Dongdaemun has every fashion item imaginable: fabric, clothes, accessories, and wedding goods. The newest fashion trends, along with the newest fabrics, often make their debut in the market. It is home to the largest clothing suppliers in Korea, and aspiring designers also come to here to hone and test their skills. Cheap and diverse clothes attract not just fashion leaders but also the average consumer. It has become a place frequented by major Korean and international buyers as well.
Dongdaemun Market started as a traditional market in 1905 and experienced its first major transformation in 1970s as it began to develop as a center of the textile industry (both wholesale and retail), further contributing to the fast economic growth of Korea at that time. With the later construction of mega shopping buildings in the area, the market became reborn as the most famous fashion street in Korea.
Wholesalers across the country visit the market at night, forming an iconic night image in Seoul. The market is a mixture of both traditional and modern stores. Some stores maintain their old buildings, selling clothing materials, crafting clothes, or processing them. Modern shopping malls (such as Cerestar, Migliore, Designer’s Club, and Doosan Tower) popped up in the late 1990s, attracting young people by holding frequent music and dance performances at night. Various fashion shows and festivities are also held year-round.
Even though stores may sell goods wholesale, individual consumers and tourists purchase them at retail prices. The market offers special fabrics not found anywhere else and sells material and accessories at very reasonable prices. Simple accessories can even be made on-site at some stores. Plenty of currency exchange services and information desks provide a pleasant shopping experience for international visitors.
Uniqlo: Japan’s take on the gap, which means a bit trendier. Prices are reasonable, quality is standard, and you can find branches throughout Korea.
Subway Station Boutiques: The large stations have dozens of shops, and the prices are usually low
The largest mall in South Korea and one of the largest in the world. You can definitely find whatever you need here and, although it’s not the cheapest place to shop, you may find some good deals.
Shopping in Apgujeong : Affluence in Abundance
To Fit In or Not To Fit In – Apgujeong Equally Fun For To-Be-Seensters and Window Shoppers
By far one of Seoul’s leading stylishly affluent hubs, Apgujeong never fails to impress. Whether wandering through the myriad fashionable boutiques nestled quaintly along the area’s heralded Rodeo Drive, or just quietly observing trendy inhabitants from a short distance away peppering the streets in the latest designer fads, it’s a great way to spend a comfortable, albeit costly afternoon. Be forewarned, if blending in is your bag, you may very well have to break the bank.
Snugly situated on the city’s sprawling grid between Sinsa-dong and Cheongdam-dong, with the meandering Hangang River flush to the north, Apgujeong has garnered a reputation over the years as a money magnet, luring some of the industry’s top celebrities, nouveau riche and hugely successful entrepreneurs. The area has never lost its momentum and remains a dwelling teeming with exuberant displays of immeasurable wealth. On any given day, one is sure to find someone famous enjoying the trappings of stardom — be it sipping an extravagantly priced bottle of wine, cup of organic coffee or a refreshing bottle of imported lager. In fact, there seems to be no lull in profitability for realtors, as a rising swell of wealthy players continues to carve out their own little niche.
String together lavish nightlife, a dizzy array of high-end European cars purring about and the swelling loom of luxury riverside high-rises, and you’ll quickly come to the realization that such key attractions can only be afforded by those in the top pay grade (and their well-heeled offspring).
But don’t let the ostentatious display of wealth deter you from quenching your curiosity. With all the action nearby in full force, why not smack down for an iced mocha latte, plunge into a nice comfy patio seat and dream away the summer hours? Who knows, that could very well be you someday, perched behind the wheel of a brand new BMW.
Outside Myeongdong’s Migliore
1st stop in Myeongdong was “Migliore” a shopping centre which is the 1st shop you’ll see when you enter the main shopping parade of the Myeongdong area; this 8 floor shopping centre has levels dedicated to mens/womens fashion and accessories, a buffet restaurant on the top floor and a notable CD store (more on that later) on the 7th floor- but despite the variety of stores, I found shopping for clothes here very tiresome! On all floors, but more so on the clothing/accessories floors, you’ll find that the shopping centre isn’t laid out in the same way you’d expect your average UK shopping centre to be- with individual stores and their salespeople working within them- instead it was all very reminiscent of my days ‘shopping’ in Hanoi’s markets with individual stall owners sharing the main floor space by selling their wares within their own assigned square meters. Now, I have no problem with the layout of such shopping environments, but I really hate the shopping style it brings…. mainly having to haggle, stalls not being manned by their stall owners (so you can’t properly ask for prices), no changing rooms and a feeling that such stores are unapproachable because you worry that you might get ripped off for not haggling hard enough.
This pretty much set the tone for all of the Shopping centres I visited in Seoul (aside from the big ones like COEX, Shinshaegae, Lotte etc) which really made me believe ( and now, hopefully you’ll now understand why) Seoul isn’t a great place to buy clothes in a relaxed environment- I find that London is still the best, even though I did favour the Korean style of clothing more! End of mini rant.
But, there were some pros to Migliore:
The buffet restaurant on the top floor (which was only reachable by dizzying escalators as there are no lifts!) was a welcoming sight and very popular- I didn’t get to eat there, even though I wanted to, because my sister didn’t fancy it- but the variety of dishes were endless and very yummy looking!
Also, having learnt from the girls over at K-Popped HERE there is a very friendly lady on the 7th floor of Migliore who sells CD’S and yes she sold them cheaper then other stores! Unfortunately, it seems that the lady’s stock may have slightly changed since the girl’s over at K-Popped visited in 2008 because, whilst I was able to pick up Rain’s latest “Back to the basic” album, she didn’t seem to stock any of his older (mainly Rainism) albums! Other then Rain’s latest album, I was also able to purchase the “Personal Taste OST” here for around about £8 each, and yes, I know that the internet has evolved and I could’ve easily bought them online for a similar price, but it felt better having a Korean album in my hand that I could say I had bought in Seoul LOL.
Rain “Back to the Basic” & “Personal Taste OST” from Migliore
Finally, if you visit Myeongdong, there is one weird thing you girls might like to buy in Migliore- an umbrella! And not because it was raining throughout our stay, but because they are just too damn cute and pretty in Seoul! On one of the floors, immediately before the escalator as you come down Migliore’s top floors is a lady who sells dozens of umbrellas, really cute ones, and with a design that I hadn’t seen before in the UK- a push button mechanism that meant you could open and close the umbrella with one hand! And for 15,000 won (under £10) she sold it for the cheapest price we had seen in Seoul for that type of umbrella!
Different days and times in Myeongdong
The heading might sound weird, like as if you step into another twilight and timezone when you step into Myeongdong, but what I mean by “different days and times in Myeongdong,” is simply the change in the whole area depending on what day or time you visit.
I managed to visit Myeongdong twice during my time in Seoul and noticed a big change and contrast in the environment between both visits; my first visit was on a Tuesday and pretty early in the day at around noon, during this time, the stage in front of Migliore was already blasting out songs and there was a buzzy vibe to the area, with loads of people milling about, but the stalls inside Migliore were pretty void of people and felt abit emptier. Upon my 2nd return to the area it was Saturday and much later in the afternoon at 5pm-ish. At this time the whole area was much more alive compared to Tuesday and there was alot more going on outside in the streets. On my 1st visit to Myeongdong, I was wondering where all the street food carts (that I had read and seen so much about online) were and why there weren’t any at all, but returning late on Saturday (the weekend) the food carts were out in force. Also, there were a lot of carts selling fake goods (eg fake LV belts, sunglasses, bags etc) and it was fab- because lets face it, if you can’t afford the real thing, it’s great to be able to get your hands on a good fake! I was tempted to buy sunglasses, but didn’t know if they had UV protection (not good for my newly lasered eyes) and I wanted a fake handbag, but was worried I might get ripped off like on day 4 of my time in Seoul!
So, my point is, definitely visit Myeongdong on the weekend, and try to stay until later in the afternoon on the weekend, because although it may be packed, it will feel a lot more alive and you’ll definitely get more out of the area and your visit there!
Beauty Stores in Myeongdong
Looking down the left side of Myeongdong, with Nature Republic etc
Once you’ve walked down past Migliore, you’ll soon reach a crossroads where you can take one of 3 paths, and down 2 of these paths you’ll immediately notice numerous beauty stores. On the immediate left is the huge (and I think 1st in Seoul) Nature Republic store, with The Face Shop and Skin Foods just further down. On the path straight ahead there is Tony Moly, Baviphat, Etude House, Missha, Innisfree and Laneige. Whilst the path on the right leads down to loads and loads of restaurants- including Gogung’s where my sister and I ate Bibimbap (you can read about thatHERE)
The best thing about Seoul is that when it comes to beauty products, one thing that goes hand in hand with them, are the amount of freebies you can pick up before and after any potential beauty purchase; outside every single beauty store in Myeongdong, there would be salesgirls speaking through mini-speakers, trying to get your attention and tempting you into their stores with freebies such as cotton pads, drinks, face masks etc. If you go in the store, that freebie is yours to keep (even if you don’t make a purchase) but oh ho, if you do happen to buy something from their store then they will throw in handfuls of freebies into your bag aswell. Looking at the pic below can you believe I accumulated this much and more freebies from my time in Myeongdong?! I love this freebie culture and wish it happened here in London
I will definitely try to do haul vids on my Youtube channel HERE, soon, and posts on my blog all about these beauty purchases so keep an eye out for that!
Beauty Freebies from Seoul
Other Stores in the area
Whilst I say that clothes shopping in Myeongdong (and Seoul’s shopping centres) is a bit of a duff thing, some of you may disagree with me. So to play devil’s advocate, I should write a bit about some of the other stores, mainly clothes stores in the area which may make you think “hey it’s not all bad.” And yes, I’ll admit, these clothes stores did have a a more friendly feel to them compared to the rough and tumble stalls in Migliore et al.
In the Myeongdong area, if you are keen to pick up clothing from purely Korean brands then you’ll find your wishes fulfilled, as I noticed a few Korean brands (those that I know of) which had stores there. Most notably was the SPAO store, just down the left path of the crossroads (I spoke about before), this brand is notable because they are currently being fronted by 2 of K-pop’s biggest Idol groups- SNSD (Girls’ Generation) and Super Junior. I didn’t visit the store during my 1st visit to the area (I was busy being beauty mad) and on my 2nd visit, on a Saturday, the store was closed so I couldn’t see what it was really like, however, looking at the website the clothes there seem very similar to “Uniqlo” but at a bit more of an inflated price (because of the endorsers?)
2nd, noticeable store would have to be “Codes Combine,” this brand is also often endorsed by Super Junior and that’s how I got to know of the brand. I don’t remember the exact location of the store, but I can tell you that the clothes there were very reminiscent of our UK “All Saints” label and similar in pricing too- i.e, more expensive then you’re average high street. Also, weirdly, the shop smelt really nice LOL.
Finally there was another shop called BSX or something like that, which was currently being fronted by the group “Big Bang,” they had a GIANT picture of some Big Bang members (I recognized their faces but can’t name who they were) at the front of the store and the store only caught my eye because there were so many people wondering around the streets with a BSX paper bag under their arms; the clothing, to me, looking at the adverts on the front, seemed to be casual street wear but brightly coloured (as is popular with Seoulites).
Other than these Korean labels- there was one store which really caught my attention since the UK; the American brand “Forever 21″ have set up shop in the Myeongdong area and I was really keen to visit them because I really like the casual Abercrombie and Fitch, AE type of clothing vibe and I had hoped that style of clothing would be available at Forever 21.
The store in Myeongdong is undeniably the biggest independent clothing store (ie not department store) in the area, offering 3 floors of shopping, but disappointingly for me, the stores contents weren’t any more special then what you could find in your average H&M store (they also have H&M in Myeongdong!). One of the reasons why I love online shopping is that you can sit in the comfort of your own home and click through any crappy clothes and just go straight to the fab clothes which inspire you to buy- going to Forever 21, it seemed like the store was completely void of any of the good stuff I had seen from their website!
Also the design of the store isn’t to my liking either! There are 3 floors but no lift access to any of them, so you have to tirelessly clamber up and down the stairs to view all the things on offer. This is an even bigger problem because the only available changing rooms in the whole store is on the lower ground floor- they should have a changing room on every floor! So, in order to save your breath, you have to look at all 3 floors of the store before daring to try anything on- otherwise you’ll be running up and down the stairs like mad! Despite my slight dislike of the store’s clothing and design, I still managed to find a pair of cool ripped jeans there for a bargain-ous price of £15, and I found that the accessories section of the store was much better then the clothing they had on offer, so that might be worth a visit?
All in all, I would say GO to Myeongdong if you ever visit Seoul, because it is as famous as London’s Oxford Street and with an equally awing buzz. If you want to pick up Korean branded clothing, Korean Beauty products, fake bags, belts or other, or even just the cheapest priced K-Pop CD’s in Seoul then definitely charge up your T-Money card and go- the area is so easily accessible and too awesome to miss!