On Saturday, while walking across Howard Street in downtown Manhattan, an unusual store caught my attention. No identification outside but the interior had a futuristic vibe. Two guys, standing outside told me their wives had been in there for a while shopping. They encouraged me to check it out.
As it turns out it’s the flagship of the newest J-Beauty sensation, UZ, a highly unconventional Tokyo-based lip, and eyeliner brand. The founder started in beauty eight years ago with a company called Flowfushi that is now defunct.
The staff at the flagship is super cool and wear that eyeliner really well. Plus, they’re incredibly nice and helpful.
Here’s what the founder recently told Allure:
And Here’s what I learned from spending 30 minutes in the store:
- It’s not a pop-up but it closes every few months, for an indeterminate period of time, before re-opening with a new product. These “openings” are called Phases. This current one is Phase 3 and it opened on 11/15 and will close on 12/31/19.
- They claim the Tokyo-based owner has a long lease on the building. The first-floor space, pictured above, is exquisitely restored (see more photos below). No expense has been spared to make sure every detail from the display cases to the brickwork is perfect.
But here’s what puzzles me
- They only sell two products – an eyeliner and a self-moisturizing lip product that they claim works even when you’re not wearing it (?). Supposedly it’s the #1 lip treatment in Japan.
- The price for the lip product is a mere $20.
- Their eyeliner, which comes in various colors, including 7 shades of black, is $16.
- I also learned that their blackest black eyeliner was created specifically for NYers who had requested it using those space-age phone booths (photo above) that were designed to let customers communicate directly with the founder about their product wants and desires.
- J-Beauty is clearly up-and-coming but how does UZ make money? Unless they’re using crazy VC money none of this makes sense.
- How can 2 products at these low price points support this flagship?
- Especially when Glossier, which is just around the corner, has 100 young women standing in line outside of their store and UZ had at most 10 customers at any one time – many, from what I overheard, coming in to check out the futuristic, spacey decor (as I did).
I love the aesthetics of this brand. And am intrigued by UZ and its founder – even though I don’t get how they’re making any money. Maybe this is a side gig for Imamura? It’s interesting that he’s been in business for 8 years and yet there is virtually nothing on him besides two articles, one in Allure, and one in Vogue. He’s playing it very close to the vest and every article features the same talking points.
That said, he’s picked the coolest street in Manhattan for his first store. So kudos to him for knowing where the cool kids go to shop.
And a heads up for any of you who might be looking for a quick tip sheet on where to find the most creative and influential retailers in NYC. I recommend you head to this 4-block stretch of Howard Street. I wrote about it two years ago and it’s all still true.
If you make it down to UZ, I also suggest you check out Madhappy at 25 Howard St. Their concept is mental health positivity which just got them $1.8 million in funding from LVMH. Howard Street is also where you’ll find style-obsessed skater boys at Palace Skateboards. And the two brands that initially put the street on the map are still going strong as well: Opening Ceremony and Rick Owens.
Scroll down for photos from my visit to UZ.
Amazing eyeliner expertise by two UZ staffers
The eyeliner room
And big thanks to these two gentlemen (and their wives) for putting UZ on my radar
19 Howard Street (between Lafayette and Crosby).
Hours: 11 am – 8 pm (except Sunday when the store closes at 7 pm)