Experiential designer Madelynn Ringo shares the inspiration behind Glossier’s Austin pop-up.
By Courtney Runn, Photos courtesy of Glossier
Large, inflatable lipsticks installed on the roof of a pale pink building on South Congress Avenue can only mean one thing: Glossier Austin has arrived. The beauty startup first announced the pop-up in a social-media announcement on Sep. 10 and confirmed this week that the space will be open from Oct. 23 to Dec. 8.
Emily Weiss launched the company’s first products in 2014, capitalizing on her already faithful Into The Gloss audience and quickly gaining a loyal fanbase. With the tagline “Skin First, Makeup Second,” Weiss filled a gap in the beauty industry, elevating customer experience and prioritizing skincare. Products are intentionally not available in national chains and can only be purchased online or at a Glossier store. Five years later, the company is now a unicorn, valued at more than $1 billion, and has a cult-like following with more than two million Instagram followers and products regularly launching to waitlists. Last year, Glossier reported a Boy Brow sold every 32 seconds.
With permanent stores only in New York and Los Angeles, Glossier pop-ups offer fans a rare chance to experience the company in real life. Austin is the fourth city this year to get the millennial-pink treatment following stints in Miami, Seattle and Boston. London is next.
“We’re always in constant conversation with our customers and we heard from our community in Austin that they were really eager to meet Glossier in real life,” Madelynn Ringo says.
As a senior experiential designer, Ringo is responsible for translating the Glossier aesthetic to real life and capturing each pop-up city’s essence in the space. Tropical murals and florals accented an art-deco themed space in Miami while the Seattle pop-up transformed into a giant terrarium with moss and flowers taking over the space. The Boston pop-up was a nod to the city’s collegiate reputation with branded composition books, pennant flags and baseball caps.
While each experience runs on its own timeline, Ringo says she’ll first do a deep dive into a city’s culture before bringing her research back to the team in New York. Together, they’ll collaborate on a mood board, draft architectural sketches and start designing marketing and logos unique to the space.
To research for the Austin pop-up, Ringo played tourist, taking a dip in Barton Springs, scootering around the city, discovering tacos and scouring “a ton of local vintage stores.”
“Sitting on…the hills surrounding [Barton Springs], I really felt that really casual and welcoming vibe of the city and I really wanted to translate that gathering of people into our space,” she says.
South Congress Avenue and its “larger-than-life signage” also captured her attention, inspiring the retro sign outside the pop-up. Building local partnerships is an integral part of any Glossier experience, leading Ringo to team up with local florist Erin Knipp, collaborate with the nursery The Great Outdoors for exterior greenery and bring woman-run ice-cream truck Connor’s Creamery on-site.
The pop-up is also selling unique-to-Austin diner mugs (perhaps a nod to next-door neighbor Magnolia Café) and donating $5 of each mug purchase to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a Texas nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved immigrants.
“It’s really fun to look at a city through Glossier-colored glasses,” communications coordinator Reed Redman says. “[We want the] community to feel not only we’re bringing Glossier to them but we’re taking into account all the things they love about their community.”
Even the store’s playlist is custom with Texan artists Max Frost, Khruangbin, Lucinda Williams and Shakey Graves. All of these elements contribute to Glossier’s stellar marketing and experiential reputation. Ringo and her team aren’t just creating a store but an experience; blush and moisturizer are no longer products but souvenirs.
“We created the ultimate beauty destination and created a roadside attraction,” she says.
While that reputation largely has social media to thank, Ringo says her team focuses on the physical space first before considering mirror proportions ideal for a selfie (but of course they consider that, too).
“As a digital-first company, we have the freedom to really experiment with our offline experiences and create a space that prioritizes joy and hospitality and experience over transaction,” Ringo says. “We’re really excited when customers come to the store and they just get really inspired to participate in Glossier and we want to facilitate that discovery about finding not only skincare and makeup products and enjoying those products we have to offer but also meeting other people who are excited about the brand and making connections with other people in their community.”
Ringo has handed off the pop-up to a team of local “offline editors” to bring the magic of Glossier to life. The store officially opens at 11 a.m. and if past pop-ups are any indication, lines will be long but for superfans, a chance to take a “You Look Good” selfie is worth the wait. Happy swatching and Instagramming!