Shopping in Seoul offers a lesson in the diversity and complexity of the Korean culture that straddles traditional values and beliefs with modern commercialism and practices. There’s the low hanging, plastic tarp ceilings of the traditional street markets, where the smell of food being sold along narrow aisles wafts as you walk and old shops line the corridors selling random products or fresh produce like fish and fruit. There’s the cobble-stone, modern walkways of other ‘markets’ where name brand shops have staked their claim and the only interruption to the flow of the crowds walking is the centre lane of food stalls. And then there are the shopping centres and popular districts, like Gangnam, where designer brands aren’t just a luxury, they are a necessity.
Shopping In Seoul A Draw For Tourism
Seoul is essentially a large playground for shoppers and tourists alike, looking for anything from designer brands to underground (literally, underground at almost every subway station) bargain shops. Tourism is booming here, and much of it revolves around the accessibility to products and brands people in neighbouring countries, just have to have. In fact, South Korea is now the top destination for Chinese tourists, now the largest body of tourists world-wide, who are drawn here for the luxury items they can find.
One such luxury item is the brand of sunglasses, Gentle Monster. This South Korean sunglasses company is a pride of the country and has taken the fashion industry by storm in just three years, breaking onto the European fashion scene and making its way to shield the eyes of celebrities world-wide. In fact, it was a K-Drama actress that made this brand so notable when she chose to wear several of their sunglasses onscreen. Immediately fans of this popular show in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore hurried to make Gentle Monster sunglasses a part of their own fashion statement.
Gentle Monster Blends Art with Commercialism
We’ll be honest, we hadn’t heard of this brand but as we walked through the trendy, hipster-esque streets of Garosu-gil, we were told by our friend, and impromptu-guide, of their popularity and some of the unique aspects of the company – like their business model of “innovative experiment” and their attention to their showrooms and displays. It should also be noted that their prices are considered more ‘reasonable’ by some as you can find a pair of these trendy, vintage-inspired modern shades for as low as 200,000 won ($170 USD). Not what we would consider cheap, but what most who are looking for designer brands would call affordable.
While in Seoul, you may look to find a tourist-worthy destination like an art gallery or museum and you may also look to do some shopping. At the showrooms for Gentle Monster, you can do both. We stopped by the Sinsa-dong location and got much more than we expected when we were told we’d be visiting the showroom for a brand of designer sunglasses!
If you’re in Seoul, a visit to one, or more, of these showrooms is a unique experience offering you a journey into the contemporary art scene of Korea and also letting you participate in one of the favourite activities of tourists to Seoul – shopping! Don’t forget to climb to the top-floor-turned-cafe for some refreshments.
Pick The Pair Of Sunglasses That You Want By Clicking Them
If you’re not into any of the sunglasses above check out more Gentle Monster Sunglasses.
Gentle Monster Showroom – Home & Recovery
If you can make it to one of the showrooms in Seoul, we highly recommend it though we haven’t decided if it should be considered more than an art gallery or more than a designer store. If Seoul isn’t on your list of next travel destinations, we’ve got you covered with this photo tour of the Sinsa-dong location. The theme is “Home and Recovery” and throughout you’ll see an amazing blend of the artistic with the commercial in the designs of both their showrooms and their sunglasses.
An interesting looking front entrance did nothing to foretell what we would find inside!
Are these what you think they are? Yup! But let’s take a closer look…just in case.
We were a little surprised by the first display of hanging IV bags/lights. Though once we realized the theme of the showroom was ‘Home & Recovery’, things started to make a little more sense!
While there’s an explanation of the inspiration for the displays, like any artwork, it leaves everything up for LOTS of interpretation.
The First Floor: A ‘Gentle’ Introduction
The Second Floor: Sleeping in Style
A bedroom for sunglasses?
The second floor also had a ‘bright room’ that was so bright, it just wouldn’t photograph, a room of cupboards filled with sunglasses, and a small curtained off area showing a very artistic silent film.
The Third Floor & Fourth Floors: From Vanity Room to Bathroom
The white made quite a stunning background and display for the various styles of sunglasses and frames.
This was one of our favourite displays. There was just something about the vanity table and the perfectly suited glasses.
What’s a house without a whiskey room? The sunglasses probably come in handy for the morning after!
Couldn’t resist trying on at least one pair!!