Vitamin pills and dietary supplements are, depending on one’s levels of scepticism and credulity, either healthy and helpful, nourishing and essential, or expensive lifestyle products of dubious efficacy at best, aimed at overpaid cranks. What they have never been, until now, is sexy or cool.
Sensing an opportunity to do for vitamin D and zinc what grooming brands such as Aesop have done for hand wash (remember when it was called soap?) and all things bergamot, Anatomē (pronounced Anatomy, naturally) is one of a growing number of newcomers to the (forgive us) “wellness space” looking to revamp the dusty nutritional supplement and vitamin industry, a sector that is projected to be worth £13bn by 2023.
Anatomē’s products, focusing on aromatherapy, sleep and physical health, come packaged in trendy, apothecary-inspired bottles and containers; the text in lower case with just the right balance of colour and negative space. There’s the requisite faux European accent above the ē and a healthy dose of LA wellness-speak in the concept.
Started in 2018 by the Northern Irishman Brendan Murdock, the founder and former owner of Murdock London, a chain of barbers with its own grooming range, Anatomē has physical stores in Marylebone’s Chiltern Street and Chelsea, has launched pop-ups in Shoreditch and Notting Hill, and is in the process of breaking America, partnering with boutique hotel chains (stay for the night, take your probiotics with you!). It offers in-store and online nutrition and sleep consultations, as well as specially curated vitamin packages, claiming to simplify the supplement world for stressed-out financiers and new media execs.
“We wanted to create products that are covetable and sit next to people’s favourite brands in their bathrooms,” says Murdock over the phone. “Even our sleep oil should be sitting on your shelf. There are other beauty brands where the design and language of the object is important to how people use it. For example, we don’t refer to stress or anxiety on the packaging, instead we have names that are born out of leadership and positive reinforcement: ‘Energy’ and ‘Strength’. They just look better.”
Anatomē’s categories are simple: Sleep Better, Immunity + Gut Health, Mindfulness and Men’s Health. You can buy an essential oil for an “Overactive Mind” (£35) and a 30-day supply of Joint and Movement support pills (£34). “From a consumer perspective,” says Murdock, “I noticed supplements and oils are not well designed and people don’t know what they’re getting. We wanted to change that.” Anyone who has ever walked into a Holland & Barrett can attest to the befuddling nature of traditional health shops. What does Irish Sea Moss do again? Horny Goat Weed?
Bear, an Australian label stocked at Liberty London, has branding that is even more pared back than Anatomē’s. Its Explore vitamins will set you back £65 for a 60-day supply. At The Nue Co, there are pills for mood, a fragrance for stress and probiotics in brown glass containers. Then there’s Biocol Labs, a “post-chemical pharmacy”, its products are brightly packaged and pithily named. A sore throat spray with Icelandic moss and propolis is titled “something for a cactus throat”. All labelled in lower case, of course.
“Since the first lockdown last year, we’ve seen a real appetite for products with a focus on natural ingredients, aiming to improve physical and mental well-being. So the likes of Anatomē was a no-brainer for us,” says sales manager Joe Warner of Goodhood, the Shoreditch menswear and homeware store that stocks both Anatomē and Biocol Labs. “As long as it’s not just a pretty bottle, and there’s substance to the brand and its product, then I can definitely see there being an opportunity to create an Aesop-type label in the wellness and supplement space.”
Questions around what’s actually in them, and whether or not they work or not are, perhaps, somehow missing the point.
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