NEW YORK — It’s easy to become jaded to innovative store design in the heart of SoHo, with the likes of Maximus and Charles Worthington constantly raising the bar of what a beauty environment can resemble. Amore Pacific, one of the neighborhood’s newest additions, lives up to — and enhances — the shopping mecca’s elite design reputation.

Passersby seem obliged to share their design comments with the Amore Pacific sales staff, marveling on the forest-meets-Circuit City-meets-Niagara Falls decor. Some even stay long enough to find out what the beauty gallery has to offer.

In addition to its first U.S. location, which opened two weeks ago, Amore Pacific, Korea’s largest beauty company, is rolling out a 24-stockkeeping-unit skin care line of the same name to Bergdorf Goodman later this month. It is also out to transform how consumers get facials and especially how they perceive the philosophy of Asian beauty regimens.

The company’s idea addresses the philosophy of energetic skin care, one that aims to dispel the all-too-familiar East meets West, Zen-like experience. Energetic properties, such as red ginseng root extract and the patented ingredient, BioGF1K (another form of red ginseng), are incorporated into all formulas, which aim to energize people into a state of calm.

The 2,500-square-foot spa, designed by Toronto-based design team Yabu Pushelberg, has walls lined with interactive screens, which are wired with sensors, triggering product messages to appear when customers pass by. Part of the ceiling is lined with tree branches, while candle flames illuminate a large boulder display imported from Japan and a fountain flowing water. Fixtures are made of metal.

The spa’s list of beauty services is limited: five facials and a smattering of waxing treatments. But the facials are the star, and which one you’ll receive depends on the type of energy you’re most lacking, a revelation determined by a deep counseling process — a fancy Q&A. An aesthetician asks a series of questions, requiring participants to reveal their lifestyle DNAs, such as selecting an ideal house locale and favorite type of flower vase. Answers are entered in a computer, which then tallies up the score to reveal one’s element quotient.Kathy Hughes, senior vice president of sales for Amore Pacific, which has its U.S. headquarters in New York, explained that in Asia, the word “element” is used interchangeably with energy, and that the facials aim to replenish consumers with the energy they need most.

Hughes gave an example. An outgoing, spontaneous person might likely have more fire energy in him or her than, say, a reserved, conservative person, who, according to the energy scale, could be classified as metal. Therefore, a fire person could likely qualify for a metal facial, one that has lots of compressions and firmer grounding strokes, according to Georgia Sturges, director, national training and spa.

The other energies include tree, which describes balanced, outgoing people; earth, which characterizes grounded people, and water, which describes the laid-back type.

Facials are available in 45-, 60-, 90-, and 110-minute increments. The 90-minute version begins with a foot bath and includes a hand and foot massage; the 110-minute version adds on a 20-minute back massage. Facials start at $75 and go to $175.

Industry sources estimate the spa could generate approximately more than $1 million in first-year sales, with 60 percent of sales comprising product sales and 40 percent of sales from spa services. Sources added that the product line could hit wholesale volume of $10 million within three years.

Although the name Amore Pacific is still new to many U.S. consumers, the company is no small potatoes. Marc Joohong Shin, the Seoul, Korea-based company’s president, likens it to a mini Procter & Gamble. In 2002, Amore Pacific, a public company founded in 1945, generated $1 billion in sales. Amore Pacific, which earlier this year changed its name from Pacific Corp., makes and markets a number of skin care, cosmetics and hair care brands for a variety of distribution channels. It has some experience in the U.S. market, namely with the Lolita Lempicka fragrance license it owns.

Shin added the company is one of Korea’s most loved, which explains its 35 percent market share and outstanding customer loyalty.

“Amore Pacific brought green tea back to the South Korean culture,” explained Hughes. “Almost 35 years ago, it nearly disappeared due to a difficult economy and climate. The founder of the company [Sung Whansuh] began a green tea plantation several decades ago and now Sulloccha is the largest-selling brand of premium green tea in the country.”The green tea is used throughout the product’s skin care line, which uses nanotechnology and has been in development for three years. The line, which is packaged in sleek silver and white containers, consists of three different components. There’s Balance, which includes an array of cleansers. There’s also Energy, which includes hydration boosters, serum moisturizers and masques. And there’s Renewal, an antiage range that targets eyes, lips, the face and neck. Cleansing items, on average, retail for $35; serums cost approximately $85, and items from the renewal line retail for nearly $150. All products are made in South Korea.

While company founder Whansuh died in January, his vision is likely to live on as the company expands. Amore Pacific is eyeing a San Francisco location as part of its five-year goal. And, in early 2004, Amore Pacific plans to open a multibrand flagship in South Korea, which will carry all of the company’s beauty brands.

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