Stop II of my "Birchbox Around the World" tour was Le Bon Marche department store on the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) in Paris. I was pumped to explore some new French brands through this experience, but what I found was very different from what I expected. Read on!
Here's the basic information:
Where: Le Bon Marche Department Store - Flagship at 24 Rue de Sevres, Galerie Imaginaire on the 2nd Floor (now "Brooklyn Rive Gauche")
When: February 21st, 2015 until May 31st, 2015 was what was originally reported. However, it is clearly still ongoing as part of the "Brooklyn Rive Gauche" campaign which ends on October 17th, 2015.
Cost: €15 including tax (about $15 + tax) for 5 samples
I recently attended the World Retail Congress in Rome, Italy for my day job. There were many captivating speakers there, and I was thrilled to see Birchbox Co-Founder Hayley Barna speak on the final day. I already knew that Birchbox had expanded its subscription service to a number of countries in Europe, including France and the UK. However, I had no idea that they'd had any brick-and-mortar presence. I was thrilled to hear that they had two initiatives so far - one pop-up at Le Bon Marche in Paris and one pop-up at Selfridge's in London. Out of pure coincidence I was scheduled to go to both cities next, during the time period that these campaigns were running. So, being a Birchbox superfan, I just had to check out both!
The concept behind the Build Your Own Birchbox station in Paris was pretty surprising. It looks like it was previously part of a Le Fabrique collaboration that included some French brands like Sabon. However, it has now been incorporated into the department store's overarching "Brooklyn Rive Gauche" campaign highlighting the culture of Brooklyn, New York. So, the department store is using this as a platform to sell a large variety of American brands. This has now translated to the Birchbox station, which only had American beauty samples to choose from for your box.
Although a bit disappointed, I still went with it for the novelty value. It's pretty much the exact same price as a Build Your Own Birchbox at the Soho NYC store. If it were more, I might not have purchased one. I couldn't be too upset. After all, this campaign was not intended for me - it was intended for the French audience. So, I imagine having all these American brands available was just as cool for them as the French brands would have been for me.
You received a total of 5 samples and you needed to pick one from each category: make-up, haircare, skincare, body care, and a beauty extra. There were just three products to choose from in each category. From what I remember, the Soho NYC store has a few more options per category.
The first sample I picked was the Beautyblender from the extras category. It came with a sponge and a solid cleanser for the sponge. I picked this because I don't currently own a similar product and because I know they retail for $20 (sponge) and $16 (cleanser). I think these might be "minis", but still that is some significant value.
I haven't used mine yet but one thing I've read that you need to look out for is that the sponge has a tendency to develop small black specks on it (potentially mold) that can transfer to your face! How unpleasant! So, you need to be sure to clean it regularly. The other options I had in this category were a nail polish and a nail strengthener. I was very tempted by the nail strengthener but didn't care for the color of the polish.
The haircare options weren't too bad. Unfortunately, I already have an Amika oil treatment sample I haven't used up and I'd just received the Parlor product in my August Birchbox USA subscription box. So, I went for the Beauty Protector mask. I've received a number of Beauty Protector products in Birchboxes before (at least: April 2014, April 2015, and May 2015). It's not an overly exciting brand and it hasn't "wow"ed me like the Davines products have, but it's still respectable. I'm sure this mask will be pretty nice.
The skincare options weren't too exciting. I've received the Supergoop sample a number of times, including in my July 2015 Birchbox USA subscription box. It's a pretty small sample and, since it was the end of summer, I did not think I'd be eager for a sunscreen product anytime soon. I tested the Medicine Mama's Apothecary product and really didn't like the scent. So, I went for the final option, Dr. Sager's Ouchy Boo-Boo Gel. To be honest, I do bruise very easily and have a very fair complexion. So, I'm kind of excited about this one. If it really works, it might be very nice for me to have.
Ah, yes...body care! Well, this was certainly an oddball one. Most of the options were a little more hippie than my usual taste would be. I definitely go for the luxe prestige brands in this area. Given this, I would have naturally leaned towards the Whish body gel. However, I already have a few Whish samples and recently ordered some full size ones. Burt's Bees is also pretty old hat for me. I'm very familiar with the products, they aren't very expensive, and they are easy to find (any Target store). So, I went for the usual one - the solid natural deodorant. I liked the Bergamot-Lime scent and I saw that most of the other shoppers (all French) were going for this one.
I'm not sure how I feel about natural deodorant thought. I'm pretty self conscious about this and feel like if you're not using the real thing, it's probably not going to meet expectations. The product says you only need to use a tiny amount, but I wonder how effective it would really be. I got it to use more as an on-the-go touch-up after the gym. I don't think I'd try it for regular daily use. Perhaps that's just the American in me.
I really love theBalm cosmetics, as you probably already know if you're a regular reader. The Cindy-Lou Manizer is actually one of the main products that I use from them. It's a great multi-purpose product that is really handy to bring along while traveling. It can be used as a beautiful shimmering eyeshadow that is very flattering on any complexion. It can also be used as a face highlighter that perks up your cheeks and under-eye area, making you look energized and youthful. I absolutely love this product and am always happy to get another sample of it.
This box also came with a promo code for a surprise on the Birchbox France website. I'm assuming it's likely for a % discount off of a purchase. As the sales associate told me, "every card is a winner".