She may be the darling of L.A. design, but to shoot her fall collection of perforated leather totes and patchwork duffels, designer Clare Vivier chose Seoul, South Korea, home to some of her biggest fans. “Several people on the street actually recognized me and said hello, which never happens in the U.S.,” Clare says. In between shoots, she found plenty of time to eat bibimbap, climb a mountain, and (of course) shop.
Serenity was easy to find: “The first day of our visit was Buddha’s birthday, a national holiday, and we headed to the temples in Bukhansan National Park on the northern edge of the city. So many people were there to pay their respects that they couldn’t all fit inside, so the monks, who were dressed in these beautiful gray linen habits, set out pillows in the courtyards. The temples were decorated with hundreds of paper lanterns, and there were lotus flowers scattered everywhere.”
She dug the Korean street style: “I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the innovative architecture. Seoul has so much of it—sometimes I couldn’t decide whether I liked a crazy exterior or not, but it’s refreshing to see that artistic freedom. The honeycombed Urban Hive, a mixed-use space, reminds me of L.A.’s new Broad Museum. Even the stores look like museums. Boon the Shop has a minimalist gray exterior, and inside, the floors are a seamless blend of marble, stone, and reclaimed wood.”
…And found the original slow food: “The food is so fresh, but not in a we-just-discovered-farm-to-table way. More like Seoul never got overrun by fake food. Parc Seoul serves what a Korean mother might cook. Their bibimbap is delicious and comes the traditional way with sides of kimchi. The food at GaeWhaOk, a bulgogi spot, is also local and wholesome (try the naengmyeon, cold noodle soup), and I couldn’t get enough of the decor. Everything on the table was a warm, brassy brown—yellow brass plates, a brass grill—while the rest of the space was really spare and hung with austere black ink drawings. My favorite dessert is pat bing soo, shaved ice with a black bean paste on top. I’m not a very sweets-oriented person but this is so refreshing and wonderful. We ate it at Okrumong.”
And, of course she went to a handbag museum: “The Simone Handbag Museum is pretty small—only two large rooms in a very urban area. Someone collected all these very old handbags and put together the history of handbags. My favorite one was made out of hand-embroidered linen or cotton, like those beautiful old sheets they have in Europe. It was probably a wedding handbag.”
Her go-to hotel: “We stayed in a design-y hotel called Shilla Stay. The Shilla Hotel in Seoul is a very fancy hotel, so this is their more casual, relaxed hotel—but it’s still really beautiful. They have THE most amazing breakfast buffets. There’s a whole section that’s Korean food and a whole section that’s western food. It wasn’t very expensive—I had a 1-bedroom apartment for cheaper than any hotel in New York City.”
What She Brought Home:
White culottes from Niko And . . . Tokyo “The clothing at this boutique is a little androgynous, which I love for women. I loaded up on shirtdresses, wide-legged pants, and short pants. The culottes were my favorite thing to wear all summer.”
Wood spoons from Shinsegae “Beneath the main department store there’s a huge food market where you can buy spices, tools, and little Korean desserts. I had to buy a set of carved spoons in all different sizes, from tiny to serving size.”
Platform sandals from Lebo “These strappy sandals with chunky white soles and black patterning were so comfy, I wore them on the long flight home.”
Want more? Plan your trip to Seoul using our complete guide.