Kiehl’s Since 1851, The Retrospective
This year marks a big milestone for Kiehl’s, as it’s turning 160 years old (yup, believe it). To properly celebrate the birthday of the world’s most popular apothecary brand, the famed home of Crème de Corps, Cucumber Toner, and Lip Balm #1 has decided to pay homage to its heritage by transforming half of its famous New York flagship into a virtual time capsule. “I’d talk to people and they’d be like, ‘you’re how old?’,” Kiehl’s president, Chris Salgardo, told us at a press preview last night. “And even when they did the math, they still didn’t quite get the magnitude of it. I mean, we’ve been around since before Abraham Lincoln was president! So I felt that it was important to take the opportunity to tell the history.”
Besides all manner of neat old apothecary vessels, the makeshift museum also boasts iPad stations, where you can catch a piece of the Friends of Kiehl’s documentary featuring the likes of Chloë Sevigny; a row of vintage dispensaries, where you can avail yourself of free samples the old-school way (pumping your own lotion can actually be a very satisfying experience); and a video booth should you wish to perform that soliloquy you’ve been composing about the brand’s Coriander Body Wash. Perhaps most thrilling, though, is the motorcycle photo booth, where you get to straddle a 1934 Indian “Suicide Shift” Scout motorcycle that belonged to Steve McQueen and have your picture taken—one strip stays in the store, one strip goes home with you, and all photos are uploaded to the Kiehl’s Facebook page. “We have a great motorcycle collection…like Clark Gable’s bike, and Evel Knievel’s, but I thought people would be so excited about McQueen’s,” says Salgardo.
There are also limited-edition bottles of Crème de Corps to commemorate the anniversary (the special series is only available at the flagship). And come June, with the launch of Kiehl’s Gives, the brand will ask customers to vote on how it distributes a $160,000 donation among three charities. There’s plenty to be excited about, but Salgardo is especially jazzed about one thing: the response from his neighbors. “I can’t wait to see the neighborhood’s reaction! We only turn 160 once, and for us it’s always been about the community. This is for the East Village.”
The Kiehl’s Since 1851 retrospective will be on view at 109 Third Ave., NYC, through August 2011. For more information, call (212) 677-3171 or visit www.kiehls.com.—Fiorella Valdesolo
Photo: Zachary Tolbert / Kiehl’s Since 1851