Living in Korea, I have discovered many cool Korean brands that I am a tiny bit addicted to. Here are a few of the best discoveries I have made for shopping in Korea. I have been a bit spoiled by all the variety in a big city like Seoul. All the cool, affordable shops are hard to beat (unless I’m trying to buy pants or shoes… then my options are minuscule and expensive).
ArtBox: If you need anything cute or quirky in terms of stationary, home/office/fashion accessories, or even kitchen gear and houseplants, you should go to ArtBox. It’s a delightful, whimsical world stocked with cute socks, pretty pens and notebooks, imported perfumes, even passport covers, and mini room fans. Cool 3D puzzles and window box garden supplies populate the shelves of bigger ArtBox stores in places like Gangnam and Sinchon. I have to limit my number of ArtBox visits because it is almost impossible for me to leave empty handed.
ArtBox is a great place to get unique presents for people as well. And I love their pens. Pens I bought there my first winter in Korea still work today. I really hope that ArtBox expands more internationally because it’s fun, attractive, and not too expensive.
Korean Cosmetics Brands
Etude House: I typically get my nail polish and BB/CC cremes from Etude House. They have the “Play” collection of nail polish which has dozens of shades. Those hard to find in between colors (like a soft, mossy blueish green) are likely to turn up on the Play shelf of Etude house. Their CC cremes are super lightweight and start white, but adjust to your skin tone. The BB Cremes give more coverage, but still lay nicely on the skin– not giving the applied-with-a-paint-roller look. All their base makeup also has SPF 30. My favorites are the Glow CC creme and the Precious Mineral BB creme.
Skin Food: I love Skin Food’s mineral eye shadow palettes. They only have about three different palettes, but each one is fairly neutral and will work on any skin tone. The mineral makeup stays put pretty well even after a day in Korean humidity. I also love Skin Food’s botanical based cleansers like their Honey and Black Tea face wash. It doesn’t feel like it’s drying you out. They have a some nice dusting powder and even dry shampoo which is great to toss in your carry-on when traveling.
Tony Moly: I only recently started frequenting this shop since one opened near my apartment (and initially I was put off by the silly name). I love Tony Moly for their lip colors. They have nice creamy lip stick that goes on lightly. I love soft sheer lip colors like their Lip Click pens. They also have some tints that go on like a sticky gloss, but the pigment really lasts even after the glossiness fades. Tony Moly also has the cutest and best smelling hand cremes. Peach hand creme in a peach shaped jar. Ditto for banana, apple, and several other fruits. The creme is pretty good quality beyond its novelty value and doesn’t feel greasy on.
Kyobo Books: This is a seriously cool book shop. Many locations, like my favorite one connected to Gwanghwamun station, have books in multiple languages. Their English section is huge. They have a sizable collection on Japanese and Chinese books too. And they even have a few shelves dedicated to French (I may have picked up Le Petit Prince to practice with), German, Portuguese, and Spanish books. It’s great for foreigners living in Korea, or even just on a longer visit. Plus, it’s an excellent resource for Koreans who are looking to improve their skills in any of those languages.
Kyobo is more than just books, many larger locations will also have sub-stores inside them for music and DVDs. Some even have mini ArtBoxes inside…I have a serious problem, I know. All the Kyobo books have fun kid’s section as well– it’s nice to see a love of reading being nurtured in the little ones.
I have also discovered some awesome Japanese brands in Seoul such as Uniqlo and Muji.
Uniqlo doesn’t have a lot of exciting individual pieces, but has all staple clothing pieces you need (for men and women). I can always find nice tissue thin cardigans and tank tops for summer there, plus Heat Tech leggings and camisoles (sometimes even with pretty lace trim) for the winter. It’s great for picking up your seasonal basics. They also occasionally have some cute accessories and dresses.
Muji is really cool, but I don’t typically buy a lot from them. They are mainly housewares and furniture with some clothing, foodstuffs, and stationary thrown in. The Muji I saw in Tokyo had a huge food section and bigger clothing section that was similar in tone to Marks & Spencer or a high end, minimalist Target. If I was living long term and furnishing a home in Korea or Japan, I would probably get most of my stuff out of Muji. It’s like… the Japanese Ikea. The furniture nicely mid-end quality and price with clean lines and functional features.