"Okay let's rip this apart, you ready?" I say to my friend when we enter the new Goop London store.
She nods, her scathing pistol armed and ready to take down all the woo-woo, overpriced sunniness we have come to expect from Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle behemoth, Goop.
I nod and say something equally dismissive about the sex toys – labelled 'fireman' and 'millionaire' – wondering if these are really the only choices our vaginas have: marble eggs or dubiously titled dildos.
After all, this is London. Home of the raised eyebrow; the birthplace of cynicism and sarcasm. Can we really buy into the LA optimism peddled by Goop? And, as cash-strapped millennials, can we afford it?
Goop London lands this week. It is the first European expansion of the US brand and, as of this week, they will begin shipping internationally to the UK and France, with more European locations added in the next few weeks.
Its new London home – a pop-up to last until January – is nestled in the heart of Notting Hill where, 10 years ago, Goop was conceived on Gwyneth’s kitchen table. No doubt surrounded by Himalayan salt and air purifiers.
But let’s not forget that number. Ten years is not to be scoffed at. While many so-called celebrity vanity projects have failed or faded away, Gwyneth’s Goop has become something of a phenomenon. You’re either loving it or condemning it; but you are talking about it.
Goop, which started as an email newsletter, is now a multi-platform brand currently worth, according to a source of The New York Times, a staggering $250 million. It managed to raise $25 million of capital between 2009 and 2017, in two rounds of funding and, according to a 2016 report, it is not in debt. It is so solvent and thriving, in fact, that it has done the unthinkable in today’s climate: it’s gone into print.
I read Goop’s Fall 2018 issue, which you cannot fault for breadth of content – or interesting topics – but which also contains phrases such as "light your path with knowledge" and "orgasms are the best time to set intentions". The theme of the issue is "Shit No One Says" and I wryly agree. Most of this is shit no one in London would ever say.
I talk to Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer, about whether London’s optimism deficit will be an issue for Goop. She gamely laughs – she’s armed and ready for this line of questioning.
"I think that will always exist. But I think we’ll see what has happened in the States, which is that people have an experience that will make them question their relationship with their cynicism about it," she says. "I think it takes them trying one thing – therapy or a cleanse or something – and having a positive experience with it, for that to start the domino effect."
She also welcomes our snarky scepticism. It’s actually rather on-brand for Goop: "Cynicism is totally fine because part of the brand is questioning! We are constantly questioning and evolving and learning new things."
One of the problems that consistently plagues Goop is a disconnect between what we think Goop is and what it actually is. Within five minutes of being in the store, I snatch up a stunning bird-print plate and feel instantly annoyed that I’m coveting something in Goop. I’m even more annoyed to realise it is a perfectly affordable £14.
"I hate that I like this," I tell my friend.
"I really want these cashmere sweatpants," she replies, deadpan, looking despondently disappointed in herself.
Loehnen agrees that Goop’s detractors are largely those who know nothing about the brand. She cites the example of the infamous vaginal steaming 'treatment' listed on Goop in a description of a spa they recommend.
"We have never written a piece on vaginal steaming!" she cries. "It was simply a treatment available at a spa we listed. People will comb through Goop and look at the most extreme examples and then that's what gets used to describe our brand."
I have just thought that, I think, focusing on the ridiculous affirmations in the magazine and ignoring the rather good recipes, or the fact that it presents a radically – and rather welcome – divergent style of editorial for women. Goop is undeniably a unique read. Maybe Gwyneth is the ultimate millennial after all: a disrupter.
I ask Loehnen if she thinks Goop will work for millennials. The surface impression of Goop being, of course, Gwyneth herself – a woman in her 40s, genetically blessed with abs of steel and time to acquire abs of steel. But it is here that Loehnen really convinces me.
"We do not have a prescribed idea of who our reader is," she says, pointing to their podcast, which draws in the 22-42 crowd, their Snapchat discover channel – adored by teens and pre-teens – and their content and stores, lapped up by older women. She notes that much of the store’s content is also affordable (that £14 plate calls to me, as does the affordable stemware and makeup) and that most Goop content is free.
"A lot of what we cover – like spirituality and mental health – really resonates with millennials," she says. I note that millennials are, perhaps, becoming increasingly Goop. We love a bit of wellness and self-care, we want more sex positivity, openness about female sexual health and transparency about the products we buy.
"Millennials want to know where things come from. They want to understand what is in things. They are asking the same questions that we are," she notes.
After an hour or so in the store, I start to agree with Loehnen. The clothes are gorgeous if, yes, eye-wateringly expensive; west London super labels Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney will be stocked there later this month. The makeup is solid, ethical and attainably priced, the homeware is beautiful and the sex toys are barmy but brilliant. I adored them largely just for the applaudable bravery of stocking them front and centre.
Goop could end up being millennial crack after all. The positivity and California-drenched lexicon may be a hard pill for this jaded Londoner to swallow, but I suppose it may do me more good than sticking an egg up my vagina.