One of Korea’s hottest high-street retailers, A Land, has hit U.S. soil.
Known for its trendy assortment of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, beauty, and home items, A Land is something of a department store for the under-35 and upwardly mobile.
A Land Brooklyn opened earlier this month at 92 North 6th Street in the borough’s Williamsburg section. While A Land operates about 20 stores across Asia, Brooklyn, N.Y. marks its first location in the Western Hemisphere. There, an initial assortment of the company’s staple brands — like kicky fashion company City Breeze, small leather goods company Fennec and whimsical accessories company Chi Chi — are stocked.
“It’s very unique, it’s different from what mainstream U.S. fashion retailers are doing. We want Americans who are interested in fashion to come here and find something unique,” said Nam Cho, the company’s U.S. president.
The store’s entryway is marked by displays of Korean sheet masks, serums and moisturizers. An accessories department showcases embellished socks, bucket hats and fanny packs. The upper level houses men’s wear and women’s wear, with many designs exhibiting blurred gender codes — and thus, women and men freely peruse both areas.
The store’s racks are relatively bare compared with the cluttered shelves of Seoul’s A Land locations. There, A Land shops are in youth districts like Myeong-dong and Garosu-gil and in accordance with Korea’s lightning-fast trend cycles, are restocked with new designs each day.
A Land’s products, for the most part, are designed and produced in South Korea — where local manufacturing facilities enable the firm to offer high-quality products at a relatively low cost. Most items are priced at less than $100.
Affordable prices have helped designate A Land as a key provider of K-fashion. Korean hipsters flock to its various locations anxiously restocking their closet each season to reflect the latest looks.
South Korea has become an influential echo chamber for fashion, music and beauty now called the K-wave, or Hallyu, and churns out trends that reverberate across the Asian continent. As one of Korea’s top retailers for fashion and beauty, A Land sees huge opportunity in overseas expansion and is mulling branches in Japan and China. Southeast Asia, where Korea has the strongest consumer influence, is also being considered.
Founded 12 years ago, the company operates 14 stores across Korea, four in Hong Kong, and one in Bangkok. Two additional Bangkok stores are anticipated to open in October.
Cho deigned A Land Brooklyn as the company’s “second phase, this is our big investment.” It has signed a 10-year lease on the Williamsburg location, and has no immediate plans to open a follow-up location in the U.S. The company has a brisk online business in Asia and will look to replicate that in the States. “We are trying to minimize off-line store expansion and trying to maximize e-commerce. We are also looking to do more wholesaling here, seeing our store here as more of a showroom for new products,” said Cho.
A Land Brooklyn stocks the same clothing sizes available in Korea — with many items marked “one size fits all.” Cho recognized this as a hurdle for the company’s U.S. success. Eventually, A Land’s product offering here will be “localized,” after the company observes which styles prove popular for the market.
“We will eventually accommodate sizing, we have a close relationship with brands and as we go along, we’ll ask them to make bigger sizes suitable for the U.S. market — at the beginning we are focusing more on accessories and beauty products,” Cho said.