Trendy Garosu-gil outdoes itself as economy recovers
Not even Gangnam’s Garosu-gil was exempt from the hardships of Covid-19, the fashionable area feeling the chill economic winds of the pandemic like the rest of Seoul and most of the world.
Garosu-gil, which means “tree-lined street” in Korean, is lined with gingko trees, creating a beautiful promenade. The area was once known as the hottest fashion domain for its small but unique select shops, fashion boutiques and popular coffee shops. Until Covid.
For most of the past year, it might as well have been called Tumbleweed Avenue.
That could soon change. The pandemic has started to lift, and Garosu-gil is getting its grove back.
One-of-a-kind brands are opening up new stores in Garosu-gil as a move to target young Koreans. These new stores offer special experiences that are photo-worthy for social media, similar to the early days of Garosu-gil when models and photographers would frequently visit the fashion street for photos during the heyday of online fashion brands.
“Garosu-gil started losing visitors since many big name franchise stores replaced the exclusive charming brands,” said Kim Yong-hak, CEO of Tapa Cross, a social media big data analysis company. “But with fashion brands making an effort to stand out by opening unique stores, Garosu-gil is slowing recovering its glitz and glam.”
Kim also added that Garosu-gil has successfully been attracting visitors by having well-known brands located on the main street and popular eateries in Serosu-gil, a smaller nearby alleyway.
Located near the wealthy neighborhoods Cheongdam-dong and Apgujeong in southern Seoul, Garosu-gil is considered to be one of the most trend-conscious district in Korea. Likewise, the latest trend of going green is reflected in Garosu-gil stores.
San Francisco-based shoe maker Allbirds is the most recent example, opening its first local store in Garosu-gil. The shoe brand uses natural materials such as merino wool, eucalyptus pulp and sugar cane fiber instead of synthetic materials.
Each shoe includes a number tag to represent the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the production process. The store is braced with lengths of wooden pillars and sells small items made of reused materials. Allbird’s shopping bag handles are made with shoelaces to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle.
The shoes became popular after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Google's co-founder Larry Page were seen wearing them.
Arket, H&M's high-end lifestyle store, also opened a Garosu-gil store on April 9. Arket deals in sustainable fashion, selling long-lasting clothes and fashion made of ecofriendly materials.
The fashion brand also has a café that sells vegetarian, vegan and Nordic food, adding an additional perk for visiting customers.
Apart from the eco-conscious trend, stores in Garosu-gil are creatively expressing their brand identity.
Jo Loves, a British niche perfume brand, is known for providing a unique experience for visitors. The striking red building is Jo Loves’ Fragrance Tapas, a perfume experience resembling that of the Jo Loves store in London. Rather than the ordinary perfume testing process of spraying the scent on a piece of testing paper, the fragrance and water are poured into a cocktail shaker and served in a martini glass. The mixed fragrance can also be made into a cream-type perfume, which visitors can try out.
“Garosu-gil has a long main street in the center, which helps stores catch the attention of passersby and is thus beneficial for brands that want to form a strong brand image,” said a spokesperson for Shinsegae International, a local partner of Jo Loves.
Local fashion brand Ader Error’s ADER Space 3.0 is more like a gallery than a clothing store. Graphic art inspired by outer space, stained glass on the windows and ceilings and installation art by famous artists fill the venue.
“Garosu-gil has many mid- to large-sized stores, which makes it easier for brands to realize their concepts,” said a source from a fashion brand.
Pop-up stores also provide special experience for visitors and lowers fixed costs for the brands.
Craft beer maker Goose Island has its pop-up store in Garosu-gil. The store, which is open until May 2, offers its limited-edition HOP(E) IPA.
Apparel brand Lacoste also opened a pop-up store in Garosu-gil.
The building of the store was painted with five different colors. In collaboration with students from Hongik University, the brand hung paintings on over 100 trees on the way to the store. More than 2,000 photos have been shared on Instagram tagging the brand's pop-up store in Garosu-gil.
“Garosu-gil is home to unique stores that can’t be found anywhere else, such as Korea’s first Apple Store and Nike’s Jordan Seoul store,” said Moon Ji-hyun, CEO of PR Agency M Public. “For fashion brands that wish to attract young customers, Garosu-gil is the most desirable location to locate their stores."
BY LEE SO-AH [email@example.com]