Home to the individualist
Seoul’s coolest hotel hits Hongdae.
The title is not meant to call Esquire readers self-centred. Instead, the ‘individualist’ refers to the creative type. The respectable kind with ego in check and a healthy dose of artistic awareness and business acumen. Having dabbled in design at art school, I consider myself to be a creative as much as I consider myself to be an optimist (clearly, not mutually exclusive). And, in this ability to appreciate the finer things in life, RYSE has managed to convert me from the type of tourist who tolerates a passable Airbnb, to a traveller who sees that the stay makes up the experience as much as the sights do.
Upon entering, the lobby itself is already a statement. You would think the grand granite wall, iridescent glass panels and pastel pink floor would be a fatal combination of too many varied elements jostling for attention, but no, they come together like artwork. The atmosphere buzzes with the sense of urban energy that is prevalent in the neighbourhood around RYSE. Hongdae is home to underground clubs and an art university, and its residents are not easy to please. But neither are the visionaries behind the hotel, which include top Hong Kong branding agency Marc & Chantal as well as renowned London design firm Michaelis Boyd. Impressively, for a project spanning seven years and involving talented—and opinionated—people, there is zero disjoint in the outcome. We fashion to think that there must be a board somewhere reading ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’.
No aspect of RYSE is unaccounted for or is accidental. If creative types are set apart based on their keen eye for detail, RYSE is a joy of an Easter egg hunt. Concrete, for example, plays a huge role—acting as an homage to its owner, The Aju Hotel Seokyo Co Ltd, which is in the construction business. So you see concrete in the lobby, when you step out of the elevator, and it’s even used for the paperweight in your room (which, if you hold up the right way, shows the RYSE logo). Even the bathrobes aren’t spared the details. Made in traditional Korean cotton, the design by IISE carries facets of regal robes worn during the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Not like you need any more help with feeling like a king here.
The hotel has everything. Feeling peckish? There’s great food at restaurant Long Chim, and a soulful atmosphere with rooftop views at bar Side Note Club (which, in the hipster vein of the hotel, has an old-school vinyl turntable and collection curated by DJ Soulscape). Seeking inspiration? Visit the legitimate art museum in the basement. And when it comes to the bedrooms, their named after industry titles, with the penthouse suite cleverly appointed ‘Executive Producer’. For those who want to know what it’s like to live in a Risograph poster, our personal recommendation is the ‘Artist’ room by Park Hyoju.
When all there’s left to wonder about is the meaning of its name, these guys have you where they want you. Just like the hotel’s exterior—a corporate front for the main road versus an upbeat cafe on the backstreet—RYSE has a double entendre. On paper, it’s the acronym for ‘Reveal Your Self Expression’. In reality, it’s a play on the word ‘rise’, implying elevation, and was intended to get people curious about the name, along with the rest of the hotel. They’ve nailed the tagline too, because even if you’re no ‘creative individualist’, a stay at RYSE is, at the end of the day, exactly like nothing else.
Book your stay online at www.rysehotel.com.