Ever since the K-wave swept, Seoul, Korea has been a top spot for travel destinations. But Donson Chan, a stylist and co-founder of creative collective Fakedcandid has been ahead of the hallyu curve for ages. His first visit to Seoul was more than two decades ago for a family vacation and after heading back during a graduation trip in 2014, he has made it a point to return every year.
Instead of the typical tourist hotspots, the art lover keeps his eyes open for the coolest underground spots in the city and creative concept stores hidden along Seoul’s back lanes. Ahead, Chan shares a colorful and Instagram-worthy guide around the South Korean capital.
“Seongsu-dong is a cool neighbourhood that is popular amongst locals. The former industrial district is an up-and-coning spot, if you want to live like a local. Dior just opened a new pop-up complex (pictured) in the area earlier this May which is set to stay for three years. It is the first international luxury player to enter this district.”
“(Gourmet egg sandwich joint) Eggdrop (pictured) is my to-go place for sure. I am not a morning person, sometimes I will grab some Korean dumplings at Chang Hwa Dang for brunch before I start my day. They have many options, but the pork ribs dumpling is my favourite – they serve pork dumplings as well but the pork ribs dumpling is a must-try.”
“I came across D8NE by Peaches which features a half-destroyed vehicle stuck in the garden and supercars parked within the facility; it felt almost like a set design for an Ambush campaign and I was instantly sold. The space is a multi-concept diner situated at Seongsu-dong where you can get doughnuts and coffee from Knotted, burgers from Downtowner, ice-cream from Fun Peaches and alcohol from Smoking Tigers. Each space has a different concept and interior. There is also a skate park on the rooftop and a pink garage for car customisation – being here is like visiting a theme park.”
“Kusikohc is not exactly new – it’s the fashion label that photographer Cho Gi-Seok started in 2016. After taking a hiatus for a few seasons, he is back stronger and tougher than beofre. Honestly, I didn’t learn about his label until the relaunch this year. The multi-dimensional and experimental design has elevated the definition of streetwear, which reminds me of Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton but in a very Korean grunge and street mannerism. Some of the [other] Korean labels that I like are Ader Error, Andersson Bell, Welldone, Ajobyajo (pictured), Iise and Kimhekim.”
“Tamburins is a concept store that I chanced upon at Garosu-gil back in 2017. Its two-storey flagship store features multiple photo-worthy installations, but it only sells two products. I bought the hand cream because the chained cap packaging design is really ‘aesthetic’.
Turns out, the brand is owned by Gentle Monster‘s parent company, which explains the branding (and financial backing). When I re-visited the store recently in April, the product range has expanded to include hand wash, sanitiser and scented candles. Trust me when I said that the five to six Airbnbs that I stayed in during this trip either use a Tamburins hand wash or sanitiser. That got me hooked on the brand’s distinctive scent; it’s almost like South Korea’s answer to Aesop.”
“I prefer visiting small galleries, especially those that you unexpectedly walk in into while roaming the city. During my recent trip in April, I visited the Dongjin Market at Yeonnam-dong which used to be a flea market equivalent of Singapore’s Public Garden. Businesses there were wiped out by Covid-19 and some of the vacant units were taken over by small art exhibitions that were really intriguing.
Studio Concrete is formed by Korean actor Yoo Ah-in and his creative collective. It’s a creative space which houses an art gallery, cafe and merchandise store. Punto Blu is a residency for emerging Korean artists to reach out to the global art community. It has a very diverse curation – just check out its Instagram and you will fall for it. If you love plants, you got to visit this one-of-a-kind greenhouse cafe-slash-gallery, Sikmulgwan PH.
Some of the most exciting exhibitions and pop-ups are momentary. There is an Instagram account called @enjoyexhibition that provides the latest details and updates – do check it out if you are planning a trip to Seoul.”
“I discovered this hidden cafe recently. It’s wedged in between a very narrow alley which can barely fit a bike. Called Coffee Hanyakbang, it is named after a traditional Korean medicine room while the interior is a blend of Korean and Chinese influences with a hint of Wong Kar Wai vibe. Every corner of the cafe is exquisitely curated with furniture flown in from China. It’s truly a hidden gem.”
This article was first published on Female.