Glossy+: Inside the evolving cannabis retail landscape

As more cannabis beauty and wellness products continue to pop up, like Scotch Porter’s recent CBD-infused beard collection and High Beauty’s cannabis sativa seed oil moisturizer and facial oil, it is fitting that the cannabis retail landscape is changing, too.

Scotch Porter’s line is sold primarily through its own direct-to-consumer site, while High Beauty launched in Sephora doors in November. Vertically integrated cannabis company MedMen turned to its own store locations to double down on the cannabis retail experience via its first product lineup called Statemade.

However, e-commerce site Poplar, which soft-launched this month, is hoping to be the one-stop "Net-a-Porter" for cannabis beauty and wellness brands. “There are a lot of questions about cannabis and CBD, and there is not one single place where you can get education and also make purchases,” said Poplar founder Beryl Solomon. “There are stoner sites and witchy content, but if you are a beauty and wellness person and have not smoked since college, how do you navigate the landscape? How do you shop?"

Currently, Poplar sells a vast array of cannabis products, including Herb Essntls face moisturizers, Cannuka body bars and Mondo’s Edible Hemp Powder, and will be adding more brands in the new year. Customers are also able to sample one free product via a site quiz testing one’s experience level with cannabis.

Solomon has taken a grassroots approach to marketing thus far, but will be ramping up efforts come January 2019. That's timed well, not only for Poplar to get through the holiday shopping season, but also for the new DTC site to see the domino effect that hemp legalization through the 2018 Farm Bill will have on Facebook and Instagram. (As of now, neither allow drug and drug-related promotions, since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level). “It is about to be a revolution or, rather, an evolution from the way we see cannabis in America, and I want Poplar to be at the very forefront of it,” said Solomon. –Priya Rao

Fashion is going circular
Today’s fashion consumer expects brands to simultaneously meet high sustainability standards and churn out fresh product at an increasingly rapid pace. Brands are figuring it out.

This month, 9-year-old Marine Layer, known for soft tees and a Cali vibe, kicked off Re-Spun, a recycling program set to result in a 10-piece collection for Spring 2019. The goal is, within two years, 50 percent of Marine Layer styles will come from the program.

“We’ve been aware of our contribution to this wasteful business since I started the company,” said Marine Layer founder Mike Natenshon. “Finding a solution has been very hard.”

But various answers (many with like-minded names) are catching on across the industry. Eileen Fisher backs a recycling program fueling two collections, Renew and Resewn, made from repaired and reassembled pieces, respectively. In May, fashion veteran Kristy Caylor launched circular fashion brand For Days, allowing subscribers to recycle and refresh a selection of basics. And last month, Everlane introduced the ReNew collection made from plastic bottles as part of a new commitment to eliminating virgin plastic company-wide.

For Marine Layer, steps have included finding a mill last year set up to recycle clothing by reskinning old fibers into new yarn, teaming with the workers to develop a product meeting the brand’s softness and quality standards, and -- last week -- asking customers to contribute old T-shirts. Shirts can be in any condition, as long as they’re at least 40 percent cotton.

A notice of the launch sent via email and social channels resulted in 5,000 requests for recycling kits in the first day. The kits are prepaid mailers sent by the brand to be filled with tees and returned. Customers get a $5 credit for every shirt they give back.  

The brand needs 10,000 tees, which will be sorted by four colors (no new dye will be added), before production can begin. The resulting pieces will have a “melange” effect, as sweaters often have, seeing as they’re made from, for example, hundreds of blue tees in a range of shades. Styles that cannot be repurposed will be broken down at the mill rather than simply discarded.

Natenshon said the recycled styles won’t result in a price hike for customers, but they will be more costly for the brand to produce. “We’re investing in it now, hoping we’re going to be able to make it work,” he said. “We're trying something new, and we want to give it its best chance for success by making a really good product and making it accessible to the customer.” –Jill Manoff

AI’s next chapter
With all the talk around e-commerce, personalization, digital tools and AI, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of fancy digital ephemera. But not all of these digital inventions are created equal. Chatbots have gone out the window for many fashion brands like Everlane, which canned its Facebook chatbot last year. Meanwhile, brands like Asos are still betting big on AI assistants. In addition to launching a chatbot through Google Assistant, the brand just debuted a Fit Assistant offering personalized sizing advice.

But ultimately, these AI-powered tools are much more reliable as behind-the-scenes infrastructure. As brands like H&M work to bolster their internal AI capabilities -- as it did when it hired the man who exposed Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie, to help lead its AI research -- expect the flashy consumer-facing AI tools to dwindle. “A lot of brands are eager to pitch these shiny objects, but the stuff that moves the needle is slow infrastructure building,” Richie Siegel, founder of Loose Threads, told me earlier this week. “It has nothing to do with putting a VR headset in the store.” –Danny Parisi