In the apothecary section, two young women were inspecting shelves with detox kits, Sex Dust, psychic vampire repellent and a shamanic pouch with healing stones that included “the goddess stone” chrysocolla.
In the kitchen area, a mother and her toddler daughter were leafing through coffee table books with titles like Foraged Flora, Sunday Suppers and Dinner Diaries: Reviving the Art of the Hostess.
Lilli Lee was in the living room area with her friends flicking through a clothes rack and lingered over a pair of lime green trousers. She examined the price tag. “Three hundred dollars. Oh, am I in trouble?”
Lee wasn’t in trouble. She was in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Los Angeles store, the alpha zen actor’s first permanent brick-and-mortar space of her lifestyle brand Goop, and apparently that felt pretty close to being in heaven.
“It’s just beautiful,” said Lee, 43, indicating the antique mantle, chandelier and blue and magenta wall coverings – all inspired, like the rest of the store, by the décor of a nearby bungalow owned by Paltrow.
The store, called Goop Lab, opened this week in Brentwood Country Mart, a cluster of boutiques in a plush, celebrity-filled neighbourhood near the Pacific Ocean which likes to call malls marts.
The shop is airy, bright and small, just 1,300 square feet, with soft music and smiling, white-clad staff – a physical embodiment of the online store that inspires devotion for Paltrow’s vision of wellness and scorn for products such as jade stones which women are invited to insert into their vaginas.
“It’s all been choreographed by GP,” said Heather Taylor, a store manager, using a term of affection for her boss. “All the products are clean. They have nothing that could be harmful to the body.”
Some, however, may disembowel the wallet.
The entrance, which mimics a garden, offers “buttery and soft” deerskin gloves for $48, gold-handled floral scissors for $72 and the “prettiest compost bin ever” for $175.
Further inside, you find a pair of Portuguese napkin rings with images of sky blue swallows for $56 and a champagne flute for $180. A silk blouse costs $685, a floral dress $795.
The kitchen area is centred around an ivory and brass LaCanche oven where Goop food editors are due to cook and provide demonstrations. Paltrow’s image beams from the cover of her book, It’s All Good: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook ($34).
To the store’s “guests” – they are not called customers – it was all good. Goop, which Paltrow started as a newsletter in 2008 and turned into a global brand, now had a sanctum: the artfully arranged flowers, the whimsical décor, the wares which promised to stop ageing and banish bad vibes.
“I think it’s all pretty positive and uplifting,” said Heidi Brecker, 36, a longtime fan, as she browsed some dresses . “Goop helps keep you young and fresh and vibrant.” Brecker, it should be noted, looked about 26.
The store’s vibe reminded her of London, where she used to live. “It feels very Westbourne Grove.”
One can only speculate what Little Nell would have made of a curiosity shop where nothing is supposed to grow old.
Brentwood Country Mart is sufficiently LA to have a sign in the car park reminding visitors they’re not at the beach: “Wear shirts and shoes. Leave dogs outside … No skateboards or rollerblades.”
During the Guardian’s visit, all Goop’s customers were slender white women, save the toddler, who seemed destined to become one. She rummaged through the kitchenware, picking items at random. “What have you got there, honey?” asked her mom. “Nice! You have good taste.”
Some guests came out of curiosity but all felt Goop’s magic, said Taylor, the manager. “Nobody can come here and not buy anything. Everybody leaves with something.”
Walmart and Debenhams take note: options in the apothecary included jars of Sex Dust, “a lusty edible formula alchemized to ignite and excite sexy energy in and out of the bedroom” ($38) and bottles of psychic vampire repellent, comprising “sonically tuned gem elixirs” ($30).
The medicine bag pebbles included black obsidian for “grounding and protection”, carnelian for “support for female issues”, lapis lazuli for “the speaking of one’s truth” and clear quartz for “connection with your higher self, intuition and spirit guides” ($85). There was no sign of vaginal jade stones.
Kitchenware included a $50 rolling pin with wood apparently reclaimed from the Atlantic City Boardwalk, a type of rare south American hardwood “some of which is extinct today”, according to Goop’s website. All products, it says, are designed to let people “shop with meaning”.
Goop collaborated with the design firm Roman and Williams to mix custom and vintage décor, Brittany Pattner, Goop’s experiential creative director, said via email. “Our headquarters are a short drive away from the store, so we see it as an extension of our home. A lab of sorts for us to experiment in, connect with our community of readers and shoppers.”
Goop had plans for further retail expansion, Pattner added. “We hope to share more news about that soon.”