Addicted to cute items? No matter how old you are, Korean cute stuff will get your heart. Welcome to the first episode of the “Kute Shops” series: Korean cuteness has found its home!
Korean cosmetics are not the only products that make me go crazy. Actually, they are quite a new “discovery” from my perspective: here I’m talking about a passion that is dated way more back in time, to a period where I was just a little girl asking to my mum: “I want you to buy me something cute!”. My mum would look at me with eyes that were meant to say: “Honey, where do I find cute stuff?”. She knew that the concept of “cute” in my mind could not find any correspondence with anything she could find on sale in the shops in our area, let alone in the entire country: Italy may be famous for fashionable designer brands, but it certainly does not pertain to the cute world in my imagination.
Then one day, when I was 17 years old, I landed in a faraway country that many people in my area, at that time, could still not tell apart from China (with all due respect to China, of course): I’m talking about Japan and the time was way before sushi restaurants invaded the streets and the country became so popular and trendy in the West.
I found myself in the country that invented the concept of “cute” itself, to the point that everything is designed to be cute and cuteness is loved by everyone, regardless of their age. At last, “cuteness” was not just a concept in my mind, but a concrete reality I could touch, eat, smell and keep in my purse.
I find in general all Asian countries to be particularly prone to apply the concept of “cute” in their everyday life, and Korea confirms this evidence: the Japanese concept of “kawaii” (かわいい in hiragana; 可愛い with kanji) finds its perfect correspondence in the Korean verb 귀엽다 (kwiyeopta), that means “to be cute” and that I often abuse of, when walking in the streets of Seoul and finding some items that catch my eye.
One of the places where I tend to scream more often, in innocent joy, the sentence “Waaa, kwiyeopta!” is when I find myself in a franchise store called “ARTBOX”. If you try to think to a definition of “cuteness”, well, Artbox is that definition in the form of an entire shop.
Artbox is a Korean brand specialized in lifestyle items. Name something you need in your daily life and they will most probably have it in store: cosmetics and toiletries, stationery, office supplies, mobile phones accessories of all kinds (wires, power banks, phone covers), pouches and purses, kitchen supplies, pillows, fluffy plushes, candies and even furniture. I’m sure I’m forgetting some categories, but there are way too many things that can be purchased in an Artbox.
As soon as you enter in one of the many shops there are nation-wide, you are catapulted in a colorful kingdom of cuteness.
Artbox sells items under its own brand, as well as other brands’ items, each displayed in separate display racks, so that you can easily find what you’re looking for.
One of my favorite is PONYBROWN and its lovely pouches and stationery.
BAN8 also produces very colorful items, like these pouches created in collaboration with another brand, POPGIRL.
Items are also organized by categories, to make your search easy. Let’s say you desperately need cute socks: Korean socks come in an array of colors and designs and are so cheap!
Another favorite display of mine is the one with headbands and masks of different kinds:
On the left side there are some cute headbands to be used during your skincare routine or when you take a shower. I think they are very convenient while double cleansing or when you use a sheet mask or a wash-off mask, so that your hair stay put and they don’t get entangled with your cosmetic products.
In the middle part, some sleeping masks in case you need to recreate the perfect (dark) environment that helps your sleep.
On the right side, something that is very trendy in Korea, but a little inexplicable in the West: face masks. I’m not talking about beauty tools here, obviously, but about something that is more related to health, at least in its first meaning. Asians use face masks for 2 main reasons: one is to politely keep your own germs away from other people, for example when you got a flu; the second reason is connected to the huge “pollution” issue, so common in big Asian cities, so face masks designed for this purpose contain filters that block pollution particles from being inhaled. Whatever the reason is between these two, Asians in general (and Koreans in this specific case) tend to wear face masks very frequently, so they’ve become a sort of everyday accessory, like glasses. This being the case, face masks are produced in many different designs and colors and young Koreans wear them for no particular reason, but just because they’re trendy and fashionable items. Even TV and music idols wear them daily: it’s not just a disguise tool, it’s fashion.
Now, that you’ve read about masks, do you want to take a break from shopping and get some candies instead?
Some items are seasonal only. In winter, for example, the weather is super duper cold in Korea, so hot packs for your hands and feet are very popular. Of course, the number of designs and characters reproduced on the packages are uncountable…
The hot packs on the left side are single use items and perfect to be used on-the-go: you open the plastic pouch and the hot pack turns hot straight away. The effect usually lasts for a few hours: after this time has passed, the pack becomes cold and hard and is supposed to be thrown away. The hot packs on the right side are for multiple use: they can be heated and re-heated over and over again, using for example a simple microwave.
Or maybe daily life items like these:
After a quick stop by the cashier…
I hope you enjoyed visiting Artbox with me -which, by the way, was the branch located in Garosugil, in the Shinsa district. There was so much more to show you, but I was too excited and forgot to take pictures -hahaha, what a bad blogger I am : )
More cute shops will be featured in the next episodes of the “Kute Shops” series. Stay tuned ^^