BY JULIA SAVIGNANO | Photography courtesy of Pure Beauty
What is a gateway but a portal to another state of being, or another dimension?
Goofy emoji side-eyes peek out from a crisp cigarette pack, belied by a sweet, dank scent hinting at its contents. From drippy bong-sculptures released in collaboration with glass artist Jochen Holz, to subversive, statement-making strains like "A.C.A.B."—of which all profits go to Last Prisoner Project—Pure Beauty has staked a claim for itself as a multi-dimensional cannabis brand that takes cross-industry collaborations, a commitment to sustainability and equity, and elevated "art-object" aesthetics to new levels.
Those iconic googly eyes have been remixed and warped for Pure Beauty x Aries's Gateway collection, a custom strain and merch collaboration between the Los Angeles cannabis brand and London-based, Italian-crafted cult streetwear label Aries, founded by Sofia Prantera (Slam City Skates, Silas) and Fergus Purcell (Palace Skateboards’ “Tri-Ferg” logo? That’s him). Gateway is a psychedelics-inspired portal of transition and transformation, interpreted through hypnotic tie-dye, '90s WordArt, and a zany logo-manic mélange of references on sweatshirts and tees.
At the center of the collaboration is the namesake strain, "Gateway," a Caryophyllene-leaning indica, both earthy and expansive. The strain is now available exclusively at select MedMen stores in Pure Beauty's signature filtered cannabis cigarette pre roll five-pack, where the psychedelic aesthetics extend to the iconic packaging and trademark smoking medium.
Pure Beauty, established in 2017 in downtown Los Angeles, reflects the vision of the founders Imelda Walavalkar, Tracy Anderson, and Irwin Matutina, who hail from backgrounds in social justice, brand-building, and creative art direction, respectively. Pure Beauty is equally committed to leading the charge for a more sustainable industry, as it is for a more equitable and diverse legal industry for all.
As one of the brand’s investors and advisors, Timbaland, says, “Pure Beauty is rich, and I don’t mean it’s for rich people.” Ember got an inside look into the collaboration via an email interview with the founding collective behind Pure Beauty below.
EMBER: We heard through the grapevine that Imelda met Sofia (of Aries) through some NTS mutuals. What was the initial connection like?
PURE BEAUTY: Yes, the initial connection between PB and Aries was through our friend Femi who founded NTS Radio :).
What was your team's favorite part of working with Aries for the collaboration? Why did this collab feel organic for both brands?
It was very organic. I think there is a lot of overlap when it comes to how we think about and view the world. We both have very similar interests in subculture and a bit of humor. This made the collaboration pretty seamless.
It’s ingenious to take a potentially loaded term like gateway for cannabis and create a transformative portal of a strain. How would you describe the "vibe" and/or effects of the custom "Gateway" strain? What do you hope the strain can inspire for smokers?
For us, Pure Beauty was always created to reach a wider audience and not to be limited to cannabis—that a weed brand can be about more than just getting high. And that the feeling of being high is somewhat universal and can be achieved through art, music, humor, etc. It is a way for us to express a lifestyle we all live, that doesn't necessarily reference cannabis so literally. But cannabis is there to connect everything.
"The feeling of being high is somewhat universal and can be achieved through art, music, humor... cannabis is there to connect everything."
Like most people in this world, we enjoy various things about life. We don't believe in being put in a box or a category and we don't view other people that way either. Our hope is that the strain inspires all of these connections and feelings—seeing the world a little bit differently or maybe just appreciating the name "Gateway" while you are really, really stoned.
For the seasoned stoner, what can you tell us about Gateway’s cannabinoid and terpene profile?
The dominant terpene in "Gateway" is Caryophyllene—it has notes of pepper, earth, and hops. We wanted something that was going to be a bit heavier of a profile that could speak to the psychedelic imagination of what “Gateway” means. Where are we going? Gateway to what? This is a fun strain to smoke and think about. The flip side is this terp is purported to aid in pain relief and treating addiction, which we also like.
Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the collaboration's graphics/visuals?
Like most creative people we work with, we like to give them a lot of creative freedom. This was the case with Aries. We had a conversation about what we wanted to do and it kind of just evolved very organically from there. We believe in trusting creative people to express what they do and giving them the room to do it.
"We wanted something that was going to be a bit heavier of a profile that could speak to the psychedelic imagination of what 'Gateway' means. Where are we going? Gateway to what?"
Like street culture linking up with high fashion in the '90s, collaborations like Aries x Pure Beauty point to a crucial crossroads for cannabis to integrate with the mainstream in an organic way. How do you see these worlds—cannabis, and the larger cultural industry—merging and evolving?
I don't think we pay attention to these types of things too much. I think we always do what we truly believe in and we want to work with people we admire and respect. Again, it's the whole being like-minded and enjoying the process together more than anything else. We feel this convergence, if you want to call it that, is a natural progression based on like-mindedness.
What are your favorite pieces from the collection to wear?
The patchwork shirt is definitely a favorite. To us, it speaks to subcultures and has that humor. It doesn't take itself too seriously which is how we view both brands. There's an approachableness to it that feels very comforting, but also shows a really punk aesthetic. This balance is key for both brands, I think.
Pure Beauty and Aries both blur boundaries and challenge gender binaries in style and messaging. And women take the helm at both brands, challenging any idea of a purely cannabis boys’ club. How much progress do you feel there’s been, and where do we need the most attention?
We've always felt Pure Beauty was for everyone, but we also didn't believe in pandering to the lowest common denominator. We don't believe in dumbing things down for the sake of more people understanding it. I think we wanted to treat everyone with respect and intelligence. Obviously, there will be drop offs and some people don't get it. But I think we always felt that we wanted to speak to everyone and not a specific market.
"It is very fulfilling to look at Pure Beauty and see over 70% of our workplace as both POC and non-male identifying."
In terms of progress, we have mixed feelings; women in senior ranks of cannabis companies fell to 22.1% in 2021 from 36.8% in 2019, falling short of the 2020 national average of 29.8% of women holding executive positions in all industries. Equally disheartening, the share of minorities in executive positions at cannabis companies dropped from 28% in 2019 to 13.1% in 2021 (source: MarketWatch).
Numbers aside, we remain optimistic and therefore committed to being part of the change. It is very fulfilling to look at Pure Beauty and see over 70% of our workplace as both POC and non-male identifying. There is great and meaningful work being done to make this a more equitable industry by people in the space that really care like Wendy Berger, Mary Pryor, and Kika Keith.
If you could launch a weed collaboration with any historical figure, who would it be?
Julia Savignano is a culture, wellness, and culture of wellness writer living in Los Angeles. She doesn’t have a dog but wishes she did.
Shop Pure Beauty x Aries at a select MedMen California store near you: Abbott Kinney, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Kearny Mesa, Torrey Pines, and LAX only.