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It’s January and Gwyneth Paltrow has just flown back to Los Angeles after a little sojourn to the Paris couture shows (if you follow this sort of thing, you may well have spotted her pushing a teetering luggage stack through LAX with boyfriend Brad Falchuk). “I’m tired, but I’m happy,” she says, and though today we happen to be speaking on the phone after many in-person catch-ups over the years, the tone in her voice tells me that this is true.
Today she is speaking from Goop’s new Westside HQ. “I wish you could see it. It was a chicken coop built in the 1920s and it’s got old, exposed beams, very light with white walls, some exposed bricks and a nice, concrete floor,” she says, all proprietorial pride. “I’m looking out at my photo editor and one of my editorial girls and past them I can see my tech team, my food editor and someone who’s new, who’s just started. I don’t even know who they are yet, which is crazy. We are getting so big!”
Anyone who imagined that Paltrow’s reverse defection to the sunshine state might have been the cue to slack off, smell the lemon groves and do the odd artfully choreographed school drop-off, while the gossip rags picked over the details of her marital arrangements, could not be more mistaken. The lady has been powering up, not down.
Goop-wise, she has a new CEO Lisa Gersh, there’s a Goop Juice Beauty own-line of meticulously-researched, high-performance organic beauty (on which more in a moment), with own-brand apparel not far behind in that prodigiously productive pipeline. And on the food front, there’s a new cookbook (officially the occasion of our catch-up today) winningly titled It’s All Easy, which is entirely in keeping with all of the above promises to be a go-to for healthy family fare for those of us who are “completely strapped for time”. Well, Amen to that.
“It’s funny, but I’m busier here than I was in London for all those years. I think because the time difference [with the US] afforded me a lot of down time at funny hours and I entertained all the time. Here it’s less. I think it’s also my kids’ ages too. My daughter dances outside of school eight hours a weeks, so it’s a lot of shuttling back and forth; also taking Moses to karate and soccer games and basketball games. In London I used to really take my time and plan out my meals. Now, it’s like, okay you’ve got half an hour, which is why I wrote this particular book. But I still entertain a lot on the weekends – a Sunday lunch, having people round, having lots of kids. It’s nice because we can do it outside as well.”
Much as there are those (indeed sometimes it seems like an entire dedicated section of the media) permanently poised to cast Paltrow as the poster child for a particularly joyless and smug chapter of the clean-eating movement; I have always found her to be incredibly knowledgeable/positively sybaritic about contemporary food culture as she proves herself today waxing enthusiastically about the white-hot LA food scene, from the food-truck revolution (enlightening me on Jon & Vinny’s Italian diners “so delicious and incredible”); to her beloved farmers’ markets; to her latest downtown favourite, Otium “brand new, next to the contemporary museum that’s just opened called The Broad. It’s one of my favourite things to do, go to The Broad, then walk 50 metres to the restaurant. The food is amazing, the atmosphere is great – it’s a good date spot.”
Pouring over the new book, inspired as she tells it by her girlfriends who, like her, have kids and jobs, but still want to bring some goodness to the table of an evening, I predict her ‘cauliflower rice’ to be the breakout viral hit.
She herself remains sanguine, if not a little wry about such phenoms. “It’s funny having been in this world for a while now, the rules keep changing. They’ll tell you red meat’s bad, then it’s good; dairy’s bad, then it’s good. When I was writing this one there was a lot of talk about grains being less good for you than we’d thought.” Paltrow whizzes her cauliflower florets in a food processor, “so it looks and acts like rice,” and tosses it with chopped kimchi, kale and sesame oil. Like I say, cult potential.
Paltrow has her own particular pash on the Almond Orange Overnight Oats recipe (“before you go to bed, you mix up oats [with ingredients including almonds, coconut, orange juice and yoghurt], it takes two seconds, you leave it in the fridge and then in the morning you have this really hearty, yummy, tinged-with-orangey-flavoured oats”). But if she could condense the philosophy and intention of the book into one single recipe it would be the roast chicken that she has adapted from her beloved Zuni Café in San Francisco. “It takes about 45 minutes to make this really delicious roast chicken smothered in all these herbs. You throw in garlic and squeeze a lemon and it’s so delicious and really clean. At the end you break up a baguette and throw it in and it makes these delicious croutons that get in with the sauce of the chicken…if you’re being super healthy you can obviously leave out the big, fresh breadcrumbs. Then serve it over a bed of rocket all tossed up. It’s really yum and that to me is a great sum of what the book is, because it’s about flavour and feasibility, too.”
Flavour and feasibility: it’s a mission statement that perfectly befits this most focussed and entrepreneurial of modern Hollywood polymaths (tellingly, her current turn in the blockbusting Iron Man franchise nary even features in our conversation). Having now modified her contribution to the clean-eating movement by re-injecting pleasure, cosiness, and duh, real-life practicality; her place in the boutique wellness industry already established with her partnership in the Tracy Anderson gym mini-chain… For her next trick, we may well see Goop scale up to be one of the real contenders in the unfolding story of the ‘see-now, buy-now’ retail revolution. For all Paltrow’s early forays into digital with Goop were unabashedly quirky, personal, organic and experimental (and sure, for some, maddeningly self-regarding and rarefied); Goop has always been utterly, authentically her. And moving it from London, along with the rest of her life, has proved to be a game-changer.
“Moving the company to Los Angeles was a big moment for us because I was really concerned about how it was going to go, how it was going to work, the transition, the change, the team. I got very lucky in that I was able to assemble a team in America that are absolutely first rate. Everybody has a real passion about the company. It’s been an incredible journey. I can’t even begin to tell you. It has been so surprising and I’m so thrilled at the growth of it. We’re all having such a good time. Were working really, really hard, but it’s really fun.”
Undoubtedly pivotal has been Paltrow’s 2014 hire of Lisa Gersh, the former executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, as Goop CEO. The mission: to evolve the site into a so-called contextual commerce brand. So far so impressive, with a new burgeoning advertising revenue stream on the site, bricks and mortar pop-ups with the likes of Valentino under their belt, the Goop Juice Beauty product line realised with actual real, goddamn product now available to buy. “It’s incredible because they’re all so pigmented and rich and it’s all from fruits and vegetables. If you put some on your lips you would never know it’s organic make-up.” (In her purse right now: “Always the Liquid Lip and the mascara”). “To be able to sit and make something for a year and then have it arrive on your desk and be able to see it and feel it and touch it and use it is kind of inexplicably amazing. It’s really, really cool,” she adds with passion. And frankly I think I would be equally psyched.
How do she and Gersh (two textbook Alphas) get on? “I think we complement each other in that we have a really great partnership. When we started, I was more siloed in creative and she in business, but the more we work together, the more that we integrate. Obviously I’m the chief creative officer, so I make any and all creative decisions, but we work together on a lot on the business.”
I can’t help but be reminded of things Victoria Beckham has said over the years about time spent on the red carpet equalling the perfect training academy for observing how the fashion system works. And indeed it’s rather thrilling to watch the likes of VB and GP flipping that relationship, from apparently passive mannequins to leading their own fashion business narratives. Paltrow is keen to stress just how empowered she feels in this new context: “At the Chanel show in Paris, getting to spend a bit of time with Karl Lagerfeld and seeing that synergy – not that I’m comparing myself to him at all – but seeing that synergy between a creative person and how a business can support a vision – Chanel is the ultimate example. It’s incredible when someone understands the creative process and they understand that the creative process drives business. I think Lisa understands that, and in our own small way at Goop that’s what we’re doing, and she helps me realise it.”
Is there an aspiration for the forthcoming Goop fashion line to eventually show at LA or New York fashion week? “Definitely not,” she is quick to retort. “We believe that the system fashion operates under now – with the big stores dictating delivery schedules – is going to fall apart. ‘Buy-now, wear-now’ is very big and we want to sell the way that women want to shop. When it’s July and I’m buying a really thick cashmere sweater, that kind of takes the fun out of it. We think there’s a lot of white space in the market for a direct-to-consumer line at a little higher price point. When you buy something really beautiful and luxurious, folded into the price is the stores, the huge marketing team and all of this other stuff that we don’t have, so we can give those savings to the customer. I think it’s really exciting. The plans are always changing, but that is the idea.”
What a difference two years makes. The last time Red shot Paltrow for our pages, she was still resident in North London. I mention that I happened to walk past her old house this evening in Belsize Park.
“How does it look?” she asks. Exactly the same. Does she miss it? “Not in January, can I say that? My hardest time was always when you come back after the Christmas holiday until the February half term. You know what it’s like!” Fair comment, I say and she laughs. “There are a few major things that I miss. I miss being an ex-pat, in that when you are in a city that is not the city you were born and raised in, you notice everything. I felt so awake and alive there and was in total marvel about the architecture and the history. As an American, you never get used to the beauty.”
And it now seems the moment to discuss her former significant Great Brit Chris Martin and possibly the most grown-up divorce any of us have ever witnessed. I wonder what has she learned about the human heart in this very particular journey?
“I think that I’m very lucky in that I have such a willing partner in agreeing with, and teaching me, as much as I taught him. And bringing to me, as much as I brought to him, ideas about how to do it in a really gentle way, so it would be really gentle for Chris and myself because we loved each other very much and we still do love each other and we have these two beautiful children together.” She makes me smile as she goes on to explain how in thinking through their famous ‘conscious uncoupling’ she doggedly quizzed those apparently happily divorced couples she observed engaging in such sane and wholesome activities as, say, eating dinner together with their kids, with maybe one new partner in tow; and how they would tell her that it had taken three years to get to this position of wisdom and civility. “And I thought, I wonder if there’s a way where we don’t have to do that to our kids and we can just carry on having family dinners.”
“Time is an important part in it as well,” she concedes. “We had broken up a year before we announced it, so we would have this time to work through everything,” she explains, which surprises me. “But it’s also almost about having to press the ‘override’ button whenever you feel angry or jealous or whatever, broken-hearted. You have to press the button – I’m going back to the baseline of I love this person, he’s the father of my children, he’s a wonderful man. I’m just going to put my shit aside for right now.
“It really has not been easy for me at times, I’m sure it’s not been easy for him. But when we said we’re going to put the children first, we meant [it]. If you want to put your children first then why are you slagging your husband off in front of them? So we really tried [and] that meant I’m gonna check my shit at the door, and I’m going to focus on all the reasons that I love you, that you’re like my brother and my family forever and we’ll deal with that stuff another time. It’s not always easy, but it’s just the way we wanted to try to do it,” she says. “I have to say it wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but it was our outcome and we’ve really done the best that we can.”
I tell Paltrow that I am reminded of a conversation we had shortly after her 40th birthday, when she had returned from a spiritual quest in Arizona, about the search for happiness. “At 40, my life changed so much. I think every woman around that time gets this massive software upgrade. You‘re just different. You’re upgraded. For me there were just a bunch of changes I had to make to really be true to myself and really live my happiness. And you have to be brave and make the choice to do that, to truly accept yourself and love yourself and really forgive yourself for your mis-steps. So it’s been a long interesting road to get to the place where I feel really content and that I really know myself and like myself. I wish they could teach girls to do this when they are 16 instead of 40, but that’s part of life.”
Sounds of bustle in the Goop offices. Our time is running out and from such philosophical ruminations, we quickfire our way through my remaining questions. On election politics; Paltrow, who batted so enthusiastically for Obama in the last two presidential races, admits that she has (at the time of this interview at least) yet to find her place of personal engagement. “The whole thing feels like theatre to me [right now]. I’ll pay more attention when it seems more real.” On her LA personal style. “You know, it’s so funny. I remember coming and looking at schools and seeing mums in their Lululemon exercise pants and Uggs going out to lunch. And I remember making a promise to myself that if I move to LA, I will get dressed every single day. I dress the same as when I’m in London.”
Handily her go-to clothes store is Goop. When it comes to denim, like the incredibly cute playsuit she’s wearing on our cover, her taste ranges from Frame Denim to 3 x 1, Mother and MiH. “These are kind of my four favourites, I love denim, I’m a denim girl”. And while she has the luxury of using Goop as her default on-line clothes store these days, she has an old-school penchant for Hirshleifers, the New York State, family-run department store. “They’ve had it in the family for 100 years and they sell Saint Laurent and Chanel and cool, young, different brands. It’s just, you’d love it.”
So what is next on the GP To Do list? “I’m just kids and Goop all the time. That’s my focus. Apple is starting a new school in September, so we have to finish up all the applications and she has dance competitions, lots of kids’ stuff. And we have some pretty tough targets to reach at Goop this year. It’s scale, scale, scale, scale, so I am going to be working really hard to make sure we manage them.”
And if the queen of flavour and feasibility could reduce the joy of rediscovered LA life to its essence, like a good stock, say? “It’s near enough to the ocean that you sometimes get that saline smell. I was born here and lived here until I was 11 years old, so these are all the sights and smells of my childhood: The bougainvillea, the ivy, blue skies, old telephone poles and the sea. Those are my sights and smells.”
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