22 W. 34th St.
This South Korean export has built its brand around a loose conception of everything California. Having saturated the South Korean market, WHO.A.U (which stands for Who Are You) expanded to the U.S. in 2007; the 34th Street store is its first Manhattan outpost. Inside the 4,000 square foot space, the California theme is everywhere. A lifeguard chair and fake palm trees greet shoppers as they enter, along with pumping dance music and a bear holding a surfboard, the brand’s mascot (and a nod to the California flag). Surfboards stand between polo shirts, board shorts, flower print dresses, and flip-flops, and the number “1849,” a reference to the year of the California gold rush, shows up on many of the clothes. Across from the registers is the store’s most popular feature, the Patch Polo Shop, where shoppers, who range from tourists to a college-age crowd, can choose from a variety of patches and have their new clothes customized (or their own ripped jeans fixed) in-store within 4 hours. The Hollister-esque wares also extend to cotton blazers and the stacks of jeans near the dressing rooms, where all the denim, of course, is heavily pre-worn.