Rapaport Magazine

The Bear Connection

Promoting harmony and tranquility are the goals of the Zen-inspired Zazen Bear store in New York City.

By Joyce Kauf
Achieving peace of mind and tranquility in a 24/7 nonstop world may seem to be a lofty goal, but it is the guiding philosophy of Zazen Bear, an Asia-based jewelry and lifestyle brand with a flagship store in New York City. “We all need to find balance in our lives,” explains Nicholas Jeong, vice president, explaining why the bear — in a meditation pose — is the central design element in the collection that seeks to “add a touch of Zen” and create harmony in “everyday moments.”
   Zazen means seated meditation pose in Japanese. While the word conjures up a feeling of calm, the company’s origins can be traced to the tragedy of 9/11. Seiho, president of the company, was a student living in SoHo, near where the store is now located. He witnessed the event and wanted to “inspire peace” in the city he loved. After Seiho returned to Korea, he collaborated with jewelry designer Myungji Ye to create elegant and contemporary products that harmoniously combine form and function. The products, currently sold in the U.S., were launched here in 2015.

Simple Harmony
   “All the jewelry is intricately designed, yet simple,” says Jeong. With its soft curves, the bear motif enhances the sense of serenity. Furthermore, as Jeong points out, “The bear is very grounded. It conveys balance, since the bear is one of the few mammals that can stand on two legs.” Christina Kim, marketing manager, notes that the Millennials were the company’s initial target demographic, but that has since been expanded. “The desire for peace of mind cuts across different segments,” says Jeong, adding, “The bear resonates with a lot of people.”
   The concept of balance and serenity is reflected in the names of the jewelry collections. Zen Garden I collection, the top seller, revolves around the concept of water, itself a force of life and renewal. The necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings feature gentle curves and sparkling gemstones that resemble rippling waves across shining water. The jewelry’s circular lines are all the same thickness to emphasize balance. In contrast, the Art Deco–inspired Zen Garden II collection consists of rectilinear shapes that call to mind intellectual clarity. The Inner Stellar collection focuses on gemstone-filled Zazen Bear necklaces, a reminder to follow the path of one’s own shining star. The gold and diamond Connected collection is a sophisticated statement of hope and inspiration. Introduced this summer, the Friendship collection of leather bracelets adorned with a gemstone wave or bear design are “flying out of the store,” according to Kim.
   “All our products reinforce the Zen concept,” says Jeong, pointing out that home products — tabletop, aromatherapy fragrance, desk/stationery goods and ceramic figurines — are also designed to bring peace of mind wherever they are placed. “They remind you to stop and breathe,” he points out. Similarly, accessories including key rings, backpacks and totes with the Zazen Bear let you “bring a little Zen with you when you are out.”

Oasis of Calm
   “Our boutique is a place where a customer can experience peace of mind, as well as buy products,” says Jeong. An oasis of calm in downtown Manhattan, the boutique epitomizes the company’s vision with its Zen-influenced style. A wall of greenery, lightwood floors and Italian-designed custom cases create an ambience of hushed elegance, accented by the outline of the Zazen Bear on the high ceiling. In a curious twist, Jeong notes that the 100-year-old building once housed a factory that made teddy bears.
   Jewelry and accessories are merchandised on the first floor of the 2,400-square-foot boutique. Calligraphy adorns the walls of the lower level where home products are on display. Kim noted that the company has hosted a yoga event in that space.
   Zazen Bear also has a shop-within-a-shop in Beverly Hills, California, and plans to open a satellite store in Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan in time for the 2016 holiday season.

Staying Connected
   Given that the concept of being connected is integral to the Zazen Bear retail philosophy, their latest promotion was created to “connect” with yoga practitioners who are a key psychographic target. “We are holding pop-up trunk shows that began on October 29 and will run through December 12 at five Life Time Fitness locations in the suburbs outside of New York City. We built an ad campaign around it, using Experience Life, the Life Time Fitness magazine, and social media,” says Kim, noting the company intends to reach out to other groups that fit their psychographic profile. “We are constantly evolving, both in terms of design and outreach,” she explains.
   “We are not just for jewelry lovers,” says Jeong. “We reflect an Eastern-based philosophy in a Western world that needs to embrace it. In our desire for peace of mind and tranquility, we bridge both cultures. East meets West in our designs.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2016. To subscribe click here.

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