Secondhand shop seeks to create cultural space
The popularity of the secondhand market has been rising among millennials in Korea, and wearing secondhand clothes is regarded as being fashionable, trendy and environmentally conscious.
At Million Archive, a vintage shop located in Seongsu-dong in Seoul, more than 200 people queue even before the shop opens.
The building, which is a renovated former factory, is filled with secondhand clothing. On the weekends, it is hard to step foot inside the place as it is crowded with clothes and young customers. The type of clothing sold at Million Archive changes every 20 to 25 days.
Jung Eun-sol, the head of the store, runs the business with unique style. In the summer she sold T-shirts only, and this month up until last week she only sold dresses.
Jung started selling clothes when she was a college freshman. She first fell in love with vintage clothing when she went to a vintage store in Hongdae, western Seoul. Then she went to Gwangjang Market where she saw lines of secondhand stores and clothing.
Her business had a humble beginning. She had to earn money to finance her living expenses but wanted to do something she loved. She filled her luggage full of vintage clothing and sold it near a girls’ school. She also tried running an online shop which then grew into a collaboration with A-land, a popular fashion brand here.
The turning point of her life came when she went to England with the money she earned. She went to Brick Lane Market where she found people selling various crafts.
“It was a surprising experience, and I felt so much looking at different types of secondhand products. There were people who were selling postcards, those who were providing massages, selling little crafts, et cetera. These people and shops were all in harmony. I really liked how they were freely getting along, in a closed space,” Jung said.
“Cultural activities in Korea were very limited back then. People just spent time shopping and drinking. I thought Korea also needed such a space where people mingle, and I wanted to start this new wave,” she added.
“Kilo Kilo” is one of the projects that Jung conducted here, inspired by the Kilo Market in Brick Lane. The clothes are sold, not by the number of garments but per kilogram.
“We sold the clothes at 15,000 won per kilogram. We planned it to be a three-day project but it ended after two days,” she said. Like this project, Jung’s ultimate concern is how to have fun, and how to get people to enjoy their shopping experience.
This is also why most of the market is run by events and projects, to produce different ways that customers can have more fun. She especially wants to create an atmosphere where customers can freely try clothes they like at the shop — without noticing the shop owner — and laugh with their friends.
She is also aware of the environment and by running this business she is contributing to sustainable fashion.
“I do feel proud of what I am doing. Ethical and sustainable fashion appears on social media, but I do not especially emphasize the point. I want people to really embody the value rather than feeling pressure for the responsibility they need to fulfill,” Jung said. Her plan is to make secondhand clothing more popular so that people become naturally aware of the environment and ethical consumption.
Rather she hopes to break stereotypes of recycled clothing. There are still those who reject secondhand clothing because it has been worn by other people.
“I think vintage is really a new clothing. When we think of the 1970s and 1980s, there were so many fashionable and unique clothes. That was the time when people broke from the convention and such a liberal mind is also reflected in clothes and fashion. I just hope people see that aspect of vintage,” Jung said. “There is a reason why fashionable people wear vintage clothing.”
She also emphasized how Korean women who are restricted by the small sizes of clothing offered in the country, are looking for different sizes of clothing from other countries.
“Most of the clothes we bring in are from Europe and the United States. Seeing the difference of measurements, people can see how much Korean women wear small size clothing, and how we struggled so much to fit ourselves into this size,” Jung said. “I hope women with various body shapes and sizes can visit our shops, and in order to do so I try to prepare clothes with various sizes,” she added.
As an ultimate goal, she hopes to work with various female creators in this business. Her biggest goal is to create a space where female creators can sell their products, and introduce them to consumers with unique style.
“This could be a place where people can promote their products, support each other,” she said. “At the moment I am running Million Archive to set the stepping stone. When it gets bigger and has more consumers, I hope to have a space where cultural activities flourish, with flea markets and vintage shops.”
According to a survey by one of the largest online thrift stores, “thredUP,” 50 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they are willing to buy secondhand clothing. Based on the research, thredUp also predicted that the world vintage market will rise from 3.6 billion dollars to 4 billion dollars by 2022, while the luxury market will be around 3.05 billion.
“It is fun to see how secondhand clothing is becoming a trend among young people,” Jung said. “I think they are mostly inspired by the older generations, once they were cool and rebellious. They seem to have good times back then, while today youths have to face oblique reality.”
Yet she believes the retro wave will not be a passing trend, since vintage clothing is an archive of various types of clothes from different periods of time. In over ten years of wearing vintage clothing, she hasn’t felt bored once.
Million Archive will once again transform this winter, filled with “ugly” Christmas sweaters.
Million Archive is a secondhand store located in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. The opening days vary and a notice is posted on social media.
People are searching for the perfect outfit at Million Archive, a secondhand shop located in Seongsu-dong, Seoul.
Poster for Christmas sweater for winter
Official poster for a T-shirt pop-up shop that was held from Aug. 30 to Sept.1