On a secluded side street in Seoul’s Cheongdam, removed from the neighborhood’s main drag, lies a glimmering jewel box of a shop that’s a full-on fashion dream: lemon yellow Vita Kin vyshyvankas, their tassels embroidered with black thread; a butter-soft Forte Couture leather jacket, the words Mr. Fringe hand-painted on the back. It’s here, at Rare Market, that an incomparably chic duo has curated a treasure trove of clothes that are changing the way Korean girls approach fashion.
The day that I visit, the team is busy preparing the launch of The Volon, a line of fringed and furred bags, for which Russian street style star and entrepreneur Miroslava Duma will fly in from Moscow. Winding my way past the botanic displays, I find cofounders Dami Kwon and Jessica Jung, two longtime friends who opened Rare Market in 2014 to bring more obscure, cult designers to Korea—hence the name Rare, which was (fun fact) suggested by Kwon’s younger brother, G-Dragon, who helped make the store a major K-pop destination.
“In Korea, women tend to shop for what’s cute, or what’s lovely—that’s how they think a lot—but as you can see, our shop isn’t like that,” Jung explains, gesturing to the racks of Jacquemus and Marques ’ Almeida around her. “There are already so many people in Korea who love fashion here, who might want to discover more brands and learn more about fashion, so we’re here to introduce them to pieces that are unique.”
Take Rosie Assoulin, the New York designer who’s a personal favorite of Kwon and Jung and who they came across on one of their six annual buying trips. The billowing silk tops and ball gown–style slacks appeal to a new generation of Seoulites, who want to stand out and are using their personal style to do so. Accessories, too, like Delphine Delafon’s bucket bags, are making sartorial waves here. “In Korea, it’s always Chanel, or Louis Vuitton, or Gucci, but now we have people coming in and saying, ‘Oh, what brand is this? Maybe, instead of Miu Miu, I will buy this,’ ” Jung says. “Rare Market has that kind of pull with people now.”
So, how are Kwon and Jung expanding their empire? There’s We11Done, their killer in-house line which launched last year with a lookbook starring Leandra Medine. Inspired by the ’70s and ’80s, the pair reinterpreted retro silhouettes in a modern way—calf-grazing emerald velvet skirts, a necktie jacquard mini—to create the ultimate cool girl wardrobe, one that has sparked rabid desire overseas. Luckily, a dedicated e-commerce site is set to launch later this spring, followed by their second We11Done collection in November. “We want to go worldwide,” Jung says, laughing. “We’ll try!” Here’s hoping.