prized for its youth-preserving benefits. And it was with this in mind that Sung-hwan Suh, an entrepreneur with an interest in botany, launched the ginseng-infused skin-care brand Sulwhasoo in 1966. He started with a single product — ABC Ginseng Cream, a rich concoction that aimed to plump skin — which led to later innovations that married ancient plants with modern science. At the company’s six-story flagship, this heritage comes to life: Framed in thin bands of brass designed to resemble a lantern — to symbolize the light of Asian wisdom — the store has two spas, which offer treatments such as circulation-boosting body rubs with red pine stick massagers. The boutique carries more than 50 products, including the line’s Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX, the updated version of the original ABC Ginseng, and purchases can be wrapped in fabric, in the style of bojagi, a traditional form of Korean textile. 18 Dosan-daero 45-gil, sulwhasoo.com.
Set in a former auto mechanic shop in Seongsu, a buzzy district of converted warehouses, this lounge-like concept shop from the Korean cosmetics conglomerate Amorepacific has an interior garden where you can relax with a cup of tea and test products from 30 of the company’s brands, including Rarekind eye and cheek palettes, Mamonde lip glosses, Hanyul dewy water creams and Amorepacific’s special Seongsu Toner, a gentle moisturizing primer named for the neighborhood (and only available at this location). If you can’t find what you’re looking for, custom lip tint and foundation services allow you to create shades tailored to your precise skin tone (an app scans your face to recommend shades, which are mixed on-site). 7, Achasan-ro 11-gil, amore-seongsu.com.
Tamburins is a collective of artists who design creative beauty products that function as artworks (and vice versa). The tube of the moisturizing Nude H and Cream, for example, has a chain strap so you can wear it like a wrist accessory, and each of the botanical Shell perfumes (composed with notes such as bittersweet fig and earthy patchouli) comes in a sculptural, circular palm-size container that dispenses the perfect dose of mess-free scented cream. Or consider the Water Essence, a toner that pours out of a display-worthy matte white flask with a goldtone cap. Launched in 2017 and only available in Korea, the brand has built a cultish following, and its Haus Dosan shop doubles as an art gallery, with skylights overhead, abstract sculptures and testers of as-yet-unreleased products. 50, Apgujeong-ro 46-gil, tamburins.com.
Hakuhodo, Kyoto, Japan
For centuries, calligraphy brushes have been made by hand in Kumano, Japan. That’s where Kazuo Takamoto’s parents had a factory in the early 1900s, and where he learned the trade at age 23. In 1974, Takamoto launched Hakuhodo, a brand specializing in menso, fine-tipped brushes often used for painting dolls and plates. In the 1980s, he expanded into makeup brushes, and today the company makes 800 varieties, handcrafted by more than 200 artisans in its Hiroshima factory. At the Kyoto flagship, customers can experiment with products including the best-selling S100 Finishing Brush Angled, a densely packed goat-hair style perfect for evenly dispersing face powders and highlighters. The shop’s exterior, meanwhile, is modeled after a Japanese machiya, or wooden townhouse, with a slatted roof, reflecting the brand’s deep respect for tradition and innovation, says Takamoto, who at age 80 still goes to the factory “early in the morning every day to do the final inspection.” 715-1 Yohojimaecho, en.hakuho-do.co.jp.
Cosme Kitchen, Tokyo
Perhaps surprisingly, the clean-beauty movement only really took off in Japan in the last decade. Cosme Kitchen, launched in 2010, helped paved the way, with its early embrace of organic makeup, natural skin-care products and greener-living essentials that it packs to go in reusable cloth bags. Now, the shop is hardly niche (it has more than 40 locations in Japan), but there’s still the thrill of discovering something unique there — such as Japanese cocoa butter primers to blur fine lines, Italian pore-clearing green clay pastes, eucalyptus-scented laundry detergent from New Zealand or Korean sleep masks infused with damask rose water. To further your pursuit of wellness, the Cosme Kitchen Juicery and Cosme Adaptation Kitchen serve up nut milk smoothies, macrobiotic rice bowls and vegan sweets. Locations throughout Tokyo, and other areas of Japan, cosmekitchen.jp.
Isetan Shinjuku, one of Japan’s largest department stores, began as a kimono fabric shop in Tokyo in 1886. Today, the retailer occupies all nine levels of an expansive 1930s-era building and is well-known for its grand food hall, filled with imaginative and Old World delicacies, produce, sushi and pastries, including botamochi rice cake dumplings and kasutera sponge cakes. The Apothecary is similarly well stocked, with nearly 1,000 products spanning skin and hair care, cosmetics, supplements and fragrances. Among the most interesting are the Tokyo-based brand Waphyto’s body oils, inspired by ancient Japanese herbal medicine and blended with locally grown plants (rosemary, cypress, hackberry); the Kyoto-based line Kotoshina’s green tea hydrating lotions; and the Osaka-based skin-care company EtVos’s pore-minimizing mineral finishing powders, a favorite among Japanese influencers for imparting a radiant glow. 3-14-1 Shinjuku, mistore.jp.
Bondi Wash, Sydney, Australia
It was reading Patrick Süskind’s dark historical novel “Perfume” (1985), in which the protagonist has an unusually keen sense of smell, that began Belinda Everingham’s obsession with scents. In particular, she became fascinated by the aromatic flora of her native Australia: earthy, antibacterial Tasmanian pepper; crisp, revitalizing lilly pilly; and floral, restorative kangaroo paw. Extracts from each of these plants, and others, can be found in Bondi Wash, the range of naturally fragranced skin-care, home, baby and even dog products that Everingham founded in 2013. “We like less fuss in our routines and are attracted to multipurpose things,” she says of her team’s ethos. The brand’s flagship store in Bondi Beach stocks the line’s full offering of over 40 different formulas, ranging from cleansers to detergents, which are displayed alongside arrangements of locally sourced greenery, and this fall, Everingham will open a natural perfumery in Paddington, dedicated to her new fragrance line, Wyalba, which will, she says, “bring the scents of Australia to life.” 76 Gould Street, bondiwash.com.au.