Once the bastion of middle-aged women selling black market goods, film festivals and fish markets, Busan’s original downtown has re-emerged as one of the city’s premier shopping districts. From a high-street featuring a plethora of labels for the brand conscious, backstreets and alleyways awash with independent designs and vintage stores, and the temple of conspicuous consumption, Lotte Department Store, there is plenty to see and do in this once again thriving area. In a word, Nampo-dong is the new black.
Much has been made of Korean fashion since the explosion of pop culture in this country, and although celebrities have their part to play in the rise of trends, people on the street are also creating their own unique styles. Judging by the acres of column space dedicated to fashion in magazines, newspapers, websites, and TV, fashion is no longer the domain of an elite clique. Koreans in particular, have long worshipped style over substance, and in a city where you are what you wear, your fashion sense — or lack of it — telegraphs more about you than a well-padded CV ever could.
Whether you want to dress like a rock star, a modern dandy or a Harajuku heroine, Nampo-dong offers a wealth of options to the savvy shopper and the fashionably challenged alike.
Along the main thoroughfare, one would be hard-pressed to throw a handbag without hitting a major retail brand. ‘Mango’, currently channelling 1970s icons from Diane Keaton to Jerry Hall, ‘Guess’, ‘Tommy Hilfiger’, ‘Tiger Shoes’, ‘Doc Martens’, ‘Levis’ with well-fitting denim to show off your…ahem, best assets, ‘American Apparel’ for trustworthy basics, ‘Triumph Underwear’, ‘Accessorise’ which sells enough bling to have you clanking down the street like a byzantine empress, and ‘Ralph Lauren’ all have outposts here.
In addition to having slews of stores scattered across the globe, Spanish super label ZARA maintains a stylish presence at Nampo-dong’s Lotte Department Store, carrying men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and stocking sizes that go above toothpick.
Every street is a catwalk in the maze of alleyways that make up Nampo-dong’s market. Men are particularly well-catered to in this area with a wealth of independent stores, whose stylistic offerings range from classic suits with a twist — this is Korea after all — to skinny jeans so tight, your religion is clearly discernible.
This area of Nampo-dong has also seen the rise of vintage stores carrying YSL, Prada, Chanel, Westwood, D&G and the ubiquitous Vuitton. But be warned: pre-loved labels seldom come at a pre-loved price, and a hand-me-down Chanel suit will still make a hole in the healthiest of bank accounts. For a fraction of the price, good quality copies of high-end designer brands are available at the stands that line the markets main artery. Perennial favorites that are well worth the investment and are on trend season after season, leather and fur can be easily found in stalls dotted around the market.
So, this winter, upgrade your style. There is no doubt that if you look good, you feel good, and with the veritable smorgasbord of fashion that Nampo-dong offers, there can be no excuse for not putting your best foot forward. Whether that foot be clad in Converse or vintage Jimmy Choo, however, is completely up to you.