The other day, as I walked with my partner through Notting Hill in London, we came across a shop which deserves to be visited just as an experience, or perhaps an education, for people not yet aware how extremely silly the 21st century can be.
We had heard strange and interesting things about Goop, an online store and blog run by the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, famed for its weird and often obviously ill-advised ‘remedies’ (vaginal steaming anyone?), but never knew it had a physical store.
Stepping inside, it’s clear that within these walls Gwyneth is treated as a guru. She’s referred to reverentially as ‘GP’ and before you even get to the products on sale you’re invited to read the gospel according to Goop — the founding story, which is written on the walls. Important dates include when GP did her first ‘master cleanse’ and the time when Peter Arnell jokes to GP that all successful internet companies have a double ‘O’ in their name.
The shop is broken into sections, clothes first and then homeware, skincare products, nutritional supplements, and a category of items called ‘wellness’. The general rule seems to be to add a zero to the cost of products typically sold in John Lewis. There’s a luxury sleep mask (£108), with matching pajamas; white lacquered Peugeot salt and pepper mill sets (£70); cloth napkins with stars on them (£76); or a stripy blouse with black lace (£350).
The back of the shop is where it gets interesting — it’s like the dotty mothership for the increasingly lucrative and often bogus ‘wellness’ industry. There is ‘crystal-infused water’ from glass bottles with a crystal stuck to the bottom. The Goop blog tells me that the bottles infuse you with ‘positive energy’ and can help you with your love life. (They are also dishwasher safe.)
An assistant offers me a drink of Goop Glow (a morning skin superpowder), which looks bright orange, but tastes mainly of water. The Glow is designed ‘to reduce the free radical effects of the sun, pollution, stress, and more’. Elsewhere, there are sun potions, Goopgenes (a marine collagen superpowder) and detox bath soaks.
No visit to Goop is complete without admiring its famous jade eggs. According to Goop, the ‘Yoni eggs’ were a strictly guarded secret of Chinese concubines and they ‘harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice’. In practice, this means the eggs (which are slightly smaller than a chicken’s) should be placed inside a woman’s vagina. After use, the store suggests that the eggs should be put in hot water, sage should be burnt around them, and, optionally, they should be placed in ‘the light of a full moon’. After a small outcry from advertising regulators and doctors worried about how safe it was to get all intimate with eggs, plus a fine of $145,000, Goop toned down its claims about the health benefits of the eggs, although this has done nothing to dent their popularity.
I can’t promise you’ll leave Goop with the promised Goop Glow but as an insight into human nature and the thriving ‘wellness’ industry, it’s invaluable.
This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.