Shinsegae's online fashion platform's art gallery-like offline store captivates young shoppers

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : December 16, 2022, 09:48 Updated : December 16, 2022, 17:21

[Photograph by Hoang Phuong Ly]

SEOUL -- Clad in long padded coats and thick jackets, young ladies in their mid-20s silently stood outside an art gallery-like apparel store in eastern Seoul on a sub-zero winter day. Some 20 customers solemnly waited for the store to open, only speaking to their mates in a low murmuring voice to kill time. When the store finally opened its doors after about 15 minutes, ladies glided into a hall decorated with flowers and colorful clothing. Sweet fruity scent and low beat of lounge music greeted the customers. 
The apparel store was an event shop showcased by W Concept, the online apparel shopping mall wing of South Korea's retail giant Shinsegae. The store was only open for three days in Seongsu, the hottest hipster district in Seoul.

[Photograph by Kim Joo-heon]

"It feels so refreshing and good to be here. There's a lot to look around and experience," said Shin Eun-jee, a 28-year-old businesswoman as she entered the store after hours of travel from Cheongju about 112 kilometers (69 miles) south of Seoul. Shin often purchased W Concept's clothes as there is no such pop-up store in Cheongju. She said W Concept's pop-up store advertisement sparked her curiosity to visit the store and choose outer garments after experiencing them.
"I think apparel displayed here is more colorful than it is in Paris stores," French tourist Kamelia expressed her thoughts about W Concept's pop-up store. The 28-year-old Parisienne decided to visit the store after seeing an advertisement on Instagram. 

[Photograph by Kim Joo-heon]

The store had a gallery-like hall on the first floor showcasing jackets and coats from 10 popular brands from its online shop. Customers moved through the hall as if they were at an art exhibition before they moved up a floor to an area with more clothing and a small table where chocolate milk and snacks were served. Handsome-looking employees wearing white dress shirts were guiding customers while some sorted apparel on the hangers.  
"We selected our employees from a list of former models because about 70 percent of our customers are ladies," said W Concept communications manager Jeon Hye-jin. "They are here to guide customers and keep the store tidy." There were also two female staff who guided male customers.

Male staff members guiding young female shoppers [Photograph by Kim Joo-heon]

A sweet scent with a hint of spice, citrus, and rose lingered in the showcase room on the second floor. W Concept collaborated with a perfume brand called "pesade" to use a perfume called "The New Error" to offer customers a new shopping experience that stimulates their sense of smell.
Flower decorations were exhibited behind mannequins dressed in colorful winter clothes. The artworks created by artist Hai-ihwa resembled actual plants on flowerpots. Relaxing indie music such as "Marshmallow" by The Sweet Enoughs was played to help customers find their items in a calm manner.
A few young hipsters were flaunting their styles wearing fashion items in front of a mirror that showed hashtags, attracting those who would see the selfies of their friends through social media platforms. Clothes were not available for sale at the store. Customers scanned QR codes to make digital payments and have their products delivered to their homes.

[Photograph by Kim Joo-heon]

Jeon said the offline store was launched to provide unique experiences for young shoppers who like to express their identities through apparel items with special meanings. The pop-up store titled "Gradation," represents shopping experiences that let customers enjoy products through the five senses -- sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Gradation contains the meaning of allowing users to enjoy products through five senses [Photograph by Hoang Phuong Ly and Kim Joo-heon]

"Unlike older generations who are hooked onto a single trend, young generations' consumption trend is quite dynamic," Jeon said. "Among young people, there is a tendency to wear something that would reflect their personality and looks."
According to Jeon, outer garments were showcased in many different colors because young shoppers could be sensitive to subtle differences. She explained that young people, especially Generation Z, are familiar with unique styling as they were raised in well-off environments where they could freely express themselves.

[Photograph by Kim Joo-heon]

"Because this store has lots of different brands, I can try on so many items without visiting multiple shops," said 23-year-old university student Seok Yu-jin who came to the store to celebrate her birthday with her boyfriend. "I can tell from all these high-quality items that the store operator had put so much effort into this offline event." The store also had some unisex garments that could be worn by men. Son Jeong-min, Seok's 25-year-old boyfriend, said he wishes to buy clothing for his girlfriend and look for his own coat.

[Courtesy of W Concept]

W Concept will expand its market by continuously collaborating with designers talented in creating unique apparel items. The online platform will release more experimental content such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
The pop-up store event took place in Seoungsu, a trendy district in eastern Seoul with fancy restaurants and coffee shops which has transformed its shape from a rusty industrial town full of leather and metal workshops. The number of such workshops rapidly decreased in the 2000s when online shopping malls were introduced. In the mid-2010s, young fashion designers launched their businesses in the area to take advantage of low costs. The district has now become a hot spot visited by many young people.
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