New York Says Aloha to Aloha Rag has become the go-to online destination for the style cognoscenti due to its carefully curated selection of merchandise from forward thinking labels like Martin Margiela, Pierre Hardy and Lanvin, as well as lesser known, but edgy names such as Commun. In addition to the web-based store, Aloha Rag already has a brick-and-mortar outpost in Hawaii, and, this year, they’ve opened a New York location as well. On a recent sunny afternoon, we chatted with the owner of the Aloha Rag empire, Tatsugo Yoda, who told us why the response to his company has been so tremendous, revealed the secrets to his store’s inviting interior and also let us in on how the shaky economy has affected his business.

JC Report: Why do you think people have responded so well to Aloha Rag?

Aloha Rag: I think that it starts with our eclectic mix of brands. People walk into the shop and discover one or two new brands that appeal to them. We are also very conscious of our range in prices, as we want the store to be accessible to a great number of people. It also doesn’t hurt to have merchandise that is exclusive to the store.

JCR: What is your merchandising strategy online?

AR: Our merchandising strategy varies from season to season, but we are always looking to present something fresh, new and creative. We don’t compare ourselves to other websites or companies, we just try to offer quality products coupled with the best possible customer service.

JCR: How is that different from a physical store?

AR: Our website isn’t bound my walls at a physical location, but the experience is quite similar. We aim for simplicity, organization and, most of all, beautiful clothing.

JCR: Why open a brick-and-mortar location in New York then?

AR: As our online store grew, we noticed a lot of attention from the East Coast. We figured that New York would be the perfect location for our second store. We knew people in New York would appreciate what we have to offer.

JCR: Unlike many stores, the new location feels delightfully non-intimidating. Tell us about the interior architecture.

AR: In early talks with our architect, Masa Kaneko, we discussed the presentation of the clothing as pieces of art. This idea, coupled with his specialty in Japanese Minimalism, led to the creation of a store with the visual language of a gallery. You are able to peruse through the space and reflect on the clothing as you would a painting of a young artist. Also, the space is rather open, with an entire side of floor to ceiling windows that catch morning, midday and afternoon light, leading to a very tranquil and welcoming space.

JCR: How do you think the shaky American economy will affect your physical stores versus your online store?

AR: We believe that people will focus more on well-made merchandise that is fabricated from quality materials. You will see a return to timeless articles that might cost a bit more, but will wear well and last much longer than trendy, disposable clothing. Our online store does a lot of international business, which has been steady now that they are able to take advantage of the American dollar.

JCR: How do you plan to grow the Aloha Rag brand?

AR: We are going to continue to bring in fresh, new designers and help them grow, as we do. We are always looking for ways to keep growing in any way we can. A couple of collaborations are in the works, and we are always keeping our eyes and ears open to new things to come.

This interview was conducted by Robert Cordero.

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