A Guide to Seoul Concept Stores
Editor | Inhae Yeo
Friday 2nd February 2018
In this month’s talking points, Director Inhae Yeo brings to light the growing trend of “Concept Stores” in Seoul, South Korea and what these stores mean to customers and brands.
Seoul Concept Stores
Concept stores have had a long history in Korea so there are lots of stores who have come and gone, emerged, evolved and so on and so forth. It’s a book worth of stories! Other than the stores I have mentioned below Beaker has been great at promoting Korean fashion – see this piece I wrote – and I like Worksout which does a lot of streetwear merchandising and in-store events. I was excited to see more independent stores especially for menswear emerge but I am yet to see the stores myself so can’t say much there. I quite like the new flagship store by Lansmere, a very classic menswear concept store which is very Italian. Queen Mama Market is a great concept and it’s good to see designer Yoon Hanhee who founded Y & Kei decided comeback with a lifestyle concept merging fashion. Fourm is an interesting concept store targeted for distribution within department stores – it’s owned by Hyundai Department Store. I like the idea of segmenting different categories as seen by Beaker Steps for shoes and accessories and Fourm Atelier for luxury womenswear accessories.
Personal Shopping Destination
The role of the concept stores has changed over the past decade where they originally acted as a testbed for international designer brands and has traditionally been more focused on the role of serving the VIP & being a more personal shopping destination. These stores especially the ones like Boon the Shop, the 1st generation multi-label boutique in South Korea to the more recently joined independent boutique, Rare Market have played an integral part in educating the super savvy fashion customers in the region. South Korea is a country where a decade ago people were working 6 days a week but have now established a lifestyle to enjoy and travel the world. It also has the highest internet connection speed today and is the world leader in internet connectivity. Information circulates at a massive speed!
I love the stories I hear from store managers who visit London Show Rooms, the designers showroom platform owned by the British Fashion Council, about how customers will tell the managers to stock the new emerging designers that they get excited about. There is that connection and respect between the customers and the stores which is rather special and personal – because the stores have all had a somewhat ‘personal shopping destination’ function to them in the early days. They are constantly evolving though. The stores are super supportive of Korean based designers and I love how the mood during Seoul Fashion Week really shows that these stores are celebrating the fashion scene in Korea. That didn’t exist few years back. It’s a new thing since international press and buyers started flocking to attend SFW. I hope they’ll do more interesting collaborations with local talents and maybe even with local fashion schools.
The New Vibe
The buyers at these concept stores are really fashion forward. They’re specifically after the new and emerging names and they really get involved to tell the story of these young designers to their customers. The concept stores all have a bit of a different story. I love the unusual brands you can find at 10 Corso Como, the beautiful open space at 10 Corso Como Avenue L, the newly renovated ground floor now called ‘New Boon’ at Boon the Shop, Mue’s new unisex zone, Tom Greyhound’s cool and modern merchandising, Rare Market’s exciting mix of merchandising, and Galleria Department Store’s lively mood in its own merchandised section – department stores in Korea rarely have their own merchandised section.
There is an obvious trend of ‘lifestyle’ products becoming more in demand and fashion is the absolute glue that merges everything together. Fashion is basically always there whether surrounded in green plants and beautiful flowers or in the music and street vibe. Stores are keen to create spaces with a focus on high-calibre creative lifestyle. The key concept is to allow customers to experience the brand’s ethos and philosophy through these carefully curated spaces – telling the different stories of the brand and its owners.
Here’s a pick of our top 5 latest and trendiest concept stores in Seoul – all brick and mortar.
1. Eenk Katridge
(Address. 1-402 Yongsandong 2(i)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Tel. +82-70-8733-2237, Instagram. @eenk_official, eenk.co.kr)
Eenk is a project space created by designer Hyemee Lee. The name is a twist on ‘ink’ catridges, an essential office supply that act as a tool to realise the print of different creations from text to images. Hyemee opened this space shortly after starting her own brand after having worked at leading Korean fashion houses for more than a decade. The space allows Hyemee to introduce her new products that forms part of the on-going ‘Letter Project’ from A to Z. B is for beanie, C for clutch, E for earring, F for Fedora and I for iPhone 6 Case and the list goes on. Eenk’s signature design is the golden rectangular handle attached to the handbag collection as well as the new iPhone case. The handle on the iPhone case can make your phone stand and is helps your phone stay in one hand without having to grip it so hard – the ring is what everyone uses in Korea so good to be different by going for a rectangular shape. Eenk products can be found in various concept stores in Seoul but I love visiting the project space where the products are merchandised in the most visually pleasing way as if telling the designer’s personal story behind creating each item.
2. New Boon
(Boon the Shop, Ground Floor, 17 Apgujeong-ro 60-gil, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Tel. +82-2-2056-1234, Instagram. @ boontheshop_cheongdam, www.boontheshop.com)
Boon the Shop recently renovated its ground floor space to cater to the younger fashion crowd whose interests goes beyond fashion. The space is called ‘New Boon’ and merchandises a fashion mix from designer to street as well as lifestyle products. There’s a music pop up store for speakers and vinyl records, sneakers lounge, art book & poster popup store and fashion from designer to streetwear. One section titled ‘Case Study’ brings collections from streetwear brands like 424 and Fear of God from LA as well as A Cold Wall from London. The store has also launched its first perfume series of 3 different scents mixed exclusively for them which is on display on the ground floor. My biggest hit in the store is emerging designer Kanghyuk, a Royal College of Art MA graduate whose first collection is all about the perfectly tailored trousers and jackets stitched in red and made with recycled airbag material – very modern and cool.
3. La Fête at The Mansion
(Address. 7, Itaewon-ro 45-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Tel. +82-2-3446-4668, Instagram. @lafete_official)
La Fête, the beautiful flower shop with a terrace garden by two florists who are sisters have recently moved into a new space, the Mansion. The sisters are renowned trendsetters amongst the leading fashion crowd in Korea and have joined with collaborators to offer interior design consultancy, fashion & accessories as well as scented candles and a café in the new space. You can either pick up a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a green pot of plants from the shop but my favourites are the limited edition fashion items like the wrap dress, the floral printed dress and the shirt collection with exaggerated sleeve details and the hat collections the sisters have been steadily creating for a few years now.
4. Jane March Maison
(Address. 8, Seongsuil-ro 3-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Tel. +82-2-547-3217, Instagram. @ janemarch_maison)
Jane March Maison is a treasure trove for living and lifestyle products. There are all sorts of objects from small to large and classic to modern in this neat little store in Seongsu-dong, north of River Han in Seoul. The store is owned by two sisters – a wedding consultant and a visual merchandiser, both adored by the fashion crowd in Korea so expect to find unusual collaborations with the local artists, illustrators and designers. My favourite is the white handmade Balinese lace tops and dresses by Uluwatu, a brand the sisters are distributing in Korea. Uluwatu recently had a pop-up presentation in the space.
5. The Cashmere
(Address. 10-3, Dosan-daero 45-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Tel. +82-2-518-6980, Instagram. @thecashmerethings)
I fell in love with the simple, everyday luxury wear by ‘The Cashmere’ when I was first introduced by the brand at Handsome HQ’s shopping arcade. Handsome is a fashion group in Korea that owns designer brands like Time, System, SJSJ, Mine and etc – the brands I wore throughout my 20s when living in Seoul as a fashion PR. The Cashmere recently opened a flagship store covered in Dosan Park. The store has glass windows and is covered in green plants throughout the store. There are various lifestyle products for the bathroom, the living room and your office neatly displayed with rails of cashmere and cotton products.
Images: Courtesy of Queen Mama Market, Boon the Shop, Workout, Hyundai Department Store, Eenk Katridge, La Fête, Jane March Masion, The Cashmere.
*This story is an expansion of Director Inhae Yeo’s quotes for New York Magazine’s “The Urbanist’s Guide to Seoul, From Soy-Brined Fried Pickles to Sneaker Bars”