Flying into the future: Step inside Pan Am’s flagship store in South Korea


When someone mentions Pan Am, most people think of the former US airline that Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in the hit film “Catch Me If You Can” as a con artist disguising himself as the airline’s pilot. Others of us old enough can recall the carrier’s bold blue circular logo and global advertising campaigns promising a luxurious lifestyle in the sky. There was even a television series based on the lives of fictional stewardesses and pilots launched in 2011 starring Christina Ricci and Ma

d Margot Robbie.

Founded in 1927, Pan Am – an abbreviation of Pan American World Airways – was the US’s largest international air carrier and unofficial flag carrier during the 20th Century. The airline ceased its operations at the end of 1991.

More than 30 years later, the South Korean fashion retailer SJ Group brought the airline a new identity, reimagining Pan Am as a lifestyle brand.

The first Pan Am store was opened at Shinsegae Starfield Coex Mall, shortly before the brand launched a flagship store in Seoul’s trendy Seongsu-dong neighbourhood, locally known as ‘The Brooklyn of Seoul’ for its hip cafes and restaurants.

Seongsu-dong used to be a centre for small manufacturing businesses, such as print shops, hand-made shoe stores, and the leather garment makers. The district attracts the younger South Korean generation through its unique culture, presenting the harmony of the past and present. Numerous businesses in the area are featured in former factories or warehouses alongside with numerous newly-opened establishments adopting similar regional traits, giving the area a distinctive vibe that stands out from the bustling Hongdae or Itaewon street.

Seongsu-dong is becoming the hottest location for fashion brands as a result of major labels opening flagship stores there, including Dior, Musinsa, and LCDC. The newlyopened Pan Am flagship store is among them, introducing a design concept adopting the regional characteristics of Seongsu-dong.

Designed by NiiiZ Design Lab, the 310sqm flagship features Pan Am’s signature blue and white and the ‘borderline of the ordinary and extraordinary’ concept, leaving the retro image of the airline behind. “The ‘borderline of the ordinary and extraordinary’ that the designer had in mind means a change, not a separation,” NiiiZ Design Lab told Inside Retail.

“The design concept is represented in a way that the separation between the old space and the new space is vague, by installing the lights on the glass on top of the sticky residue of tapes on the floor, and these floor lights, unlike the ordinary ceiling lights, create the extraordinary mood of upside-down.”

A blue cylindrical tunnel featuring on the store’s facade is a doorway leading customers to the retail space.

“This entire process of entering the space through the transitional space is meant to represent the metaphor of moving from ordinary reality (outside) to extraordinary space (inside).”

The store interior features air travel elements, such as conveyor belts, a check-in counter, circular displays outlined with neon lights resembling jet engines, and porthole windows filled with sky images.

Semi-transparent poly materials and glass are used for the walls dividing the space in order to give out the overlapping feeling of each space, creating a flow of movement that can remain vague and unseperated. The metal frames composing the walls are often overlapped, misaligned, or sometimes used as the element connecting the spaces, so that the borderlines can be seen as either connected or disconnected.

The new flagship store is home to a selection of Pan Am-branded fashion apparel and accessories, ranging from bucket hats, travel bags, phone cases and toys to the brand’s AW2022 Collection, which it described as “designed for both fashion and functionality”.

The store also presents a series of content collaborations with local artists and labels, such as Nuri Yeon, Playmobil, and Arc.N.Book.

SJ Group plans to open 13 stores across South Korea, including in the Daejeon Shinsegae Art & Science department store, Hyundai Department Store Pangyo branch, and Lotte Department Store Busan main branch.

This story first appeared in the November issue of Inside Retail Asia Magazine.


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