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WWD Year In Fashion issue 12/11/2007

NEW YORK — Who.A.U., the South Korean brand with a passion for the California lifestyle that opened its first store Dec. 2, at Stamford Town Center in Stamford, Conn., has signed a lease for a 7,000-square-foot unit at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.

The company also has also signed several letters of intent for retail space.

“Garden State Plaza will open in the spring,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail leasing and sales at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who is representing Who.A.U.

In addition, Consolo said letters have been signed for Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y.; the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, N.J.; Queens Center in Elmhurst, N.Y., and Roosevelt Field Mall in Westbury, N.Y.

“Palisades Center will be open in time for back-to-school,” Consolo said. “They’re not looking in Manhattan yet. They absolutely made the decision to concentrate on all malls before doing street locations. They’re blanketing the Tristate area and will then circle back to the main streets. They’re cherry-picking the locations. After the Northeast, they’ll go to the West Coast to San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

Who.A.U.’s U.S. launch strategy involves opening 12 to 18 stores in the first year. Daniel Pang, executive vice president of U.S. operations for the South Korean group Eland, which owns Who.A.U., said in August the brand could eventually be as big as Hollister, which has 416 stores in the U.S. In five years, Pang forecast, the chain would have 50 stores in the U.S.

The brand is built around iconic American images such as palm trees and young couples kissing under pergolas. Who.A.U.’s offerings are reminiscent of Hollister and include hooded sweaters for $52; black jeans, $51; black-and-white checked blouses, $20, and checked belted shirts, $15.

The Stamford store looks like a cross between Abercrombie & Fitch and Polo Ralph Lauren. Who.A.U. is said to have spent $4.5 million on the 5,400-square-foot unit, according to sources. Who.A.U. executives could not be reached for comment.

In the Stamford unit, floor-to-ceiling sepia-toned images of muscular surfers toting boards and another image of a surfer on horseback holding a board fill entire walls. Warm wood floors and mahogany-colored wood fixtures with elaborate moldings lend the space a clubby atmosphere. Coffered ceilings, old-fashioned lamps and dressing room floors painted in a black-and-white diamond pattern give Who.A.U. an old-world flair. There are chandeliers made from antlers, but not everything is meant to evoke nostalgia. Who.A.U. positioned surfboards throughout the store, some with video screens.

This story first appeared in the December 11, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The denim bar is industrial looking with exposed brick walls, plain metal light fixtures and worn signs.

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