Post #32 – Hidden gems of Garosugil – while strolling through this bohemian neighborhood, I found many shops that somehow, with their history or meaning, round up my Korean experience. I visited Garosugil a few times, and I found that it changes like a chameleon. Side streets start to flourish; and new stores are added or upgraded, especially in the luxury sector. But the staples, the stores that make Garosugil, well, Garosugil… are still there.
I witnessed over the years, in many other destinations, how high-end chains tend to displace the local, one-of-a-kind establishments, in neighborhoods that have gained fame, thus changing the flavor of the area. I hope this will not be the fate of Garosugil. I give credit to the Korean spirit to find regulations that will not favor the mega brands to radically transform this quaint district. My hopes are based on the fact that even very upscale brands or big chains seem to adapt to Garosugil by creating stores that fit with its character.
Lotte, one of the world’s largest retail giants has embraced this direction, and opened a rather bohemian El Cube by LOTTE, a small store spanning over several floors with neon-lit coffee shops, K-pop merchandise, hand-crafted gifts and souvenirs, refraining from overburdening the area with clothing, accessories, cosmetics and more. On the same vein, 8 Seconds clothing store as well as Zara Home are keeping a more demure profile in Garosugil, focusing on items that are attractive to locals and tourists alike. That is not to say that there are no large department stores, or high-end luxury uber-boutiques such as MCM. Happily, the area has many little side streets where shops can expand into. A more in-depth review will follow.
To my delight, several stores I found interesting, are still there, such as the accessories store designed by artist Youk Shim Won. Featured heavily, as the lead female character, in the very famous K-drama “Fated to Love you” with Jang Huyk, Jang Na-Ra and Choi Jin Hyuk, the store is one of several by the artist and is very Korean. Her artwork is inspired by traditional Korean painting, although very modern and whimsical, depicting mostly faces of girls with big eyes, or figures dressed up in childish clothes. The brand is for adults. It represents for me the sweet and innocent aspect of Korean femininity.
Still around is the Karl Lagerfeld pop-up. For being a pop-up, it has been there for a good while. What keeps this store close to my heart is the large board at the entrance that announces that Karl Lagerfeld loves Seoul. A kindred spirit. We know that he does, and that he is an admirer of G-Dragon, who is regularly invited to the Parisian Chanel fashion shows, being one of the most eye-catching guests and surely one of Lagerfeld’s muses. The store is located below street level, what makes it even more interesting. Not sure if any other Chanel-related stores, pop-up or not, have embraced such a mundane location.
In line with Karl, GD is also present in Garosugil, at least for now. His collaboration and endorsement of 8 Seconds has been visible throughout the years in the store’s Garosugil location, in windows and on the top floor that still sells, heavily discounted, items from the GD collection. Since his fashion sense if my all-time favorite, this is one of my favorite places to shop.
The bohemian vibe of Garosugil is oh-so-present in many other establishments, from small bakeries, flower shops, and cafés, all away to fancy home décor shops such as Neuf Hotel on the main street. Also spanning several levels, this shop could as well be somewhere in Europe.
From the bohemian lacy bed linen to the grunge k-fashion is just a block. It is not easy to find local designers, unless you know when related fashion events take place, in what areas they open shops, and so on. These areas are not always the ones frequented by tourists. Around the Corner is a shop that sells hundreds of locally-made garments for men and women. I found that their selection is representative of Korean street fashion, not high-end fashion, and available at accessible prices. Since the store is rather big, looking through everything is fun. Many items are one-of-a-kind.
These Garosugil highlights are just the beginning of the exploration of this area. More to come!