Sec­ond­hand shop seeks to cre­ate cul­tural space

The Korea Times - - WEEKENDER - By Jung Hae-my­oung [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

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.

Cour­tesy of Million Ar­chive

Million Ar­chive is a sec­ond­hand store lo­cated in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. The open­ing days vary and a no­tice is posted on so­cial me­dia.

Cour­tesy of Million Ar­chive

Peo­ple are search­ing for the per­fect out­fit at Million Ar­chive, a sec­ond­hand shop lo­cated in Seongsu-dong, Seoul.

Cour­tesy of Million Ar­chive

Poster for Christ­mas sweater for win­ter

Cour­tesy of Million Ar­chive

Of­fi­cial poster for a T-shirt pop-up shop that was held from Aug. 30 to Sept.1

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