I was recently asked in a comment by a bloggy friend (EmSewCrazy) to post a little about fabric shopping in Korea; so since I have been woefully quiet around here due to having a million projects going, but too much crafty ADD to actually finish any of them, I thought this would be the ideal time to post about it. Paul and I made a run up to Seoul to Dongdaemun the other day, because the last couple of times I have been up there, I have been taking groups of other people, and that makes is harder to do MY shopping, since not everyone wants to wander every floor and every isle to get fabric for making clothes.
Basically Dongdaemun is the center for clothing production and fabric sales in Korea, it’s in Seoul about and hour and a half away from where I live. Dongdaemun is 4 huge buildings of 5 floors each, all connected to each other. It’s huge, as in REALLY, REALLY huge. You can and will get lost, and you had better buy what you like when you see it, because otherwise you will likely NOT make it back to the same spot again 🙂
Everything is set up in booths, all crammed together in a maze throughout the buildings, this booth sold lace and fabric flowers, the little green sign hanging above tells you it is in building B (the buildings are A, B, C, and D) on the second floor, and the booth # is 330. (I always take pictures of booths I want to come back to later, so I can remember the #, which doesn’t always help, since they are not always in chronological order to each other)
This shop is in D building, on the 3rd floor, and it is booth #10. it sells ribbed fabric for waistbands and cuffs and collars (like the kind on letterman jackets) Sometimes the people working at the booths understand a little English, but mostly they don’t. I have learned to say “how much?” “excuse me” “thank you” etc. in Korean, although I regularly get ignored when I try to talk, 🙂 sometimes as I approach a booth the shop owner with cross their arms in front of themselves and say “aniyo” (which means “no”) because they don’t even want to try to deal with me 🙂 It’s okay though, because there are more than enough booths that are willing 🙂
A lot of the fabric at Dongdaemun comes in the form of swatchies, you go up to a booth, look through its little swatches, and then order the fabric from the person running the booth. They will then give you a time to return, and you come back several hours later (this is where taking pictures of the booth helps) to pick up your fabric that has been brought in from an off site warehouse. (that’s what’s on the floor to the right of this picture, some bolts and bags that have been delivered waiting for pickup. One of the challenges of shopping at Dongdaemun is that you may fall in love with a swatch, but they won’t sell you the fabric in anything less than 50 yard increments, etc. because they will only work with people wanting fabric for production, etc. it’s just sort of one of those things, and you move on and find another fabric.
On the 4th floor of one of the buildings they have a room we call “the room of requirement” since there is only one opening to get to it, you can’t usually plan to find it, and it usually just suddenly appears. This room has all in stock fabric, for amazing prices (some only $1-2 a meter) and it is just crammed full of bolts of fabric. It’s kind of hard to take pictures in Dongdaemun, because the isles are small, everything is crammed, and it’s hard to take it all in. You can’t buy simple things like interfacing (well, I haven’t found any anyway) but you can get the same fabric in 8 different colorways, which is pretty cool. It’s really neat that Dongdaemun is geared towards the fashion industry too, because you get a sneak peek at what WILL be popular next year (since fashions seasons are always ahead, we have what will be produced later, in stock now, if that makes sense?) So do you want a sneak peek at a trend from next year?
Apparently Hawaiian prints are going to be a thing, I would say that about 60% of the booths had Hawaiian prints in some form or another, which is new from even the last time I was there 3-4 weeks ago. So you heard it here first 🙂
The awesome things about shopping at Dongdaemun are, unique and amazing fabrics in every variety (I came home with knit, burnout velvet, cotton voile, etc. the last time I was there) inexpensive zips, buttons, and embellishments (pennies on the dollar inexpensive!,) and getting a peek into the fashion industry.
The not so awesome things about shopping at Dongdaemun are, the shoving and the pushing (it is crazy in there, between the fabric delivery men that just grunt and shove as they pass by in the narrow little isles, and the other customers, etc. it can be pretty harassing and claustrophobic) the distance (it’s not really easy to just pop in for a zipper, you have to have everything you need BEFORE you start a project, or else you are out of luck; it costs a lot in gas, tolls, parking, time, etc. to go up there, so I end up spending a few hundred dollars every time I go, just to make the trip worth it.) The people who won’t sell you stuff, either because they want to sell A LOT of yardage, or because they don’t want to deal with an English speaker. And it’s really hard to navigate once the fabric deliveries start rolling in there are bags ALL OVER the floor, and after all the lunch deliveries, there are food trays all over the floor, it’s pretty insane.
Mostly the awesome stuff outweighs the not so awesome stuff, I love going and just seeing EVERYTHING. It’s pretty cool because just before I visited my family in the US I went to the 5th floor (where craft and jewelry supplies are) and I bought some beads to add to a paper bead necklace I was making. When I got to the states, I taught my mom and sisters to make paper beads, and we went to Michael’s to get spacer beads for their necklaces, and low and behold we found the EXACT same beads in Michael’s as the ones I bought for my necklace, (there were just fewer of them on a strand, and they cost more in the US.) It just feels awesome to go to a place where I get to feel like a buyer/insider, where obviously all the big companies go to order their product 🙂 On the 5th floor, I have seen the chains, charms, bows, etc. that go into making jewelry sold at Forever 21, or the stuff at Claire’s. and it’s really fun to feel ahead of the curve!
I still order a lot online from fabric.com, or Joann’s, and Hobby Lobby, just to fill out my stash of everyday stuff, but for special items, I feel pretty stinking lucky to have access to Dongdaemun.
I hope you had a Happy Mother’s Day, and that you kicked your feet up and let your family spoil you, you deserve it!!!! I love you mom, thanks for all you do for all of us! (since I apparently couldn’t get my act together enough to post on Mother’s Day!)