Long Reads

I was the first customer at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop London pop up store. This is what I learned.

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
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Looking for a fancy vibrator or a vaginal egg? You’re in the right place…

I don’t generally make a habit of drinking matcha lattes, by virtue of them both resembling and tasting like pond scum.

But when Gwyneth Paltrow offers me one, of course, I will drink it. And this morning, at the Goop pop up store at 188 Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, that’s exactly what happens. As one of the first customers having a private tour of the shop before it opens to the public this week, I am handed an almond milk matcha latte at a temperature best described as “crisp September morning” by someone who is under the express employ of Goop. Their pay cheque, I can only assume, is metaphorically signed by Gwyneth herself, reducing the degrees of separation between Goop’s co-founder and me from, oh, thousands, to just one.

The matcha latte, despite being blessed by Gwyneth, still tasted like pond scum. But did I drink every last drop from the perfectly tapered glass? You better believe it.

The Goop pop up store at 188 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill

10 years ago, as the legend goes, Gwyneth launched her lifestyle brand Goop from her kitchen table in Belsize Park. Back then Goop was a weekly newsletter offering travel tips, healthy recipes and an insight into Gwyneth’s obsession with cashmere and quinoa.

Over the intervening decade, Goop has taken on many forms, like a boggart, from website to print magazine, podcast to one-day summit, online retailer to bricks-and-mortar store. It has generated more column inches than Kate Middleton for some of its more outlandish claims, like the efficacy of jade eggs inserted exactly where you think they’re going to be inserted, or a recipe for “sex bark”, which is basically a mint chocolate square that will get you in the mood, or the wellness benefits of vaginal steaming and bee stings and voluntary colonics.

It ushered the terms “conscious uncoupling” and “shamanic energy medicine healer” and “yoni” into common parlance. Once, in an article on Goop, Gwyneth referred to Billy Joel as “William Joel”.

And yet despite, or perhaps because of all this, in March the business received an injection of £38million in seed funding, ballooning its overall market value to £190million. Website traffic, about 2.6million unique visitors a month, is up 21% in the last six months. This week, the brand celebrates its 10th birthday.

Gwyneth and her fiance Brad Falchuk on the cover of the Goop magazine

Which is why a whole bunch of glowing, glossy-haired, very tanned Americans have descended upon Notting Hill to open Goop’s first international retail store. It’s only a pop up and will close its doors in January, but until then the boutique, spread over four light-filled levels, is open every day from 10am until 6pm for anyone looking to fill their lives with the kind of wellness paraphernalia that is part efficacy, all aesthetic.

It smells like jasmine and patchouli. Everything, even the cotton buds for testing make-up from natural beauty brands like RMS and ILIA, looks expensive.

So what can you buy? The ground floor carries fashion brands including Stella McCartney jeans (£359) alongside silky Asceno pyjamas and jumpers from Goop’s home brand range. A vast cabinet of diamond-studded jewels with a worrying lack of price tags winks under a spotlight.

Inside the Goop store

The bottom two floors are concerned with the kitchen and the gym, while the top floor is for beauty products. There, a chic shower cap will set you back £35, and a “clean teeth” kit, which will clean your teeth in a clean way – ie. free from chemicals – is £30.

A tiny millennial pink crystal incense holder is £244. (There are a lot of crystals in this store. There are crystal-infused water bottles, crystal bowls, crystal kitchen utensils and loose crystals that can be purchased loosely.)

Supplements, supplements, everywhere: Apple cider vinegar, turmeric, pro-biotics, pre-biotics, collagen powder. You can buy boxes of Goop Wellness, the vitamin “protocols” for women based around problem areas such as weight and energy that, according to the brand, sold more than £76,000 on the day they were launched.

How to Goop your kitchen

But it’s up on the top floor, tucked into a discreet cabinet at the back of the store, that I find what I am looking for. Jade yoni eggs. These surprisingly small tapered crystal spheres, that retail at £60, have been something of an achilles heel for Goop.

When they were first debuted on the website back in 2017 they sold out instantly. Designed to be inserted into your vagina to “increase chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general”, they also carried an ominous warning to “please be sure to follow the instructions included with your egg”, including adding unwaxed dental floss through a string hole so that the user could, presumably, pull the damn thing out after they had wedged it in there.

Earlier this month, Goop was ordered to pay £110,189 in civil penalties and to cease making claims “regarding the efficacy or effects of any of its product without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

This civil suit between a number of Californian counties and Goop, was filed as a direct response to the jade yoni eggs and the Judge Flower Essence Blend essential oils taken orally to ‘prevent’ depression. (A Goop spokesperson called the legal skirmish an “honest disagreement” and added that no-one has asked for a refund.)

The infamous yoni eggs

Which could explain why the yoni eggs were discreetly hidden at the back of the store, alongside a £76 pouch of “medicine” crystals.

But as I scan the shelves I realise that here, in a Scandi-minimal cabinet, is where Goop gets dirty. Every shelf is full of sex-related products, from ergonomic Swedish sex toys (£50) to Fur (£44), the pubic oil favoured by Emma Watson.

This is the side of Goop that I can get down with. So to speak.

It’s the side that normalises conversations about sex and argues that all women – including but not limited to Goop’s wealthy clientele aged approximately 34 years old and with an average household income in the six figure range, according to the brand – should be able to understand, talk about and be the architect of their own pleasure.

The sex cabinet at Goop 

This is a good message, questionable yoni eggs notwithstanding. And once you look past all the ingestible supplements, all that expensive cashmere, all the things that are all so clean, there are parts of this business that are doing some very real good for some - maybe even many - women.

There are parts that are damaging, too, like the fact that Goop caters to an elite audience to the exclusion of all else and that a lot of what it promotes sits under that weird, unsubstantiated umbrella we call ‘wellness’ that carries no guarantee that it will produce any results whatsoever.

Not so a vibrator. When you buy a vibrator, even a Goop one, you’re more or less getting what you paid for. Unlike turmeric powder, or apple cider vinegar pills, or even a drinking bottle with a crystal inside it that is designed to infuse your water with energy.

Plus, at £50, that vibrator is one of the cheapest things in the store.

Images: Getty 

Photographs taken by author