Monday, July 7, 2014

A Crafter's Paradise in Seoul

Seoul is a paradise for shoppers : the mega city is packed with shops, outdoor markets, street vendors and mega shopping complexes. You can spend days, possibly weeks, browsing through the mazes of shops and store all over the city.

One of the most exciting places to visit is Dongdaemun Market, the biggest shopping district in Seoul. It is a full neighborhood, filled with countless shops, selling about everything you can dream of!

Today I want to take you to the Crafter's Paradise: the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex!

Six floors of Sewing and Crafting Supplies

The Shopping complex is a gigantic 7-floor building with thousands of vendors offer a head-spinning selection of crafting and sewing supplies.

Here is the detail of each floor in the Complex :

7F : Management / Offices
6F : Telecommunication Room / Headquarters / Offices
5F : Materials / Accessories / Beads / Buttons / Lace
4F : Various Fabrics / Cotton Fabrics
3F : Various Fabrics / Cotton Fabrics
2F : Various Fabrics / Silks / Hanbok / Curtains
1F : Bedding / Handicrafts / Plates / Curtains / Living Essentials
B1 : Various Threads / Blankets / Handicrafts / Curtains

The basement and the first floor are dedicated to sewing supplies: millions of buttons, kilometers of thread, ribbons and trim, tons of buckles, zippers, patches, embroideries, etc. Trust me, it will make your head spin!

The second, third and fourth floors are entirely dedicated to fabric. You can literally get lost in the sea of vibrant colors and textures, and the shopping complex is so unbelievably large and packed to the ceiling with goods.

The second floor is specializing in silk and luxurious fabrics chosen to make the Hanbok, gorgeous and colorful traditional Korean outfit worn for wedding ceremonies and other important events.

Take me to the 5th Floor, please!

For me, the party begins when I reach the fifth floor, dedicated to Jewelry and Accessory supplies!

There are hundreds of booths and the selection is mind-blowing : lace, ribbons, beads, charms, rubber bands, hair barrettes, pins and bands, feathers, leather, hardware, felt, polymer rings and bracelets, jump rings, fasteners, silver and gold chains, quilting supplies, etc.

Visiting this market can be very overwhelming. As most places in Asia, it's crowded, buzzing and loud and, most importantly, packed with stuff! Most of the shops have boxes and bags of goods literally piled up to the ceiling.

Welcome to the Bead Buffet

Many shops on the 5th floor sell beads and charms for jewelry making. Their tables basically look like bead buffets! You can pick and choose from their selection, using tiny bowls or baskets.

Most of the things can be bought individually (prices vary from a few cents to a few dollars per item), but you can also negotiate a better price for a larger quantity. Asian shop owners are used to bargaining, so do not be afraid to ask for discounts.

I would also recommend you pay cash for your purchases, as shop owners are more willing to give you interesting prices when you pay cash, rather than with a credit or debit card.

An overwhelming experience!

Visiting this market (like most large shopping centers in Asia main cities) can be an overwhelming experience. The place is large and there are people everywhere; the concept of "personal space" is more or less inexistent in Korea, so you can expect to be pushed and pulled, and have people standing "in your bubble" all the time!

To make things easier and more pleasant, make sure to go there without any shopping bags or large backpacks, as navigating the narrow alleys can be challenging. Also, I would recommend you visit the market when you have enough time to browse through the numerous booths and compare the different products available. The prices do not vary that much from a booth to another, but the selection does.

Find your way

The booths are numbered with a system similar to street addresses, so make sure to pick up the business cards of the shops you especially like, as you might have a hard time finding them again.

Finally, remember that you can request your goods to be shipped directly to you by the merchant (ask for taekbae, 택배). This is very convenient, especially if you are purchasing heavy or large items.

The cost of delivery on the Korean peninsula is between 3,000 or 4,000won ($3~$4), and it usually gets to you within 2 days.

What did you buy?

Maybe are you wondering : what did Naty buy at the Shopping complex?... Well, this time I was looking for some hair accessory supplies, and I have found beautiful stainless steel Alligator clips, along with sturdy metal headband.

I also purchased nice stainless steel key chains and key rings (did you know that Korea is famous for its high-quality stainless steel products?), glue and other trinkets.

I have also found these very nice wooden discs with a slight convexity that will be perfect for new HanjiNaty earrings!

How to get there?

The easiest way to get there is to take the Seoul subway, to Dongdaemun Station. 

Take Exit no.8 and walk along the waterside. The Dongdaemun Shopping Complex is next to the JW Marriot Hotel.

For more information (in English) :