Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Souvenir That Suits You

Custom-made Clothing in Daegu

By Matthew Caracciolo

Like many parts of Korea, Daegu has a wealth of quality tailors that are constantly churning out impeccable products.  Even if you’re only in town for a short amount of time, it’s perfectly within reason to shop for, order, and receive a custom-made article of clothing during your stay. Two particular specialties of the area are custom-made suits and shoes.

Married couple Jang Seong-pil and EunMyung-sook have been running Mania Tailor Shop for fifteen years, although Jang’s career has spanned over three decades. Before opening Mania, Jang worked for a larger company making suits for corporations. Convinced he could make better suits for a cheaper price, Jang started his own custom suit company. Today, Jang owns ten tailor shops throughout Korea. The suits from Mania Tailor Shop go to politicians, actors, and other high-profile personalities including the mayor of Daegu and former presidents of the Republic of Korea. The suits are very high quality and,averaging around 270,000 won, affordable by custom suit standards.  The speed at which Jang and his associates work is equally remarkable. Visit the shop in the morning and in most cases your suit is ready and delivered by the evening. This impressive turn-around time is especially advantageous for business visitors with limited time in the city.

The quality, speed, and affordability of Mania Tailor Shop have not gone unnoticed by businessmen. During the World Energy Congress held in Daegu in 2013, a press reporter stopped by the shop to order a suit. A larger man, the reporter had frequently run into issues with suits in the past and was never satisfied with tailors. Jang’s suit was a perfect fit. The reporter, so pleased with his new suit, spread the word and made Jang’s suits very popular, with many new orders by the end of the congress.

To get to Mania Tailor Shop, take the 452, 604, 564, 순환or 3-1 bus to the Palace Hotel. The shop is a minute walk back in the direction the bus came from. If taking a taxi, tell the driver “pal-le-suh ho-telga-ju-se-yo, meaning Please go to the Palace Hotel. (Address :29, Icheon-ro, Nam-gu, Daegu, Korea)

After you order your suit at Mania, there are several options for your hungry stomach. Since the shop is near a US military base, the area has many unique restaurants other than common Korean food.

If it’s early morning, go to Hami Mami’s. It’s an all-day-brunch restaurant which offers western style breakfast. Their club sandwich and Philly cheese steak sandwich are two of the most popular items on the menu. On Thursday, coffee is free. The restaurant is located in front of the 4th gate of Camp Walker(Address: 87, Samjeong-gil, Nam-gu, Daegu, Korea).

At last, Daegu has real Mexican food. Primero’s burritos, tacos, chimichangas, fajitas and quesadillas are the cream of the crop among Mexican restaurants in Daegu. The price is also reasonable. A taco is 4,500won and a burrito is 8,000won. From Mania Tailor Shop, walk south to the top of a hill. Turn right at the corner and walk about 2 minutes. Primero will be on your right(Address: 62, Samjeong-gil, Nam-gu, Daegu, Korea).

Or if you want a big meal, Shanghai Grill will be your place. It is an American Chinese restaurant, and well known for Orange Chicken and Seafood Spicy Noodles. US military servicemen are especially enthusiastic patrons. You can see the restaurant from Mania. Look for a big white sign(Address: 36, Samjeong-gil, Nam-gu, Daegu, Korea).

Perhaps it’s not your body, but your feet that need a custom job. Shoes in Korea are notorious for being small by Western standards, but this is no longer an issue in the world of handmade shoes found in Hyangchon-dong.

Formerly a red light district, Hyangchon-dong transformed into a popular shoe-making neighborhood in the 1960’s and 70’s. As more department stores, chain stores, and cheaper Chinese products entered the Korean market and cut into the business of these small, independent shops, the industry waned and shop owners were threatened with the end of their way of life. Recently, however, the industry has seen something of a revival. This is largely a result of consolidation and cooperation between the owners, who formed a union and a hand-made shoe association. One shoe shop in particular, Pyeonajio, is the consolidation of five shops. Together, the shoemakers are restoring the popularity of handmade shoes and teaching others the art of shoemaking and repair. As a result, ten new shops have recently opened their doors on the street.

Today, over 40 shoe stores, leather shops, and factories call Hyangcho-dong home. Many of the shop owners have been in the business for 30 to 40 years, expertly crafting hundreds of shoes for feet of all shapes and sizes. Let your feet dream as they wander the shops in search of the perfect shoe. Pre-made pairs are available, but another option is to invent your own design. Prices for custom-made shoes in the alley range from 80,000-130,000won, a fraction of the cost of most designer shoes.

Hyangchon-dong is located just north west of the downtown Jungangno shopping area. To get to Handmade Shoes Street, take the subway to Jungangno, use exit 4, walk across the first crossing and turn left at the next block. Or you can tell the taxi driver “jung-ang-rosuh-jae-hwa-gol-mokga-ju-se-yo”, meaning “Please go to Handmade Shoes Street. (Address : 112, Seoseong-ro 14-gil, Jung-gu, Daegu, Korea)

No matter what the budget, all it takes is a little exploring and a little patience and the once unattainable dream of quality tailored clothing, so expensive in many countries, is easily within grasp during a short stay in Daegu. Let your style be your souvenir.


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