A while ago when Jan WhatsApp’d me to tell me a Tony Moly was opening near us it took me a moment to register what I was reading.
As soon as I recovered, I furiously typed as fast as my tiny fingers could. Bombarding her with one word responses and questions she probably (and didn’t) answer. In quick succession.
When? Where? Why? OMG!!!!! YES!!!!!
Now that day has finally come.
For those who don’t know, Tony Moly is a Korean beauty brand. The brand is young – it’s been around for eight years – but has expanded beyond Korea with stores all over Asia and now in North America. It’s even stocked at Sephora and Urban Outfitters.
Tony Moly was the first cosmetic store I saw when I stepped foot in Seoul. Literally–it is right next to arrivals at Incheon.
The packaging from Tony Moly is ridiculously cute, in an awesome way. Perhaps the red apple hand cream isn’t all that practical to tote around but it’s incredibly distinctive to the company. Ditto their tomato-shaped massage pack.
For someone who had very little language skills (I could sound the alphabet and not much else) it was beyond amazing to decipher what was what just by looking and testing something.
Even after a while in Korea, this was still a bit of a challenge.
To be honest, the soft spot I have for Tony Moly is all because of this one woman in my old Korean hometown.
It was while I was browsing for nail colours that a Tony Moly associate came over and proceeded to do my nails for me for free. Not just give me a manicure–she did nail art on every single nail. Without my asking. Completely voluntarily.
She was the best. I miss her so hard! She taught me how to do all sorts of nail art, from the ridiculously complicated to the frightfully simple. I occasionally break out the frightfully simple tips she imparted every once in a while.
Customer service at its best.
What’s it like?
I wasn’t expecting this Tony Moly to be like the ones I encountered in Korea.
When The Face Shop relaunched in Canada – it launched years ago when Jan and I were in high school, but was unsuccessful – I was more than a tad disappointed.
Jan was too. (She visited Korea for a while before I decamped there).
The promos weren’t the same; the items were not as varied nor plentiful; the atmosphere was different and the prices were a lot different than I was used to paying.
All of these are fully understandable. The markup, the item availability – everything. It was just another reminder of something I used to take for granted now being not as readily available to me.
Which goes to show you really don’t know what you’re missing until it’s gone.
Aesthetically this Tony Moly looks like any other you’d see in Korea. White with accents of black, with cute packaging everywhere.
The staff give you space to browse and breathe. Unlike Korea there isn’t someone outside with a megaphone dancing to K-pop at the ready to give you a basket with samples inside. Instead it’s a warm greeting as you walk in and help if you ask for it.
This place is small. It’s impossible for two people to walk around and browse side-by-side. Similarly, you could walk around the store in two minutes flat.
Given its small size it has a lot of the popular items, but not necessarily the breadth you would see at other larger stores in Korea or internationally. I tried looking for the Aegyo Sal eye plumper In the Gloss mentioned, but I couldn’t find it. (Not that I would buy it–I’ve already got enough aegyo sal.)
If you love Tony Moly and have never had a Tony Moly in your town, you will love it. If you’ve visited Korea or lived near another Tony Moly, you will be a more than a little disappointed.
Another thing: samples. I love K-beauty and Asian beauty stores because normally you spend a certain level and you get a generous handful of samples. At the Tony Moly I spent a fair bit, but the samples thing is something you have to ask for there. Weird. Maybe the international stores don’t give samples away as freely as the Korean stores.
Word to the wise: ask for the samples. They may not give it to you otherwise.
Nice touch: For all the K-Pop or rabid BANA fans: B1A4’s album (the latest one: 5th mini album) seems to be playing constantly on the screens above the cash registers. You can’t really hear the music, but you can watch the video and your favourite member to your heart’s content. Or until they kick you out for loitering.
I did do some damage when I went, as you’ll see from my Tony Moly haul. In my defence, it was partly for me and partly for other people. A lot of the goods were sold out at this Tony Moly but I went within the first two weeks of its grand opening. I get it.
Would I recommend going?