Most agree that the first street for culture in Korea is Cheongdam-dong. Lining the street, beginning from the Galleria Department Store, are luxury shops and branching small alleys that provide a home for exotic wine bars, cafes, and restaurants. Keep your eyes peeled in Cheongdam-dong as you may come across Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City.” Now, let’s explore today’s Cheongdam-dong, a little New York in Korea.
|The Galleria department store|
Very early in the morning, a woman alights from a cab on a Manhattan street. Wearing a black Givenchy evening dress and a pair of sunglasses covering half her face, she strides past Tiffany’s and stares at the jewelry in the window. With a piece of bread in one hand, she disappears down the street with rhythmical steps. Her name is Holly. Yes. As you guessed, this is a scene from the classic movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which turned Audrey Hepburn in to a star overnight.
As seen in the film, 5th Street and Madison Avenue, in New York, are streets renowned for luxury shops. Other streets across the world like this include Ginza in Tokyo; Via Condoti in Rome; Faubourg Saint-Honor in Paris; and New Bond Street in London. So where can one find such a street in Seoul? The answer to this question would have to be Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu. Along a 1 km-long street, from the Luxury Hall East of the Galleria Department Store, to Cheongdam Sageori, around 30 flagship stores of the most famous brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo, Armani and Versace, can be found exhibiting their new products.
Service and security
Just observing this luxurious street is interesting. There are huge buildings, expensive store interiors and black-suited security guards. Though there are very few pedestrians walking, you get the sense there is something going on behind the stores’ show windows. This place distinguishes itself clearly from other places in Seoul. Welcome to the nest of the noblesse.
Cheongdam-dong, the Beverly Hills of Korea, is considered to be the home of high society. Here, the money a salary man could save over the course of several years is treated as mere pennies. You can find a purse or a piece of jewelry costing thousands of dollars. Super cars from overseas auto makers are as common as buses on the roads in this neighborhood. Those who do not like crowded places and prioritize the exclusivity of products, the so-called noblesse, love this street in Cheongdam-dong. The stores here provide VVIP customer services. Their reservation system assures customers will be treated like royalty. Such VVIP marketing, which doesn’t exist in other shopping districts, adds more exclusivity and privacy to the shopping experience on this street of luxury.
The flagship stores located here are unrivaled in terms of size. A four-story building serves as a home to a Louis Vuitton boutique. The exterior design of the boutique, a building wrapped in a brown metal mesh, is itself a work of art. This boutique is the largest in Asia. Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana are other designer brand names to be found here. Recently, the jewelers LVMH, Fred opened a store here, between the Ferragamo and Prada stores. Fred is the jewelry brand loved by the queen and the princess of Monaco. Fred’s jewelry was also featured in “Pretty Woman,” starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.
The growing luxury market
Most luxury brands in Cheongdam-dong run flagship stores under direct management. Even though a large portion of their sales comes from department stores, these flagship stores display the most exclusive brand items and the most up-to-date fashion trends. The buildings themselves are also highly valuable. Here, money and pride rub shoulders. Korean people have long believed in the theory of feng shui that evaluates the fortune of a house, village or town based on the shape and arrangement of its surroundings including land, mountains, or rivers.
I once read an article entitled “Cheongdam-dong in the context of feng shui” that said Cheongdam-dong, meaning “clear pond,” was where a vein of land met a pond, and the energy of the vein was concentrated in the region. It also said the land was shaped like a turtle diving into a pond. Since turtles lay lots of eggs, which are symbolic of wealth, it seems very natural that luxury shops catering to the wealthy have gathered here.
Korea’s best designers have opened boutiques here as well as international luxury brand shops and foreign automobile stores. You can also find multi-shops which sell several labels in one store at discounted prices.
Second-hand luxury shops are another new trend in the luxury market thanks to the public’s have changing perception of luxury goods. At second-hand luxury shops, customers can also sell their designer label goods or buy second-hand items.
|A Prada shop window|
As the per capita income-level of Korea grew, it became much easier to buy luxury goods. Now, some young people regard them as necessities, and you can easily spot Louis Vuitton or Prada on the streets these days. There are also fashion leaders, who beautify themselves with top-class Chanel cosmetics, known as “luxury girls.” The more people are exposed to luxury goods through various media, such as the internet and magazines, the more desirable these goods become. As a result, more and more people are preferring products that embody “high quality and pride” to “cheap and quality” goods. People want to be unique, and the luxury market is expanding to fulfill this need.
|A pawn shop in Cheongdam-dong|
How to get there: The luxury street in Cheongdam-dong stretches from the Luxury Hall East of Galleria Department Store to Cheongdam Sageori. It is a 10-minute walk from Apgujeong station (line 3) and a 7-minute walk from Cheongdam station (line 7).
Places to visit in Cheongdam-dong
Fine art photography gallery, Gallery Lumiere
The 83 m2 by 33 m2 Gallery Lumiere is devoted to exhibitions. Though relatively small, it provides visitors with “quality” time and the chance to talk to the curator. The Gallery Lumiere is a fine art photography gallery, the first of its kind in Korea. It showcases the type of photography you could find in galleries in Manhattan, New York, the Mecca of the art photography market. The gallery display photographs in good frames, maintains a close network with major photography experts, and promotes exchanges all over the world.
Phone: (02) 517-2134, www.gallerylumiere.com
Simple but delicious brunch, Cafe 74
Cafe 74 was named after 74th Street in New York as its owner had lived in New York for a long time. The cafe serves not only coffee, wine, and liquor but also simple Italian dishes. Its long and narrow terrace provides a relaxing open air environment. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located on the left side of the sloped road, across from Rodeo street.
Phone: (02) 542-7412
Pasta house, Anna Bini
Anna Bini, a restaurant located in a renovated three-story house, was named after a grandmother chef in Toscana, Italy. The entrance is small, but charming and pretty. The restaurant looks like a house transplanted from a rural area in Italy. It serves delicious salads with grilled mushrooms, herbs and cheese toppings and a special bread and cheese. Making a reservation is recommended, particularly for the terrace tables on Fridays. It is located in the alley, on the right side of the street, about 50m from Goshen in the direction of the Galleria Department Store East.
Phone: (02) 3444-1275.