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What happens when you throw Hollister, Laguna Beach, bears and a chandelier that looks like it belongs in bizarro-world Freeman's all in a blender? Meet Who.A.U., South Korea's fast-fashion entry onto 34th Street. We stopped in this morning to check out Who.A.U.'s California-themed mish-mash of décor and retail offerings and had a fabulous time.
There's nothing like thumping Euro-techno tunes and beachy SoCal visuals to get us started at 9am on a sunny Wednesday. Sadly though, despite the young and attractive homage-to-Hollister staff and standard uniforms of short-shorts and fitted t-shirts, the only shirtless beefcake to be found are the stuffed bears and topless (and headless) male mannequins in the front of the store. Taking a closer look around us, we noticed a whimsical (and perhaps unintentional) clash of styles and this is where the fun begins.
First off, the antler chandelier in the main room is inexplicably adorned with starfish and netting—is this a representation of East Coast/West Coast harmony or just a totally random decorating choice? The dark wood colors and pressed tin ceilings are a definite Abercrombie throwback, which then contrasts with the sunny surfboards and beachwear-adorned mannequins (and bears). Also, looking closely at East Coast preppy polos, shoppers will notice an embroidered bear carrying a surfboard logo (and some logos are larger than others, Polo-influence perhaps?).
Also contrasting with the California-theme, but yet totally brilliant in terms of merchandising, are the many New York-themed items. There are "I heart NY totes" (but instead of the heart, it's the orange from the Who.A.U. signage. Wait, don't most people think Florida when it comes to oranges? Ah, just go with it), sweat shorts and an array of themed vintage-feel t-shirts ($19.50). We admit, we kind of wanted the tee on which a Spiderman-masked bear saves New York City. This is super strategic for souvenir revenue as the City Sites tour buses stop right in front of the store.
Who.A.U. has already name-checked Hollister as a competitor, and similarities are not only found in the styles clothing, but also the prices. We took a look through women's cut-off shorts with square studs on the pockets for $39.50, plaid shirts for $49.50, polos from $29.50 to $34.50, men's cargo shorts at $49.50, and summery ruffled mini dresses for $79.50. The magic number seems to be $59.50, as we noticed a short-sleeved striped mini shirt dress, men's cargo pants and distressed jeans at this price.
With its mix of locals and tourists, 34th Street is a fantastic home for Who.A.U.'s first Manhattan store. The offerings may appeal more to visitors making their way across this fast-fashion corridor, but really, who can't resist a smile after seeing a big stuffed bear carrying a surfboard?
· Who.A.U. Brings California Love to 34th Street [Racked]