In the late 1920s, the Great Depression was rendering most Americans professionally and financially paralyzed. But in a small California kitchen, Merle Nethercutt Norman was putting a plan in motion to formulate her own skincare products and share them with family and friends. She truly believed in her formulas, knowing that by getting them on as many faces as possible, she would develop a following of customers. She was right—within a few years she and her nephew were opening their first studio in Santa Monica, and they eventually unveiled a series of independently operated stores that enabled women to take ownership during a time of gender-based limitations such as men-only restrooms.
Today, in approximately 2,000 stores across three countries, the three basic principles of Merle's original vision still apply. Each studio is independently owned and fosters an in-depth knowledge of the company's own line of makeup and skincare products. Just as Merle shared her creations with close friends and sallow mannequins more than 80 years ago, today's aestheticians embody the business's "try before you buy" philosophy. A menu of complimentary studio services—from foundation checks to express facials—allows patrons to sample the lauded brand before committing to the purchase of products or full spa treatments.
Nestled inside a cozy brick house rests Salon Serenity, where slate-hued walls lettered with an inspirational saying and light-strewn hardwood floors set the soothing tone that permeates the beautifying emporium. Maroon curtains and a stately fireplace pop out against the turquoise background of the waiting area, and a large canvas portrait of a zebra greets clients and confused lions in the haircutting room. Led by owners Stephanie and Neal Flower, a skilled team of beauty-industry professionals wields handpicked products while snipping, coloring, or straightening hair or prettifying faces with makeup applications.
Located inside More Norman, Merle Norman Cosmetics and its team of beauty consultants use a full line of skincare and beauty products to highlight clients' best features. The cosmetics experts make an effort to get to know each guest personally, allowing them to better understand the beauty needs of the client in front of them, such as creating fuller lashes, highlighting cheekbones, or concealing a birthmark that's shaped like another person's birthmark.
The brand American Apparel, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, conjures up images of stylish and well-fitting fashion basics. It also likely brings to mind sassy advertisements featuring long-haired beauties in natural makeup posing in skin-bearing bodysuits and loungewear.
But what many don't know about the brand—despite its name and the slice of apple pie that comes with every purchase—is that all of its clothes are made in America. Everything from sewing and cutting to accounting and marketing happens in one building in downtown Los Angeles, and the rest occurs within a 30-mile radius. Not only that, every slim-fitting pair of pants, spandex bodysuit, and v-neck T-shirt is made in a sweatshop-free environment.
Plus, keeping everything in house means the company eliminates unnecessary and wasteful factors, such as shipping fuel and packing materials, as well as provides jobs to Angelenos, instead of outsourcing them.
In a handful of studios scattered between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Springfield, Missouri, kids express their artistic creativity under the friendly supervision of Noah’s Art instructors. Classes cover a wide variety of topics—from painting and clay sculpture to vocals-based Song Art—and are arranged by age group, allowing children to interact with peers of a similar developmental stage while engaging in philosophical musings on the meaning of parent-enforced time-outs. Instructors also teach basic art tools and techniques, such as how to properly hold a paintbrush or sculpt clay using only your mind.
After traveling to cities outside of Charlotte, earth enthusiasts Fiona and Marley began envying the other towns' stockpiles of eco-friendly stores. Back home, they could always buy green products on the web, but since they had no opportunity to sample or even look at them before delivery, they were frequently disappointed with their purchases. They decided to take matters into their own hands in January 2011 by establishing ecolicious—a one-stop market for vegan and eco-friendly wares.
Each item at ecolicious bears a product tab with a review by staff members, who personally test the goods they shelve. Jewelry crafted by local artisans hangs near vintage clothing, raw snacks, and cleaning supplies made from humanely harvested soap bubbles. Within the store's bright blue walls, Community Supported Agriculture members can also pick up their seasonal shipments of local produce.