What happens when a trend forecaster and buyer takes a whistle-stop tour of fashion’s most up and coming city? Kelly Harrington gives us the insider track on South Korea’s jewel in the crown, Seoul.
It’s no secret that Seoul is now one of Asia’s most unique shopping destinations for the trend-driven consumer, with a retail scene that is thriving. Shops and concept stores have almost doubled since my first trip there, four years ago. Seoul is a city that never sleeps with late night food markets, 24- hour shopping, huge skyscrapers and a mix of old and new. You will find neighbourhood villages and modern architecture all within a short walking distance from each other.
One of my favourite areas to visit, this is the hotspot not only for international residents, but locals as well. You will find some of the trendiest boutiques, cafés and restaurants lined both along the main road and off the beaten track alike. Make your first stop at D & Department by Millimetre Milligram known as MMMG, a design and homewear store that specialises in goods that have stood the test of time. You will discover books and furniture, clothing and accessories, as well as a trendy plant store, a coffee shop and the sustainable brand Freitag. d-seoul.mmmg.net
Don’t miss multi-store Beaker, stocking high-end international brands mixed with favourite Korean labels like Ader Error, Stereo Vinyl’s, Beyond Closet and Andersson Bell. Pick up a streetwear bargain as these brands are like gold dust and are a fraction of the price compared to when you’re in Europe. beakerstore.com
The much loved Korean shoe brand By Mina With You is situated in the backstreets of Itaewon. This store is really special with a super personal service: each shoe is made to order so you can pick your heel, heel height, fabric, and colour – a favourite for many Korean celebrities. bymina.co.kr
Café culture is a huge thing in Korea, especially if they are Insta-worthy of a photo, or ten! Café hop from Instagram favourite Low Coffee Hannam where you can drink trendy hipster health juice, or venture to the popular One in a Million to join the fashionable crowd for a pick me up cake if you are fighting jet-lag. oneinamillion.kr
A land of contrasts, Cheongdam- dong characterises high-end brands and flashy flagship stores with quaint backstreet boutiques, situated around Dosan Park. Designer brands abound including the incredible Christian Dior flagship, noted for its amazing Petal- like architecture.
Visit 10 CORSO COMA to hobnob with the elite. It’s a fantastic bookstore and beautifully designed café. 10corsocomo.com
Situated opposite the lush greens of Dosan park lays Andersson Bell’s first ever flagship store. This relatively young brand is Korea’s answer to brand Balenciaga and MM6. If you are into sneakers then visit Korea’s largest sport and streetwear concept store Kasina featuring Stussy, Nike and Adidas. (kasina.co.kr)
Another noteworthy concept shop is Raremarket founded by Dami Kwon the sister of K-POP royalty G-Dragon. This store brings unique cult designers to Korea many of who should be on your radar or are rising stars of the fashion scene. raremarket.com
Common Ground is probably the most Instagrammed location in Seoul. This super-trendy village is made from 200 bright blue shipping containers filled with cafés, restaurants and shopping boutiques. It’s a little out from the city but worth a visit. common-ground.co.kr
Head to the area of Sinsa Dong, where you’ll find Garosu-gil, a small, tree-lined road full of amazing Korean beauty stores, boutiques and interesting things. Stop at Skinfood (look for the bright yellow facade!), to pick up organic and natural beauty products derived from food. Don’t miss the Dr Jart flagship store in Garosu-gil, this brand won global recognition for its pharmaceutical approach to skincare. Stock up on face masks and skin brightening formulas in the unique beauty filter space. drjart.com
If you are feeling cultural, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the most iconic landmark in Korea. Designed by Zaha Hadid, this is my favourite architectural building and the museum always holds interesting exhibitions. ddp.or.kr
Korea is the capital of beauty, and I can hands down say that the Four Season’s Spa in Seoul is the most luxurious I have ever been to. If you are feeling brave, delve into Korean culture and experience a local bath house. I can highly recommend SPA LEI and its full body scrub, where women rub you down until your skin (and all the dirt!) rolls off. It sounds rather unconventional, but it’s great for circulation and – trust me when I say– you will never feel cleaner!