PROFILE: Yaeji, the merchant.
A brief stop by the producer and pop star's Lower Manhattan pop-up
In a world where art, fashion and music seem so intrinsically tied together, it’s always great to see an artist finding the intersection on their own terms. Kanye West did this in 2013 and 2016 for Yeezus and The Life of Pablo respectively, merging his eponymous Yeezy fashion line with rollouts of new projects. It’s all about community and world building at the end of the day. This weekend, I visited the new bespoke pop-up of Yaeji, one of my favorite modern producers. Continuing to celebrate her unique Korean-American cultural perspective through her art, her new merch line draws a lot from her childhood and current life. Located in Lower Manhattan, the store was sleak, colorful and very cutesy. The left side wall was adorned with cards, toys and trinkets from anime like Shin-Chan and One Piece, marked NOT FOR SALE. The blend of Yaeji’s personal collection with buyable items added a sentimental touch to the store, which sold similarly themed items. I loved the tiny gashapon machine at the counter as well, it reminded me of the toy machines they had at my local supermarket as a child.
Her manager Jordan was nice enough to give me a tour of the store and a bit of background on each of the items. There were her signature “Korean grandma pants”, a new variant of her Woofie plush, one-of-a-kind photo crossbody bags and a few T-shirts from different eras of her career. It has that kind of modern-nostalgia feel that brands like Supreme and Heaven have but with more of a genuine pureness to it. I got there about 30 minutes before the grand opening, and Yaeji herself was busy making decorating adjustments and sticking labels on the shelves. When she got a free moment, I asked her a bit about the inspiration of the store. “It’s inspired by my childhood, and the games I would play like RPGs. I have always loved this idea of the merchant character” she said. “Have you ever played Animal Crossing?” I asked her, to which she responded that she loved the game, and even debuted her 2020 fashion collection in it. Yaeji if you're reading this and still play Animal Crossing, hit the AntiArt direct messages on Instagram and let's go shark fishing.
Before departing, I bought a precious little pink tote bag for my friend. The staff was happy to test out the register with my purchase, and Yaeji called me a “V.I.P. customer”, which was heartwarming.The rest of the day was live streamed, with Yaeji and several local DJs playing individual sets, I was sad to have missed that. It was refreshing to see an artist using merchandise in a creative way like this, giving each of her fans a piece of herself. It felt the way a child version of Yaeji would’ve imagined it to be, and feels entirely faithful to her holistic artistic vision to date.
Purchase some of these items for yourself here.