New Fashion Hub Turns Up Heat in Gangnam

Garosugil in Seoul's Sinsa-dong, Gangnam has been thoroughly transformed from a street full of trendy cafes to a massive fashion street in just a few years. The street is now home to big fashion stores like Kate Spade and Camper, which is hugely popular among young New Yorkers, TNGTW, the business casual brand of LG Fashion, and Ilmo Outlet operated by Cheil Industries, a Samsung affiliate.

Competition between Sinsa-dong and nearby Cheongdam-dong in affluent southern Seoul for the No. 1 shopping street in Korea is getting fiercer, with Cheongdam-dong distributing a dining and shopping guide for Chinese and Japanese tourists.

◆ Fashion Rivalry

In just one year, six restaurants on Garosugil have been turned into fashion outlets. "It's a great place for shopping because there are many more upscale yet affordable brands than in Myeong-dong," central Seoul, a Chinese tourist said.

Massimo Dutti, a mid-range brand belonging to Spain's Inditex Group, opened a shop on Dec. 9, and Forever21, a leading low-price fashion brand in the U.S., will open a store early next year.

Shops in Garosugil Shops in Garosugil

While Garosugil is undergoing its transformation, Cheongdam-dong has been attracting investment from global fashion tycoons. Bernard Arnault, the chairman of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, bought two buildings in Cheongdam-dong for W54.1 billion (US$1=W1,155). Earlier this year, Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee bought a building there for W25 billion, which resulted in a 20 to 30 percent hike in rents in the area.

Several CEOs of foreign fashion brands visited Seoul to inquire about setting up shop in Cheongdam-dong, and Rick Owens and Moncler recently opened shops there. An industry insider said, "Word of Cheongdam-dong becoming an Asian luxury hub has led a number of foreign brands to take great interest in opening shops there."

Shops in Cheongdam-dong Shops in Cheongdam-dong

◆ Glittery Cheongdam-dong vs Cozy Garosugil

A 1.2 km area along a street starting from the Galleria Department Store in Cheongdam-dong has been reinvented into the "street of light." Some 40 luxury shops in the street chipped in a total of W100 million to decorate the street with sparkling LED lights. "To attract Chinese tourists who love sparkling and flamboyant things, we took part in the decoration," a Cartier staffer said. "We are also planning to give away maps containing information on good dining places and spas for Chinese travelers." And a Prada spokesman said sales have risen by 20 to 30 percent since last year as Japanese and Chinese tourists who traditionally favored department stores were diverted to Cheongdam-dong.

Garosugil, meanwhile, offers a cozier atmosphere. LG Fashion's TNGTW shop opened in January feels like a cafe with its garden. The shop built on 496 sq. m of space has not only fashion but also cosmetics, making the place especially popular among young women. An LG Fashion spokesman said, "The TNGTW shop in Garosugil makes sales of W300 million per month at the moment. Due to a large increase in the number of people frequenting the area, the amount of sales it makes is no less than the shop in Myeong-dong."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 29, 2010 07:38 KST