'Comme des Garçons Street' Becomes Seoul's New Luxury Hotspot

One of the hottest shopping areas in Seoul is the street that stretches for 650 meters from Cheil Communications building in Itaewon to Hangangjin Station on Subway Line 6. Since the opening of the flagship store of Comme des Garçons at the end of August, the area was nicknamed "Comme des Garçons Street."

Until just a few years ago, the area centered on the street between Itaewon Station and Noksapyeong Station where restaurants and fashion stores are clustered, but the Commes des Garçons Street has shifted the center of gravity with a number of quality restaurants as well as studios of well-known architects and artists.

The IP Boutique Hotel (left), Comme des Garçons (top two right) and the Leeum. The IP Boutique Hotel (left), Comme des Garçons (top two right) and the Leeum.

◆ High-end Fashion Stores and Restaurants

The Comme des Garçons flagship store, which opened on Aug. 30, had been much anticipated for months before the actual opening. The fact that high-profile Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo led the redesign of the existing building was enough to generate a lot of buzz. A staffer at Cheil Industries, which runs Comme des Garçons, said, "The area is transforming itself into a luxury spot as haute couture fashion shops, studios of artisans, and famous restaurants moved in along with the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art."

Across from Comme des Garçons, there are Passion Five run by the SPC Group known for its Paris Baguette bakery franchise, and The Spice owned by prominent chef Edward Kwon. Passion Five has a bakery and café in the ground floor and a restaurant and the SPC office on the floor above. "Word of mouth already spread and we have groups of Japanese tourists coming. Overall, the number of visitors rose by 30 percent from last year," an SPC staffer claims.

Just in front of Hangangjin Station, a performing arts theatre will be built by Hyundai Card. World class architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, laureates of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize, are in charge of the project.

Clockwise from top left, Passion Five, The Spice, an alley on Comme des Garçons Street, and a branch of Rhee Chong Myung Design Studio Clockwise from top left, Passion Five, The Spice, an alley on Comme des Garçons Street, and a branch of Rhee Chong Myung Design Studio

◆ Soaring Property Prices

A few years ago the Leeum was the sole attraction of the area, but the influx of younger people has made it a place to watch in the real estate market. A lot of the area is reportedly owned by the Samsung Group.

One estate agent said, "Samsung started buying up a lot of land in the area about 10 years ago, and a Samsung staffer told me six months ago that the area will become much sought after in the near future." Indeed, land prices in the area are soaring. Until a year ago, 3.3 sq. m of land cost W40 million (US$1=W1,155), but now they sell for over W70 million. Another estate agent said the price will rise by W10 million a year, and in two to three years, it will be around W100 million."

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 25, 2010 08:27 KST