The area around Dongdaemun, the East Gate of old Seoul, has been a popular shopping location for nearly a century. Mainly the heart of a traditional market, the area has developed over the years and is currently known for its all-night fashion shopping. It was designated as a Special Tourism District in 2002 and is one of the must-see places when visiting Seoul. This is the last post of the Shopping in Dongdaemun series posted here on the Korea Blog.
Dongdaemun is not only the shopping mecca for readymade fashion. If you’re a budding designer, have adept sewing skills, like handicrafts and sewing projects, the Dongdaemun Shopping Town and Shopping Complex has all you need. The massive 7 story building covers an entire block and is comprised of 4 dongs (동): A, B, C, and shopping town.
Korea has a strong textile industry and one step in the building you immediately know why. This place is a maze, an amazing one at that. There are literally thousands of shops in the form of open stalls with rolls and rolls of fabric stacked high up to the ceilings. You might wonder how owners manage to find certain fabrics in what seems like a textile collision, but they always do. They’re pros here.
Cottons, wools, silks, linen, burlap, vinyl, leather, faux furs, synthetics, you name it, they have it. In every color imaginable, in every print and design imaginable. You can spot the latest trends by taking a stroll through the corridors, which are always bustling with activity. The stalls sell mostly wholesale, make sure you’re shopping at a stall that sells in small volume while you shop. Many will do. The fabrics are usually sold by the meter and if you’re extra nice to the owner, some will give you extra for your money.
Not only is there a bounty of fabric, you’ll find every other little thing needed when sewing. A friend of mine once confessed she spent 5 hours just browsing over the button stalls (and she’s not even a serious seamstress!) There are materials for adornment: ribbons, lace, patches and appliqués, studs and rhinestones, metallic ornaments, and the list goes on.
There are needles, spools, sewing shears, quilting material, handles for making handbags, stuffing for plushies, beads and semi-precious stones to make jewelry, chains, crystals, wire crafts, feathers, sewing machine parts, materials to make watches – it’s a crafter’s paradise.
Because most of the shops are wholesale and the merchandise isn’t separately packaged in a “pretty” presentation, the prices are extremely affordable compared to the more arranged specialty craft shops you find in the city. It can get a bit claustrophobic at times, when the place is packed of people (especially during the beginning of a fashion season) because the corridors are a bit narrow, but you can always escape to the resting area on each floor or to the adjacent food court for a quick bite.
A, B, C dongs generally have the same composition with slight variations of each floor:
- B1 – Threads, submaterials, curtains, embroidery, lace, yarns, bedding
- 1st – Bedding, embroidery, lace, yarns, notions, china and porcelain, living goods
- 2nd – Hanbok, silk goods, curtains, notions, various fabrics (mostly cottons)
- 3rd – Various fabrics
- 4th – Various fabrics
- 5th – Accessories and craft materials, notions, food court in Shopping Town dong
- Monday ~ Saturday : 8:00 am ~ 6:00 pm
- Sunday (only the Hanbok section is open) : 8:00 am ~ 6:00 pm
- Closed on New Year’s, Seollal, Chuseok and summer break (differs every year)
Note: Despite the official hours, many fabric shops tend to close about 5:00 pm. If you don’t have time during the week, going on Saturday morning is the best option.
Metro station Dongdaemun Line 1 and Line 4, exit #8 and #9
Directly across from the actual Dongdaemun (East Gate), the area right in front is currently under construction and the building may not be easily visible.
It is right across the bridge (over Cheonggyecheon) from Doota.