it came from space nk

The woman who gave us niche-market cosmetics is thinking big. By Melanie Rickey
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If one person can be credited with spotting the potential of niche- branded cosmetics, it has to be Nicky Kinnaird. It was Kinnaird, the initials behind London's cult clothes and accessories shop Space NK, who first brought us sought-after brands like Hard Candy, Urban Decay, Benefit, Antonias Flowers, Lorac and Stila in 1995. Most had only previously been available in the States and when they arrived in the UK, fashion editors predictably went ga-ga over them and passed on their tips to the public who slavishly followed suit, putting the Space NK Apothecary on the fashion map.

Now it is Kinnaird who is taking the market a stage further: in the last month, she has opened three new stand-alone London stores called Space NK Apothecary, selling the most desirable hair, beauty and cosmetic brands in the land. I kid you not.

Kinnaird's background is in retail. During six years as a chartered surveyor specialising in fashion retail, she developed a sixth sense when advising clients on properties. Then the backers behind Thomas Neal in Covent Garden, the Klein Benson Bank, offered her the chance to put her expertise to the test and asked her to develop the huge basement space left available after the centre opened in September 1992.

Kinnaird was daunted by the prospect of filling what became known as "The Space" so soon after a debilitating recession. "I was flying by the seat of my pants," she says, "but I didn't see why, after the recession, a store had to be clothing or accessories." So to instil a feel-good factor into shopping when there wasn't much money about, Space NK was born in May 1993. There you could buy a lipstick, a great scarf, a new bag and designer clothes.

With her new stores - in key locations at Bishopsgate, Covent Garden and Brook Street, Kinnaird is taking a gamble: she hopes that the combination of "hot new thing", silly money and the consumer's insatiable desire to feel "special" will make the shops take off.

Exclusivity has never come cheap, and why should it? Available from the Apothecarys are Kiehls Ultra Moisturiser at pounds 29.50, a Nars lipstick pounds 15.50, and the Philosophy moisturiser "Hope In a Jar", pounds 26 a tub.

If you haven't heard of Nars yet, you will. Francois Nars is one of the most sought after make-up artists in New York. Last season he designed the make up looks for four catwalk shows: Anna Sui, Versace, Marc Jacobs and Valentino. At the Apothecary you can buy specially put together palettes from those shows. They include eye, lip and cheek colours in packaging designed by Fabien Baron (formerly Art Director at Harpers Bazaar, now US Vogue), for pounds 65. In March the Dolce & Gabbana palette will be added to that line-up.

The Lorac range, which is exclusive to the shop, is make-up products by Carol Shaw, who has named her lipsticks after the faces she paints in Hollywood. If you have the auburn colouring of Nicole Kidman the "Nicole" lipstick will be the one for you. Or perhaps you are more like "Meg" (Ryan), "Julia" (Roberts), "Farah" (Fawcett), or "Anjelica" (Huston) - the dark blood red lipstick created in her honour is the most popular shade.

Kinnaird plans to open a couple more stores next year, possibly in Glasgow and Manchester, and theApothecary already has a mail order service that covers the UK.

8 Space NK Apothecary is now at: 7 Bishopsgate Arcade, 135 Bishopsgate, London EC2; Unit 4, Thomas Neal Centre, Earlham Street, London WC2; and 45-47 Brook Street, London W1. For mail order enquiries call, 0171 379 7030.