However, ask long-time Seoul locals and they’ll you a different story about Garosugil. They’ll remember when it was the artsy, quiet hub south of the river that design students and fashionistas could flock to, before it was swarming with brand name merchandise, franchise coffee shops and make-up brands. That haven moved from Garusogil’s main street to its side street and can now be found just steps away in what’s being called Saerosu-gil. Without the crowds and name brands of Garosugil, Saerosu-gil feels just as tastefully elite and quaint as the old street’s claim to fame. There’s not a selfie stick to be seen, a woman advertising free face-masks to be heard and no young red-coated tourist information aids to be found. Saerosu-gil is yet to be discovered (or tainted, whichever you prefer).
The new Garosugil
Everyone knows about Garosugil. It’s got all the latest fashions, some of Seoul’s best restaurants and while it might be a tourist hot spot—you have to admit that it deserves a lot of the credit that it gets.
Interview with Bae Yong-tae
Interview with Bae Yong-tae
How did you start your store?
In the beginning, around ten years ago, I opened my store on the main street of Garosugil. Back then, the street was full of small, local shops and everywhere was pretty empty—even on the weekends. It was difficult to imagine a franchise setting up here. And the store itself was pretty much the same as it is now but about four to five years in, all the big businesses started moving in. I had the chance to move [to the Saerosu-gil area] and I took it.
Why didn’t you open in Hongdae, where, in some ways, a store like this seems more appropriate?
I had a pop-up in the Insadong area and I realized there was a pretty big difference between Gangnam and Gangbuk. What one might consider expensive in Gangbuk, another person might think is affordable if they find it here in Gangnam. While in the Hongdae area, there are a lot of students and they’re looking for and willing to pay for, a different kind of thing. Here, where I encounter parents and professionals, it’s a different story.
Did you have a lot of toys growing up?
When I was growing up, our generation didn’t have any toys. This was especially true because I grew up in the country. When my son was around 3 or 4 years old, I made up my mind to buy him some and began to be interested in toys. I also found inspiration in the books my son liked and started to import those as well.
Do you ever have any toys that you wish wouldn’t sell?
Sure, I have a lot of toys I wish wouldn’t be sold. There are some that I store away and keep for myself. I have a few books I really like as well. Everyone wants to know “how many” I have and I hate that question. It’s not about “the number,” but what it is.
Sonia Lee (customer of My Favorite for ten years)
I’ve been coming to this store since it was on the main street. Amongst other designers like myself, it’s a much-talked-about reference point. It’s different from other places because after a while, you really begin to trust Mr. Bae’s taste in things. I like the books here and the look feel of the place. In my house, there are so many of them that I’ve collected over the years. Mr. Bae imports most of these items with the “give-away” concept. Me? I like to keep these treasures for myself and look at them over and over again.