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A little street for dreamers wakes up in Apgujeong

Jan 01,2007
It’s a weekday afternoon in the heart of Apgujeong-dong. A six-foot-three-inch-tall Korean man walks into the office of Sway Productions, one of the best known party planners in Seoul. He asks its chief executive, Miggi Chi, a favor, “I need your help to win a drag queen contest tonight.”

At one end of the small street, Okkol 1-ro, tucked inside the Apgujeong-dong block stands Second Hotel, a swank import boutique.



Within minutes, the former Korean supermodel transforms the tall man into a realistic diva with attitude.
One of the young staff members from Esteem, the hot modeling agency just a few yards down the block, comes by to help them choose a suitable theme from a list that includes Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel and Priscilla. After choosing a pair of over-sized shades, a citrus-colored polyester mini and glittering pink mules, they decided to go with Priscilla a la ’70s.
The same night the big drag queen, escorted by an entourage of Esteem’s fashion models, returns to the street and announces that his outfit had won him a Gucci purse at a year-end party organized by APR, a local PR agency that handles some of the city’s most fashionable events.

To be fashionable, look for fashionably-correct vintage finds, such as pirate boots, military jackets and tent dresses from the 1960s and ’70s at Covette. By Ines Cho


Just across the street, a young shoe designer, Jinny Kim, zoomed off with boxes of her signature high heels made with colorful satin and red leather soles. She used to sell her shoes online and now her fans want them in a real store. She wanted her first boutique to be in the right place.
Every fashion capital has its own spring that bubbles up with the most fashionable ideas.Sometimes such fountains of creativity are fed by just a handful of talented people who happen to enjoy working with friends.

Miggi Chi, the purveyor of fashion and parties, moved into Okkol 1-ro with not just her fashion boutique but also with hip party people.

When Ms. Chi was in search of a new place to start her fashion career, she discovered a tiny street, known officially as Okkol 1-ro, tucked between Dosan Park and Apgujeong-dong street in southern Seoul.
As the city’s leading party planner, she was certainly aware that the little street was at the leading edge of a city that evolves faster than light. There is the menacing power of global behemoths ― Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the like ― that lurk a few blocks away and then there are the countless stores, bars and cafes that have sprung up nearby. But being “in” requires sensitivity to social connections and the need to be cool by association.

Before she and her company moved in though, the east-west bound Okkol 1-ro street, was a home to a few hip but virtually unknown boutiques including Second Hotel and L2; the project cafe Atelier & Project and Indian cafe Darjeeling, and the restaurant Tell Me About It.

The street embraces the city’s most fashionable men. Hip boutiques offer not just trendy clothes and accessories but also a lifestyle and attitude.


Last year, when going to a weekend brunch, “Sex And The City” style was the trendiest thing to do, Tell Me About It became the place to be seen sipping a champagne mimosa. Picking up the boom, the owner opened a bar, Episode2, right next to Tell Me About It. Swank boutiques, Second Hotel and L2, sell everything from Martin Sitbon to unheard-of fashion brands from Italy and France.

When the street was still unknown, in April, three young women moved into the neighborhood for the very same reason ― they were looking for the right place to start their dream atelier. Kim Jee-eun and Paek O-hyun met in college when they were turning 20, and they were soon joined by Park Ji-young, who was Ms. Kim’s childhood friend. Ms. Paek went to study French cuisine at Le Cordon Blue in Paris.

Jinny Kim shoes were all the rage online before she opened her boutique in December.


Seven years later, they have claimed their place in Korea’s creative industries, Ms. Kim as art director for TV commercials, Ms. Paek as dessert artist, Ms. Park as fashion curator. Last year, they flew out to New York for some brainstorming and decided to open a New York loft-style space in Seoul where they could do what they enjoy most: share creative energy and inspiration among themselves and with the clients who visit them.
In July, they opened one of the most unusual spaces and called it “Atelier & Project.” It is open to public from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily except for Sundays.
The three friends hosted a jazz concert as well as photography and T-shirt exhibitions. Atelier and Project and their unique lifestyle became the talk of Apgujeong-dong. “Even passers-by sat down on the road and listened to the music all night. They went around and said, ‘The romance of being fashionable is back at last,’” said Ms. Paek, while whipping up cream cheese for a cake project.
At Atelier & Project, curious visitors get to see how work and lifestyle can fuse in one space, how discarded drawers became a Droog-style wall partition and old magazines are bound to make a functional stool. And there’s the smell and taste of the day ― a scrumptious fig scone and hot coffee when I was there.

When the weather gets warm, Darl, stocked with hand-made clothes and accessories and vintage clothing, plans to resume its popular Sunday flea market.


For the three musketeers, the latest project is to collaborate on a TV commercial featuring the Korean skating champion Kim Yu-na and launching a line of utility hand bags.
In past months, attracting bargain hunters was a flea market on Sunday afternoon, organized by Atelier’s good neighbor, Darl, which sells hand-made clothes, accessories and vintage clothing. The flea market, led by Darl’s designers and a few Korean entertainers, is closed for winter but it will resume “once the weather gets warm,” says the Darl shopkeeper.

Hand-made furniture, artistic desserts and cool ideas abound in Atelier & Project, a project cafe open to public.


Hip neighbors here of course welcomed a newcomer, Miggi Chi, who only invigorated the street, its image and business. When she threw an opening party for Covette last month, about 500 people from Korea’s glamour industry turned up and they spilled on to the street, drank champagne and danced into the wee hours.

Now an entertainment production company with a private bar/club is under construction next door.
The street reflects the trend of the moment in Seoul. The eastern end of the street is Body & Soul, a yoga supply shop ― yoga is still in. The two keywords that currently float above all other trendy terms are “vintage” and “metrosexual.” Which means, to be chic, ladies, dress in vintage items and sport stylish men on your arms.

At Atelier & Project, Park Ji-young, Kim Jee-eun and Paek O-hyun collaborate on creative projects, from TV commercials to exhibitions to cakes to selling import garment.


On the Okkol 1-ro street are a few hip boutiques for aspiring fashion models. At DIAFVINE (aka Different Affect VIP Net), a cool men’s wear boutique right behind Covette, is an exclusive retailer of Maden Noir, a Seattle-based brand made in Japan.
Their own line of washed denim and limited-edition shirts are displayed in a glass case that looks like a refrigerator. Nowhere333 is a small funky store next to DIAFVINE.
The store is furnished with a kelly green vinyl sofa and sells hand-painted jeans, making each pair unique, plus vintage shirts and pants from the 1970s and ’80s.
Pointing at a true variety of items, from tortoise eye glasses to antique leather luggage to books on design, Han Tae-min, the owner of San Francisco Market, says he aspires to provide his customers with “not just clothes but a lifestyle.” Over the next few seasons he plans to add a line of perfume and cosmetics.


For Ms. Chi, who constantly keeps herself busy with big parties, launching her own perfume may be a long way off, but Covette is stocked with many years’ worth of Ms. Chi’s collections including fashionably old things for men and women. There are cocktail dresses from the ’60s, antique-inspired hand-made jewelry, pirate boots, military leather jackets as well as clutches bearing the Miggi & Tash logo. According to Korea’s best-known fashion and party diva, these are the must-haves that turn you into a winner in the fashion wars.




by Ines Cho


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