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Hand-me-downs redefine cool

2012/02/11 | 376 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Buyers and sellers pack the multi-level premise of Platoon Kunsthalle in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul, Saturday for the monthly flea market. / Korea Times photo by Kwaak Je-yup

By Kwaak Je-yup

It is not unusual to walk down the streets of Myeong-dong in central Seoul or Gangnam in the south and spot several passers-by wearing clothes of similar styles.

Koreans' are fans of trends. And the chase for "sinsang", the colloquial local term for the newest items, can look like the only zeitgeist in Seoul's urban fashion landscape.

But once a month, there comes a fresh breath of air from the flea market at Platoon Kunsthalle, in Nonhyeon-dong, southern Seoul.

Co-hosted by this unofficial center of Seoul's subculture scene and the clubbing-themed magazine Bling, the event attracts thousands of regulars and curious first-timers on the first Saturday of every month.

While vintage clothes and paraphernalia, a flea market's common benchmark for quality, come by rarely, the buyers' enthusiasm at this past weekend for that pair of jeans made in the 1980s or a used purse seemed to match that of counterparts in more established, historical markets overseas.

"A lot of these were my father's", said Fielding Hong, a half-Korean half-American student, pointing to a rack filled with jackets and T-shirts so alien here. He added that he was trying to reduce the size of his luggage before a flight home to Iowa. Some of the tags, including the one on a light-blue waterproof raincoat from Sears from the '70s, even had his family name and phone number handwritten by his father.

In a society where hand-me-down's and used clothes are largely associated with a lack of disposable income, this shift, albeit gradual, is notable.
The return of older, classic styles, especially in menswear, was also evident in the creations of Shin Jung-hyun, whose works on the ground floor are inspired by English traditions but with their own twist.

"My business partner and I are launching a new site specializing in menswear accessories (like ties and pocket squares)", said Shin.

An English-accented screen printing artist working under the name JimmySK was taking a similar approach but looking into Korean folklore, printing as onlookers watched.

Some seemed more interested in just having a good time, given the flea market's unique atmosphere with a DJ spinning tunes and beer on tap at the in-house bar.

"My place has piles of stuff that I used to wear, some even just once", said a daytime music video director who did not give his name. "Why not share them with people who may like them?"

A lot of the clothes could be had for just a few 1000 won, or a few dollars.

Unfortunately, the tags of fast-fashion brands like Zara or Uniqlo were probably the most common on the three floors of temporary retail space but the culture is here to stay, with movements elsewhere to start other flea markets, according to avid buyers.

To reserve a spot at the next cycle in March, contact Platoon Kunsthalle at

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