Original gifts: Everyone’s doing it

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Original gifts: Everyone’s doing it

Oh Byeong-deok, 27, wanted to celebrate his first anniversary with his girlfriend, and his best idea was to buy matching t-shirts for himself and his girlfriend.
His problem? He wanted to show his girlfriend how much he loved her by getting her something special, not something off the rack. So he decided to make the shirts himself.
With help from a Web site guide, he bought white T-shirts and ink and ― voila! ― made two t-shirts with the couple’s initials on the back. Unfortunately, a few rounds through the washing machine later, the initials had almost completely faded away. He said his girlfriend didn’t seem to mind; he meant well, of course.
Sure, people have been home-decorating t-shirts for a while now, but thanks to a television drama and a recent Internet fad, customized gear has never been cooler.
The trend is due in part to the television mini-series Gung, Korean for “palace,” in which the female main character drew pictures on a white pair of sneakers to make a “cordial gift” for her lover. The program’s fans thought it was a great idea.
“[After that episode] we received more phone calls asking where they can get that kind of paint,” said a staff member at Heritage Craft, an online site that sells equipment for do-it-yourself attire. He said the number of visitors to the company’s Web site shot up to 5,000 since the episode aired.
The boom echoed as a college student who won an online eoljjang contest ― that’s for the prettiest or handsomest face ― posted his photo on the Web earlier this year wearing a shirt he decorated himself.
“I bought a professional screening machine so that I could make the painted designs last longer,” Mr. Oh said. He started a small online business after his friends ― and his girlfriend’s friends ― loved the idea of the custom-made designs. He is now the owner of “Custom Bay,” a Web site through which he receives orders and decorates T-shirts according to the customer’s demands.
Hwang Seung-hui wound up running a similar business over her personal homepage. Her blog, “To Enjoy Rac,” (rac is the Chinese character for “enjoy”) records more than 1,500 visitors every day. An average of 20 people, mostly middle and high school students, make orders daily, asking her to draw the initials of their names in cute handwriting.
Adidas has jumped into the act, selling customizing products and re-launching its Adicolor line. The line, which was released back in 1983, allows buyers to decorate their own all-white sneakers with special pens that are included with the shoes. Not coincidentally, the new releases are doing well in the Korean market.
Other sports brands, such as Spris, are also joining in the customization fad. In April, the company held a design competition, dubbed “Original Art Canvas,” for shoppers who bought its sneakers and redecorated them.
“Over 1,100 people, mostly college students, applied for the competition,” said Choi Seung-sun at the Spris marketing team. “There were some amazing designs. Even the professional designers were impressed.”
The company selected 41 of the best designs, exhibiting them in its stores. The Myeongdong, central Seoul, branch will display the winners until today. The exhibitions will then go to Daejeon and Busan and come back to Seoul for an Apgujeong branch exhibition on June 23.

by Lee Min-a
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