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Why Harry Styles Fans Can’t Get Enough of Pleasing

The singer’s nail polish brand isn’t following the usual celebrity beauty brand playbook, where “authenticity” and newness are key. When your fans are this rabid, it turns out none of the usual rules apply.
Harry Styles' Pleasing popups went for the opposite of the minimalist store concepts popular with digital-first brands.
Harry Styles' Pleasing popups went for the opposite of the minimalist store concepts popular with digital-first brands. (Rachel Strugatz)

NEW YORK – Grace Daniels, 19, owns 17 bottles of nail polish from Pleasing, Harry Styles’ beauty and lifestyle brand that launched one year ago, as well as at least one crewneck sweatshirt or hoodie from each of the line’s five drops. They were back for more at the Pleasing pop-up shop that opened in SoHo last weekend.

It’s the first of several planned visits to the flora-and-fauna themed space, where purple fawns and pastel pink birds line the walls and are printed on fabric lamp shades. There is greenery, colourful checkered carpets and whimsical ceramic animals. The nail polish is displayed on dressers, shelves and counters – both as single bottles and boxed sets with cute names like “Shroom Boom” and “Super Magic Family Time” – alongside makeup, apparel, socks, journals, blankets and Christmas ornaments.

“I’m trying to space out what I buy,” Daniels said. On Sunday, they added a red hoodie, a journal and a pair of socks to their collection of polishes. They plan to return to the popup several times before it closes to buy more.

Alyssa Coy, 20, who attends New York University’s The Gallatin School of Individualized Study with Daniels, is pacing herself, too.

“I will be back here and in LA multiple times and purchasing multiple different things,” said Coy, clutching multiple Pleasing sweatshirts (a popup is open there through Dec. 23, along with a third location in London). In New York, she bought apparel, journals, socks and ornaments and is thinking of getting the blanket and towels in the future.

Pleasing debuted last year with four nail polishes and a few skin care items, one among dozens of celebrity-fronted beauty brands that hit the market around the same time. As a category, nail polish isn’t particularly innovative, but the packaging – bottles have globe-shaped tops in metallic or marbled pastels – is made for display. Still, there have been only a handful of product launches since that initial release (though there has been plenty of tie-in merch, including the much in-demand “Pleasing” sweatshirts). As launching beauty brands became the de facto side hustle for actors, musicians and influencers, Styles himself only intermittently promoted Pleasing. He doesn’t claim to be overseeing every step of his brand’s development, as other celebrities do.

But Styles’ fans don’t seem to care.

A sales associate at the New York popup said customers started to line up at 6 am on Saturday, five hours before the store was scheduled to open. About 100 people entered the store per hour until it closed at 7 pm.

Even on a rainy Sunday afternoon there were 15 people waiting to get in, including Jeneva Silverman, 36, who is nine months pregnant.

“They were sold out of a lot of apparel by the time we got in,” Silverman said via email Monday. She wound up ordering a sweatshirt for her husband online.

“I like the minimalist branding and the colours are really good for the nail polish,” said New York City-based Hilary Scherer, 32, who also braved the rain to get a Pleasing sweatshirt and potentially, nail colour.

Pleasing's unique bottles are a big part of the brand's appeal.

Pleasing’s hero beauty product is nail polish, a category that’s seen action from male celebrity founders and “genderless” lines over the past year, including one from Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly. Last December, a month after Styles launched Pleasing, Baker introduced UN/DN LAQR.

Where celebrities typically make the case that they’ve been intimately involved in the creation and branding of their beauty products – think Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian talking about the years of development that went into their lines – Styles hasn’t been making the rounds. Ahead of the popups, Pleasing’s biggest offline venture to date, his team declined to make him available for interviews.

Other stars have been punished for failing to adequately champion their lines, which can lead to accusations, true or not, that they’re slapping their name on a product as a cash grab.

In a sense then, Styles’ approach to Pleasing is a test of his fan base’s devotion.

Coy and Daniels, the NYU students, said they find Pleasing more authentic than most celebrity brands.

Some visitors to Pleasing's New York popup think this duck looks like Harry Styles.

“Harry’s been trying to separate himself from Pleasing,” Daniels pointed out, noting that the company is a collaborative effort with Styles’ stylist, Harry Lambert (Lambert and Molly Hawkins are co-creative directors of Pleasing). “He [Styles] wants this to be his own separate entity rather than something that’s solely related to him. At the same time, it is very Harry – it’s very eccentric.”

Pleasing works because it’s an embodiment of Styles; beauty, and especially nail polish, is ingrained in his personal brand, something he’s been known for almost as long as he’s been famous. It’s a safe bet that few of the customers lining up in the rain in Soho think he’s poring over financial models or logging time in the lab. It simply doesn’t matter.

“He’s so embedded in everything that Pleasing is and you can feel connected to him in that way, but it’s also still an expression of self as well,” Coy said. “You like him for a reason … and that’s really valuable to me so I’m able to represent that and author that and almost co-author it with him.”

The same goes for the rest of Pleasing’s merchandise – and the pop-ups themselves. The brand’s spaces are busy and immersive, the opposite of many digital-first brands’ attempts at going offline, which often involve neatly arranged products thrown into a minimalist white space.

“If you look around here, everything is very reminiscent of him,” Coy said. “We were walking around pointing at things saying, ‘That’s Harry’ or ‘That’s literally Harry.”

Coy and Daniels are referring to a life size teal poodle, wearing a metallic magenta string of pearls with a crystal and pearl brooch affixed to its right ear.

“How is that Harry?” I press them.

“Just because it is. That looks like him,” Coy replied. “It’s a feeling. He’s also this little duck over there, he’s extremely that duck – that’s so him. He’s so precious. He’s like a little duck on the counter.”

Daniels pulls up a photo on their iPhone of the pastel yellow ceramic duck displayed near the front of the store and then scrolls to a photo of Styles in a yellow stripe with a string of pearls.

When you look at them side by side, it’s hard not to see the resemblance.

Further Reading

Two of the most talked about celebrity skin care brands make their debut this month – Hailey Bieber’s Rhode and Kim Kardashian’s SKKN by Kim. But are consumers getting tired of celebrity beauty lines?

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