Korean select shops emerge as incubators of foreign fashion brands

2023.06.26 14:02:02 | 2023.06.26 14:12:31

10 Corso Como shop in seoul [Photo by Kim Ho-young]이미지 확대

10 Corso Como shop in seoul [Photo by Kim Ho-young]

Global fashion brands are increasingly seeking to introduce their items at select shops in South Korea, suggesting that the country has become a test bed for worldwide growth.

Ulla Johnson, a contemporary women’s fashion brand in the U.S., began sales of its items at RAUM, a multi-store managed by Korean fashion retailer LF Group. The brand judged that gaining popularity among Korean consumers will guarantee global success.

Italian shoe brand Hidnander also picked Korea as the first stage in Asia to launch its luxury sneakers brand last year.

“Brands that are seeking to grow in Asia pick Korea over Japan and China,” said Kang Min-ju, managing director of overseas fashion business at Handsome Corp.

Many fashion brands are also selecting Korean celebrities as their ambassadors.

AMI, an emerging luxury brand in France, has gained popularity recently after K-pop superstar BTS and other stars appeared wearing its items.

Multi-shops in Korea that sell items of a wide range of fashion brands are now considered incubators that foster global brands.

According to trade data from the Korea Customs Service on Sunday, Korea’s apparel imports reached $12.6 billion last year, up 16.7 percent from a year ago.

Industry insiders noted that select shops, which first opened in Korea more than a decade ago, have established themselves as the first place to access the latest trends in the global fashion market.

This means that fashion-conscious customers visit multi-brand shops in search of trendy brands that have not yet become popular.

Major select shops include 10 Corso Como and Beaker managed by Samsung C&T Corp.’s fashion division, RAUM by LF, and MUE and Tom Greyhound by Handsome.

The select shops achieved double-digit sales growth even during the pandemic on the back of popularity of emerging luxury brands.

“In the past, it was not common for foreign brands to ask select shops to have their items be sold there but things have changed now,” said Jeon Bo-ra from 10 Corso Como.

“Many foreign brands have grown thanks to Korean select shops and others want to do the same.”

Korean select shops are more than eager to welcome them.

10 Corso Como and Beaker have their focus on discovering brands with unique values. When they discover a brand with growth potential, they keep an eye on the brand and invest in it for a long time.

Brands such as AMI, Lemaire, and Jacquemus are all brands that have been in partnership with 10 Corso Como since 2009.

Jung Joo-hyun, head of LF’s import business division [Photo provided by LF]이미지 확대

Jung Joo-hyun, head of LF’s import business division [Photo provided by LF]

RAUM, which means space in German, was launched in 2009. It prefers brands that are unique and rare and have a clear design concept.

RAUM focuses on catering to a wide range of customer lifestyles with a portfolio of imported brands that span a broader range of demographics and price points.

The characteristics and price ranges of the brands the select shop carries vary, from Barbour jackets in the 500,000 won ($383.74) range to Leonard dresses in the 5 million won range to Max Mara coats in the 12 million won range.

One of the notable brands is PATOU, a rookie and designer brand under LVMH Mo?t Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH). PATOU debuted at RAUM last year and was so well received that it opened its own store at The Hyundai Seoul in March this year.

The brand’s signature item, the half-moon-shaped bag Le Patou Bag, saw a 300 percent increase in sales in May from a month earlier.

“RAUM first introduced Porte a Porte Fashion, a women’s clothing store, in the domestic market 10 years ago and other select shops followed suit a few years later,” said Jung Joo-hyun, head of LF’s import business division. “This season, we have items designed exclusively for RAUM.”

Porte a Porte has grown about tenfold in size over the past 10 years through RAUM.

Handsome also operates MUE, which focuses on luxury goods, and Tom Greyhound, which targets a younger demographic. The select shops select brands based on their consumer appeal and identity. In particular, they prioritize the preferences of their main customers who are in their 30s and 40s.

“After years of operating more than 300 brands through MUE and Tom Greyhound, we have accumulated experience and data that serve as the basis for our decision-making,” said Kang from Handsome.

“At the end of August, we will open a unique concept-based Tom Greyhound store in Seongsu, Seoul, at the end of August,” she added.

By Kim Hyo-hye, Chung Seul-gi, and Yoon Yeon-hae

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