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Would you buy your skincare from a members’ club?

The working title for one of the products in the new skincare range from the Soho House group was “Game Face”. Although the cream ended up being called “24/7 Treatment”, the nickname says a lot about what the Soho House team were aiming to deliver. And what a cohort of hard-working, hard-playing professionals want from skincare in 2022.

“This cream is the ultimate antidote to the Soho House lifestyle,” says Aalish Yorke-Long, managing director of Soho House Retail. We’re speaking over an iced coffee in the group’s outpost on London’s Strand, where confident millennials hold afternoon meetings around the rooftop pool under striped umbrellas. Yorke-Long says 24/7 Treatment, which costs £72, is for when “you’ve got to go on a work trip, you get off the plane, you feel rough but you’ve got to be convincing in a meeting and do not look exhausted. So we created something that gives you an instant lift.”

I’ve tested the 24/7 Treatment, and while it’s not quite a license to go on a bar crawl before an important work day, it does help create a certain smooth, awake, “I’ve got this” face. Like the rest of the 11-product range, it’s effective without being irritating, and I say this as someone with sensitive skin. It comes encased in shelfie-friendly packaging that feels sort of retro-millennial, with its smoky glass bottles and ’70s font.

Soho Skin, the new genderless range, began appearing in the rooms of Soho House hotels in February via a trial kit of seven “essential” products that came with a QR code, which users could scan to give their opinions. The range is on sale to members this month and launches to the public in October, starting with Space NK as the retail partner in the UK. It will replace facial products from Soho House’s existing range, Cowshed, in the rooms, but otherwise Cowshed body products stay the same.

But will consumers want to buy skincare from a members’ club chain? Will the products feel authentic, or just more merch?

More than a few high-end hotels have begun to expand into full lifestyle brands. Il Pellicano has experimented with high-fashion collaborations and offers €170 sweatshirts and a €320 glazed Porcelain change tray, and the Ritz Paris created a capsule with Frame denim. Emporio Sirenuse distils its Amalfi hotel aesthetic into resortwear and lifestyle pieces, collaborating with designers such as Emilia Wickstead. It helps that after over two years of a pandemic, luxury hotels have an extra aura of exoticism and the promise of fashionably expanded horizons.

The Soho Skin range is initially only available in the company’s hotel rooms but will go on wider sale in October

June Jensen-Mills, head of UK Beauty for the NPD Group, says as “a lifestyle brand synonymous with self care and wellbeing”, a skincare line from Soho House “is the perfect brand extension, allowing consumers access to the Soho House brand at an accessible price point”.

And what of the consumer appetite for skincare? According to NPD, the £228mn UK skincare category is up 7 per cent compared with the same period last year. Jensen is “optimistic” that “super premium brands” will be more resilient in the coming months, and “we expect the more affluent demographic purchasing these products to be less affected by the cost of living crisis”. In the year to date, sales growth for prestige brands is double that of mid-range brands, and small and emerging brands are growing faster than both, up 20 per cent over the first half of last year.

The skincare line was conceived in lockdown, while many of Soho House’s clubs were closed, providing an opportunity for the management team to analyze their offering from drinks to spas to skincare range Cowshed, which is more aromatherapy-based. Yorke-Long says that the members’ feedback was that “they loved Cowshed and want to keep it, but that the skincare side of it [as opposed to the shower and body products] didn’t cater to them as well as it should for something they would put on their face”. One Soho house member, a music executive, said she didn’t consider Cowshed to be a premium skincare brand, and it put her off facials in the Soho House spas.

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According to Yorke-Long, members’ complexion concerns centered around the fact “we had all experienced with a lot of aggressive skin care over lockdown, people had over retinol-ed and beaten their skin with these really aggressive actives and wanted something that was straightforward ”. The core formulation — dubbed Soho Skin Concentrate — contains glycogen to restore the vitality of cells, pistacia lentiscus gum aimed at activating collagen and elastic, and lactococcus ferment lysate to improve the skin’s barrier function. Fragrance is minimal.

Other insights provided go well beyond just the texture of a moisturizer, they speak to generational shifts in lifestyle. Soho House recently did some research in LA talking to its under-27 members who described a blended work/life day. Yorke-Long says they “work in offices but also hang out at Soho House, and they’ll go to a meeting, then to a gym class, then they’ll have another meeting, then a facial. Then another meeting. Then a drink. We are having to regenerate the way that we cater to them, for example putting on more staff in the spas during the day. It’s not like you’re going to work between eight and seven, and then you fit everything else around the edges any more”. Meetings, moisturize, repeat.

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