the gentlewoman

The Reader

Nestled on a quiet street in Seoul’s glamorous Cheongdam shopping district is Rare Market. With its shimmering exterior covered in gold pailettes, mirrored ceilings, riotous decor and pop art furniture, the boutique may stand out against its more refined neighbours, but it’s the fashion destination of choice for the discerning Korean shopper. Jessica Jung, Rare Market’s 34-year-old co-owner – a reader of The Gentlewoman since issue nº 9, tells the magazine’s Richard O’Mahony how she along with her business partner, Dami Kwon, invented the concept shop for Seoul.

Jessica Jung

Richard: Seoul is such a frantic city! Has the South Korean fashion scene changed much since you first opened in 2014?

Jessica: Before Rare Market, the idea of a concept shop that sold niche fashion didn’t really exist in Seoul. Fashion was very focused on big brands: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, etcetera — you’ve seen their mega-shops on Apgujeong-ro and Dosan-daero, right?

R: It’s quite something over there! I mean, the shops on Bond Street in London aren’t anywhere on that scale.

J: Our aim was to influence a new type of fashion consumer here, or at least open people up to a different perspective on fashion. So we introduced more niche brands from around the world, such as Jacquemus, Damir Doma, Rosie Assoulin as well as our own brand We11 Done. The focus is on personal style. Of course, people will always love a bit of Chanel, but I think we’ve convinced locals that you can mix-and-match and have some fun with fashion.

R: Fun’s important! I’m tickled to see a pair of gold Pierre Hardy heels displayed atop of issue nº 13 of The Gentlewoman. But how do you protect that sense of carefree optimism, considering the precarious economic situation in South Korea at the moment?

J: The changes in the economy and the luxury market do affect our store, obviously – South Korea’s a small economy. But we’re not worried about it too much. We’re an independent store, so while it can be difficult at times, we also have the flexibility to be able to offer something unique in Seoul so people are always interested in what’s happening here. And now we’re planning to take our concept worldwide.

R: Are you opening more shops?

J: Not quite. We’ve expanded into e-commerce, which means we can have a worldwide reach.

R: I guess an international fashion fan is going to be interested in your Korean brands especially.

J: Yes, we want to introduce more Korean designers such as the Sirius and Blindness, who are doing really interesting work. I think a lot of Korean designers have been influenced by European trends in the past, because many have studied in Antwerp and London. But that’s changing and homegrown talent is forging their own path.

R: The decor of the shop is so vivacious. It makes we wonder what your own house is like.

J: Well, it’s not bright orange and gold if that’s what you mean! I live out in the suburbs, about a 30-minute drive from Gangnam. The building’s quite minimal at the moment, lots of exposed-brickwork. I got married this year, so my husband, who works with me at Rare, and I haven’t really had the chance to make it a home yet. It’s just us, our daughter, and dog. When we’re not working we try to escape the city to an island called Jeju. It’s just off the Korean Peninsula; it’s known for its lava tubes and has the most incredible landscape – you must go there.

Interview by Richard O'Mahony. Portrait courtesy of Jessica Jung. Would you like to be the next featured reader? Then sign-up sister and tell us about yourself!