In January, Nordstrom announced plans to open new store-in-stores in more than 40 locations (and online) featuring natural beauty products. The product mix showcases some well-known players, such as Fresh and Kiehl’s, but also provides an opportunity for smaller, disruptive brands to easily be discovered by consumers. Here, Debbi Hartley-Triesch, Nordstrom’s VP Divisional Merchandising Manager for Treatment & Color, discusses how her natural assortment was curated, as well as how indie brands are fueling the category.

Beauty Insider: Nordstrom has a new natural beauty offering in select stores. Can you tell Beauty Insider about it and how it links to indies?

Debbi Hartley: At Nordstrom, we’re always looking to bring our customers the best the market has to offer, as well as the latest trends, and there’s been a movement recently of natural products emerging in prestige beauty. Even though we have carried some natural beauty brands in the past we felt that this was the best time to pull it all together in a more meaningful way and create a true destination, making it easier for our customer to shop. The natural segment is definitely fueling the scope of indie beauty for us since we have more of a white space opportunity for products in this category.

BI: What are some of the brands you have curated? What makes them stand out from others?

DH: Customers are actively looking for products that are made with more natural ingredients and what’s in your product is just as important as what’s not in your product. We’re defining “natural beauty” at Nordstrom with products that are paraben-free, phthalate-free and sulfate-free. We created an edited lineup of products from brands such as Tata Harper, Arcona, Raffaele Ruberto, Origins, Youth to the People, Odacite, RMS Beauty and Herbivore Botanicals, just to name a few.

BI: What do you look for in an indie beauty brand? What are some of the must-haves, what must they be ready for?

DH: Indie brands bring lots of buzz and innovation to the overall beauty category, keeping it fresh and exciting. When we add a new brand to our lineup we try to fill a white space opportunity with product that enhances our current assortment giving our customers more choices in her beauty shopping experience.

When working with an indie brand we want them to continue to create the buzz factor through social media. Having a vibrant social presence is a deciding factor in carrying some of the brands in the first place. Customers come into our stores and online searching for what’s hot and one of the best places to find out what’s hot is online through blogs, influencers and social media. We also help drive the business with the brand’s support via training, sampling or people to continue to move the business forward.

BI: What did you learn as a retailer when building this new section of the store? Were there any surprises?

DH: As we launched Natural Beauty we found the best way to educate a customer on an indie brand was through a curated assortment online and in-store. We see that customers want to hear what Nordstrom thinks are the best products or brands and creating a bigger moment helps leverage Nordstrom as a voice of authority to give Indie brands more visibility.

Debbi will share more insights on how indie beauty brands are changing the beauty landscape and how Nordstrom is responding at CEW’s upcoming, Discovering Indie Beauty event on Tuesday, March 21 at the Johnathan Club in Downtown LA. She will be joined by Britta Fleck, President & Managing Director, Glossybox North America and Romain Gaillard, CEO & Founder, The Detox Market to discuss brand discovery and how consumers are exploring indie beauty in multiple ways. Attendees will also learn how companies are helping consumers experience and connect with indie brands, the insights they’re gaining and what’s next for the indie beauty phenomenon. A cocktails and networking reception will begin at 6:00 p.m., followed by the program at 7:00 p.m. To learn more and register for the event, click here.