Photo by Biel Parklee
In the fashionable Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam, steps away from Dosan Park, you’ll find Queenmama Market, the mother ship of concept stores. And while you won’t find multiple vendors or negotiable prices, Queenmama Market has the spontaneity and breadth of the most famous fleas, from the Marché aux Puces to Los Angeles’ Rose Bowl. Thoughtfully presented throughout the minimalist space, the eclectic wares on sale include everything from turtle sponges and cutlery to lightbulbs and fishing nets, all presented in a myriad of ways; on wooden crates, draped over light fixtures or suspended from water piping.
The elaborate store is the brain child of Jinyoung Kang and Hanni Yoon (aka ‘Queenmama’), who had a successful twenty-year career as a design duo, helming three different fashion lines which were sold in over a hundred stores around the world. As a reprieve from the fast-paced, physically taxing world of fashion, the duo opened Queenmama Market in the fall of 2015 to offer urbanites a carefully curated collection of rare and commonplace objects placed side by side. You can spend hours in this store, fawning over mundane items such as watering cans or enameled household pliers, that become items of intrigue through their inventive and thoughtful presentation.
The items on each of the four sun-drenched floors changes every three months to ensure their customers’ continual delight and surprise. You’ll find yourself laughing at the things you find in a comparatively fashionable setting, which was the partners' exact intention. Yoon compares their shop to a ‘fishbowl,’ a place where people can interact with familiar and unknown objects sourced from around the world, from Sweden and Lithuania to Thailand and Japan. While they sometimes won’t carry any clothing for months, when they do, it’s from local Korean designers, or Kang’s own high-end private label, Gene Kei. It is truly an ever-changing space with a DIY aesthetic and a pulse of its own.
“We envision the shop as a platform to build an interactive community between artists, designers and clients,” explained Kang of creating the ultimate in store experience. On the top floor you’ll find a café, which is consistently packed with locals and international customers who will meet for a tea or coffee and mosey outside to take in the view on the sunken terrace. Later this year they’ll release their namesake line of home wear, such as aprons and bedding, and in August they’ll open Queenmama Seasons Restaurant in their basement, which will serve wholesome, ethically sourced food.
Perhaps it’s a lesson in appreciating the common place and every day. Either way, we’re sold.
This store is a destination. Expect travelers who discovered the 'grammable space through its geotag, as well as editors, buyers, and other concept store owners who needed to see what all the fuss was about. If you need the perfect picture, head to the fourth floor café and find your light.
An eclectic one that’s always in flux. Expect to walk in to buy a necklace, and walk out with a bottle of dishwashing fluid.
Plants, plants, and more plants that you’ll wish you could stow in your overhead compartment because they’re that beautiful. Queenmarket carries everything from rare Korean pine tress, to cacti and poppy flowers–which is Kang’s favorite object in the entire store.
Fans of the Store
You can bet that any fashion folk visiting Seoul will stop by Queenmama Market, such as Carla Sozzani and designer Paul Smith. But locals care more about the plethora of South Korea models and stars who frequent the grounds, such as runway regular Yoonju Jang and movie stars like Yejin Shon and Kayoing Lee.
Starting at $2.70 (₩3,000 Korean Won) for small notecards bearing illustrations by local artists, and go up as far as $8,500 (₩10,000,000 Korean Won) for a Gene Kei coat.
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