Romain Gaillard, CEO and founder of Los Angeles- based The Detox Market, did not expect to be an overnight green beauty retail success when he opened a pop-up on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in quirky Venice, California, in 2010. Even in a progressive city, the original concept–what Gaillard recalls as a “great laboratory of new wellness trends,” serving up cold-pressed juices and matcha tea bars alongside 14 green beauty brands–felt a bit ahead of its time, and in a tough financial landscape to boot. The Venice bungalow rented out for its initial two months had a shadowy, somewhat salacious history (a woman had once received it as a gift from a cheating boyfriend in the ’60s). “We were clearly too early,” Gaillard says with a laugh. “Four or five years passed before we were really relevant; it took time to pick up. In that first two months, we were having fun, not making any money–but we were passionate about what we were doing.”
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Gaillard, born and raised in Paris, moved to San Francisco at 22, worked at a tech company and later started his own outfit in security software. But, he admits, perhaps his European roots drew him to his ultimate calling. “Paris is probably the world capital of beauty; skin care is an obsession there,” he says. “Many French people buy their skin care in pharmacies, so it really surprised me when I learned that some ingredients are potentially harmful.”
Gaillard was introduced to the world of beauty through a friend, a breast cancer survivor who enlightened him on the potential toxicity in everyday beauty staples. “I became intrigued and started researching ingredients in personal care. I learned there were clearly some ques- tionable ingredients in beauty products, but, more importantly, there were also some amazing brands creating high-quality, pure products,” he remembers. “That’s when I decided to do something about it. But I never thought I was starting a new concept. I always saw The Detox Market as a short-term side project.”
Indeed, the original pop-up didn’t net any profit, despite the accolades and attention it received from the press. Undeterred, Gaillard took The Detox Market to other progressive, trend-setting cities: San Francisco, West Hollywood (its first, and still existing, physical location) and Toronto. “We tried it out in many cities and countries, but at that time the conversation about green beauty hadn’t even started,” he recalls. “I loved what I was doing from the beginning, but for many years we didn’t have any clients. Many times, people told us that our concept didn’t make sense–that no one cared about what was in beauty products. But I started to see a shift in 2014, and since then we have doubled in size every year.”
The once-struggling pop-up experiment has burgeoned into seven brick-and-mortar locations in North America: three in the Los Angeles area (West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Century City), three in Toronto and one in New York City. The latest Toronto outpost, in its vibrant downtown, boasts 2,200 square feet of space. The NYC flagship encompasses an entire building, with two floors and a rooftop. The rooftop serves as a unique gathering space, often hosting influencers, workshops, photo shoots and “Meet the Makers” events where brand founders can discuss their journey, products and vision.
Ultimately, Gaillard believes that being ahead of the curve, despite the inherent early difficulties, has brought many more benefits than drawbacks. “What’s great about starting ‘too early’ and surviving is that we’ve built a core group of followers,” he explains. “We never cut corners, even forcing many brands to reformulate, which gained us a lot of credbility and trust. We still love pop-ups, but we love design as well, and it’s difficult to pull off a sophisticated look in pop-ups. Those are our roots, but we spend a lot of time on creating the experience in-store, though we are now mostly an e-commerce business. The physical locations help us acquire customers and earn their loyalty.”
The Detox Market started with a mere 14 brands, many of which are now booming businesses–think RMS Beauty, haircare brand Rahua, Odacité and W3ll People—while adding others that fit the strict criteria for being stocked on shelves, such as Tata Harper, Moon Juice and ILIA Beauty. “Because we opened our doors so early on, we had the wonderful experience of launching brands that are now considered trailblazers in the industry; we were all pioneering in unknown territory together,” Gaillard says. “I think because we set our standards so high, it created the precedent for other brands to follow suit. We refused to compromise on ingredients, efficacy, or even esthetics, and now the naturals market has gone from under the radar to in-demand.”
Initially, Gaillard adds, The Detox Market carried the very few brands who “were doing green beauty right–the ones with passionate founders who were making products that worked and were a pleasure to use.” Almost 10 years later, the product selection process remains unchanged, but with many more options: The company now receives roughly 800 brand submissions each year.
If something catches the team’s attention, the first step is to inspect the ingredients to determine if they meet The Detox Market safety standards. The company enforces a strict list of forbidden ingredients from among the more than 82,000 chemicals registered in the United States for personal care. Gaillard examines each product closely, spending plenty of time testing products he thinks might be a fit, all while considering whether the products add something special to its careful curation. The ensuing successes for accepted brands that have passed the review process remain high- lights for Gaillard. “That’s what gets me very excited: becoming friends with these brand founders and seeing the success of brands we carry,” he notes. “We now have 120 brands, but we’re very selective. We’ve even refused brands for one ingredient, and they reformulate.” Surprisingly, The Detox Market has passed on carrying products with CBD, even though they are big sellers. It boils down to the fact that not any of the believed CBD beauty benefits have solid research behind them. There’s an integrity factor that makes the retailer a trusted friend to those seeking green beauty products that are also efficacious.
In an ever-expanding sea of cleaner, greener beauty products, how exactly does a formula distinguish itself to the discerning Detox Market team? “There are a few ways a product can stand out: It can fulfill a need, like the new Odacité Blue Aura Cleansing Water, which works as a no-rinse cleanser–something previously very hard to find in the natural world,” Gaillard details. “Or it can be best-in-class, like the
Pai Skincare BioRegenerate Oil, which is an exceptional oil with a cult following. The products that tend to garner the most success in green beauty are the ones created with a lot of care and high standards. Our clients value authenticity and quality.”
The Detox Market customers, Gaillard points out, are also very curious, smart and discerning– and the company works tirelessly to provide them with safer, top-quality products and to create rich in-store experiences with education. “Our customers have great taste; they’re health-conscious and environmentally conscious,” Gaillard says. “The Detox Market customer wants a natural product that performs like a conventional product, with only the best ingredients, in eco-friendly packaging. Essentially, they want it all!”
And, while some shoppers know exactly what they want–and remain loyal to the pioneering green brands working toward higher purposes– some are new to the green/clean beauty scene, a change that Gaillard admits can be very confusing for some. Enter the in-store Detox Ambassadors, a passionate bunch of employees who stand ready to guide customers and explain products and ingredients in detail. “For me, it’s most important to create that experience and for everyone to learn something when they come to the store,” Gaillard notes. “It’s like when people visit your home; you want to create something nice for them, so we spend a lot of time on selecting just the right materials to build everything. Our Detox Ambassadors are very educated and passionate about green beauty; when you come in, you really engage with someone who loves these products. They live and breathe it.”
After the initial pop-ups in the early 2010s, West Hollywood’s first physical location may have seemed a gamble when opening its doors in 2011. But Toronto followed in 2012 as a pop-up that simply stayed put, while a third outpost opened, also in Toronto, in 2013. Following increasing consumer demand, the Santa Monica outpost blossomed in 2017, but the last two years have almost doubled The Detox Market’s locations–in 2018 alone, one in New York, a third in Toronto, and another in Century City. This year, an earlier Toronto location was relocated and outfitted as the city’s flagship. There’s another potential location now in the works, still being kept hush-hush, but perhaps rolling out later this year. And Gaillard notes that the company has grown by 100 percent per year for the last five years.
Interestingly, Gaillard has successfully made a seamless switch from working in tech–a notoriously male-dominated field–to diving headfirst into the typically women’s world of beauty with The Detox Market. “Ninety-five percent of The Detox Market’s workforce is female, and 90 percent of our brands are female-founded,” he says. “I have such a great team–each person is integral to making The Detox Market what it is, and essential to our future success.”
Despite switching gears, early challenges and the company's recent rapid growth, Gaillard insists his goals for The Detox Market have never changed. “We want to be the trusted green beauty expert and keep the focus on community, because I believe that green beauty is a community first and an industry second,” he concludes. “We want to continue growing without sacrificing authenticity or our connection with the community we started building back in 2010. The reason we are the most successful in our category is not because we are obsessed with growth, but because we are passionate about what we do.”