Dara Kennedy, founder of Ayla Beauty, knows beauty and skincare. Her background in marketing and global product development for a variety of beauty brands sparked the idea for Ayla Beauty. She says, “I’ve always loved creating products, but over time, I began to think that what we needed wasn’t necessarily more products to choose from. What we really needed was a better way to find great products that truly make a difference and are safely formulated – and a shopping experience that would make us feel good, too.”
Ayla opened online on Valentine’s Day 2011, and moved to its current location in July 2013. In 2017, Dara undertook a renovation to move the online operation elsewhere and increase the square footage of the retail space. Dara shares the process with us below and in the slideshow!
Where did your interest in natural beauty products come from?
I began practicing yoga on a regular basis 18 years ago, and as I became healthier in general and noticed how much better I felt as a result, I took greater responsibility for the choices I made every day – from what I put into my body to what I put on it. Some of the brands I’d worked and interacted with in my previous roles were very careful about the safety of the products they put on the market; others weren’t. It seemed crazy to me that this wasn’t more of a consideration in those cases. Many people still don’t realize that a beauty product can be widely sold with surprisingly little testing to ensure its safety for people and the planet alike.
So with Ayla, I wanted to share my passion for clean beauty products with others in a way that was fact-based, results-oriented, and not fearmongering.
Ayla Beauty was already a destination for natural beauty products both online and in person in San Francisco. Why did you decide it was time for a redesign?
Our overall mission is to show women they’re beautiful through a deeper, more empowering retail experience and truly excellent products. An online experience that feels personal is important, and we pride ourselves on providing that, but offering it in person can make it feel more real. When we started to outgrow our original location, we decided it was time to have a space that could truly bring it to life.
We moved our inventory, fulfillment, and offices to a much larger location right next door in the main Healing Arts Building, and we turned our original little cottage at 1825 Bush St (which was the ambulance garage back when the Healing Arts Building was a hospital) into a proper retail space. The ability to meet our clients face to face and learn from them is a real gift – and a good way for us to continually get better at what we do.
How does the design represent Ayla’s mission?
Redmond Aldrich Design did a phenomenal job with our interiors. Chloe Warner, its founder, has been a longtime client, and she just got what we wanted to do right away: the atmosphere was intended to feel not like a typical retail store, but like your coolest friend has an apothecary inside her house – and you’re invited to play. Chloe’s design approach feels cohesive and elegant, yet warm; it invites people to linger and connect more deeply with the products and experts you’ll find inside our space.
We purposefully stayed in our original, slightly-off-the-beaten-path location because we like having fewer people shopping at one time; it makes it feel as though this space is really just for you, and it makes you feel like you truly matter. Which I think is how you should feel when you’re buying beauty products.