South Korea’s sprawling metropolitan capital, Seoul, continues to chart an incredible rise on the list of global tourist destinations. Aided, no doubt, by the popularity of K-Pop, Seoul fuses old world tradition, such as Buddhist temples and street markets, with significant architectural development and neon-lined streets. As with any city, part of the appeal lies in its retail offering, and while luxury brands are as present in Seoul as in any other major city, the fashion shopping experience is a varied one, with artfully curated boutiques offering something unique. Here, our guide to the best shopping in Seoul.
BOON THE SHOP
One of the nation’s most popular designer boutiques, Boon the Shop has played a large part in introducing international designer brands to the Korean market. It would be fair to say that the likes of Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Marni, Maison Margiela, Stella McCartney and many other brands have been ably assisted by Boon the Shop in their growing popularity in the South Korean capital.
When it opened in October 2014, Boon the Shop’s Cheongdam flagship represented a major overhaul of the business. Designed within an eye-catching minimalistic building by world-renowned architect Peter Marino, the new store has repositioned itself as a multiplex that encompasses a much broader lifestyle offering, with product categories including fashion, beauty, art, culture, music, and dining.
The store offers a broad range of the world’s best brands including 3.1 Philip Lim, Agnona, Altuzarra, Anya Hindmarch, Bertoni, Buccellati, Christopher Kane, Derek Lam, Erdem, Giambattista Valli, Haider Ackermann, Jupe, Marques Almeida, Moynat, N.21, Repossi, Rochas, Roger Vivier, Sacai, Shrimps, Smythson, Sophia Webster, The Row, Toga Pulla, and Victoria Beckham. More recently, it became a partner of the International Woolmark Prize, for which it will stock the capsule collection of each year’s womenswear winner, beginning in 2016 with Teatum Jones.
21 Apgujeong-ro 60-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; +82 2 2056 1234
My Boon is a lifestyle outpost of Boon the Shop Cheongdam (featured above) created in collaboration with Ports 1961 designer and stylist Milan Vukmirovic. It features a more playful, vibrant atmosphere than Boon the Shop Cheongdam, with products by rising stars in the fashion universe alongside quirky, trendy items. Alongside its fashion range, My Boon attracts customers from far and wide with a full range of accessories, magazines and books, cosmetic products, furniture and household items by Vitra, Ingo Maurer, and Cappellini. Another interesting feature of My Boon is its juice bar, which sells freshly-squeezed detox juice, a perfect chaser after over-indulging on the shopping beat.
1st Fl. Pie’n Polus, 4-1 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; +82 2 6947 1270
Beaker identifies itself as a contemporary multi-brand store, and its name says it all: it mixes various things to create something new and unique. With its two flagship stores, one in Cheongdam and the other in Hannam, Beaker offers 200 brands from every corner of the world including the United States, Europe, and Asia, many of them exclusively to the Korean market, such as Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders, Helmut Lang, Aspesi and Jack Spade, those which offer the quality of designer brands at a more accessible price point, which goes some way in explaining its popularity to a younger customer base.
On top of fashion items, Beaker also offers a range of cosmetics, as well as coffee by fair-trade company La Colombe. A highlight of Beaker’s Hannam Store façade and Cheongdam’s interior is that they are created by the Junkyard Project, which uses abandoned construction materials collected from demolished buildings around Seoul, an innovative example of up-cycling and a striking design feature at the same time.
Cheongdam flagship store, 408 Apgujeong-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; +82 2 543 1270
Hannam flagship store, 241 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 70 4118 5216
NEVER GREEN STORE
The Never Green Store is located on Gyeongridan-gil in Itaewon, one of Seoul’s trendiest areas. Its main brands include Korea’s leading menswear designer Anteok’s Spectator and Homegrown Supply, supplemented by shop-in-shop brands withMNW and PRANKER. Launched in late 2010, the Spectator brand has become hugely popular with its offering of a distinctive and sustainable classical style that represents a multifaceted interpretation of military archives, reinterpreting traditional materials, such as wool, in new ways.
Recent additions to the brand, including a German military-inspired sneaker line in various colours, and a perfume line, have made the brand even more popular.
Another draw card of the store is Homegrown Supply, which offers high quality basic unisex items at reasonable prices. The gentle fragrance of Homegrown Coffee welcomes visitors and helps the Never Green Store stand out among many stores on Gyeongridan-gil.
UG 1st Fl. Hyegwang Building, 303-17 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 02 797 4268
Sortie Seoul is a hidden gem on Seoul’s popular fashion street Garosu-gil. Housed within a sleek stainless steel interior, the minimalist space serves as home to Eastlogue and Unaffected. As a menswear powerhouse in Korea, Eastlogue offers modern interpretations of traditional military, hunting and climbing wear. Designer Lee Dong Ki always sticks to quality materials and accessories for perfection, making his items even more attractive over time.
Launched in 2015, Unaffected has made a successful kickoff with simple designs, comfy silhouettes and unique patterns, offering unique takes on traditional sportswear, such as the anorak and jogging pants. These two retro-inspired menswear brands and Sortie Seoul’s futuristic zenith make for a profoundly unique harmony.
3rd Fl., 524-23 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; +82 70 4221 1121