Girly Grows Up

At Etude House in South Korea, the beauty brand has evolved its overly girly brand position to create a more grown-up, empowering flagship that channels the “inner princess”

By Mark Faithfull

Famous for its flamboyant pink-roofed, Barbie-style store, South Korean cosmetic label Etude House previously conveyed a more traditional “princess” image with its design and brand. But it was time to grow up. Part of Asian beauty conglomerate Amore Pacific, Etude House teamed up with London-based design agency Dalziel & Pow to transform the flagship outlet and reflect its new brand positioning as it transitioned its brand ethos from girly to girl power.

Unveiled last May, the Myeong-dong flagship store in Seoul has been repositioned as an interactive beauty destination—dubbed the House of Color Play—where customers can be creative with cosmetics. The aim is to portray a sophisticated, confident attitude while staying true to the brand’s established playful spirit, expressing an evolved and refreshed “Sweet Dream” philosophy.

The flagship store now offers a brand experience over three floors. The enhancements include digital interactions, a revamped store façade and a cohesive brand identity for Etude House.

However, amid the brand refresh, Dalziel & Pow (working in tandem with the in-house team) was also keen to retain the best-loved features of the original store, notably the roof. Richard Marking, design project leader interiors, Dalziel & Pow, stresses that the pink roof is an iconic landmark and a popular spot for visitors to take photographs, while the brand and store also have an enthusiastic Chinese tourist following.

As a result, the roof survived the revamp. “The progression was to keep the same spirit, but be a little more grown up,” Marking says. “The architecture of the building is based on the Georgian period, something unusual for South Korea and which provides European elegance rather than flamboyance. We have also opened up the doorways, especially the main entrance, enabling passersby to see into the new interior and the changes that have been made.”

Beyond the refreshed façade are the contemporary interiors that help to define and reset the retailer’s more mature outlook. A more open entrance deliberately offers a glimpse of the mezzanine level to emphasize its presence. A layered approach was devised for the design: essential touchpoints reflect the core store offer for target customers, while signature touchpoints have been designed to elevate the Etude House experience for shoppers.

Filled with color, the store has the deliberate feel of a real home, echoing the more understated approach to the refreshed exterior, with high ceilings, wooden flooring and a blend of classic and modern fixture details. “For example, we didn’t want to stick Georgian legs on all the tables,” recalls Myree Tydings, design project leader, graphics, at Dalziel & Pow. “So rather than becoming a pastiche, instead we embraced the juxtaposition of classic interiors and contemporary components.”

This is particularly true of the colors used throughout the interior. Although the iconic pink roof was retained, the design team introduced a secondary palette to balance the brand’s trademark pinks, adding pale, pastel colors to provide a sense of elegance. It’s another juxtaposition, as a feature pink door was installed on the side of the exterior, now serving as a popular photo spot for tourists and reinforcing social media opportunities. POS and signage have been simplified and clarified, while signature motifs based on hearts and circular patterns were built upon.

On the ground floor, customers are encouraged to explore the full Etude House product range, share looks and socialize around an oval, mid-floor table that is halo-ed by a modern lighting feature and illuminated wall mirrors. Key Etude House décor details, such the parquet floor and Georgian panels, have been mixed with more contemporary fixtures and materials. The overall visual concept is based on the idea of “lovely,” a word that depicts a specific aesthetic in South Korea, according to the design firm.

“The change of approach is very much about finding the ‘inner princess,’ rather than the traditional take on it,” Marking says. “It’s about empowerment and control and, importantly, about talking up to the customer with the tone of voice within the store.”

The mezzanine level is visually linked through an offset, elliptical hole cut into the ceiling, which makes the transition between levels feel more organic and also helps break up the height of the building. “We wanted to create a strong connection between the two levels,” adds Marking, who says that this is one of a host of features also designed to encourage social media sharing among its tech-savvy customer base.

Focused on services, the mezzanine introduces a Personal Color Studio, My Color Finder and My Color Draping services for finding each customer’s most suitable shades. New “Find your Look” demonstrations educate customers, adding a twist by including skincare to the how-to guides. Dalziel & Pow introduced nine signature looks for this section, with beauty experts on hand to demonstrate and advise shoppers. Digital is also a strong part of shopping at Etude House, with expanded product stories and immersive tutorials. For example, girls can find out their exact skin tone using a specialist face color scanner.

Even more personalization and play is delivered on the second floor with the Color Factory concept. Customers can blend bespoke lipsticks at the My Lips Bar using cutting-edge beauty technology. They can then select a favorite lipstick case and have their name engraved on the packaging, adding to the customization.

“But, it’s important to note that everything is done with a sense of fun,” Tydings stresses. “This is a playful space for people to interact, use technology and digital, complementing high levels of customer service.”

The launch store has performed strongly since opening and a store in the Gangnam district of Seoul was the next to open, with around 100 domestic stores due to be changed to the new concept over the course of 2018 before Etude House embarks on further international expansion.


project file

Etude House Flagship
Myeong-dong, Seoul, South Korea

Etude House

Amore Pacific Corp.

Dalziel & Pow

Information in the project file is provided by the retailer and/or design firm.

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