Seoul is a place bursting with businesses that do a whole lot of things at once. A restaurant that serves tapas, fried rice, pasta, and curry? You could call it this city’s appeal. More often than not, however, it’s a case of lost identity. So when you come across a place like MO Jain Song that manages to juggle a clothing store, a lifestyle shop, a terrace cafe, and a rooftop garden with such panache, you can’t help but squeal with delight.
Fashion designer Jain Song opened her first shop in 2004, focusing on modern clothes without the use of leather or animal fur. Ever the nature lover, Song’s growing green thumb is what inspired her to open up her first “concept store” in Hannam-dong with much buzz on April 5th. Charmed by the small hidden alleys of the neighborhood, she immediately took up space at a little-known passageway off the main road. The store, designed by acclaimed architect Jong Hwan Lee (이종환) of Papergarden and CT Bakery fame, is a welcome medley of all the things that would pique the interest of a tree-hugging city girl. In a nutshell, it’s a living, breathing motto that Song had always sought after: City & Nature.
This “shop in shop” starts with Song’s latest fashion collection on the first level. Try if you may, but it’s hard to pass the floor brimming with her creations, from an oversized royal blue clutch with sawtooth trim to a chic black shift dress. Her taste is unmistakably clean and modern.
Just up the stairs is MO Jain Song’s lifestyle shop and cafe. An amalgamation of both Korean and foreign brands, the products range from environmentally friendly paper straws made by Snug & Co. to Mast Brothers-inspired chocolate bars by local darlings Chocolat & Objet. It’s even home to classics like the distinguished garment scissors brand, Gingher, and cult favorite Midori’s brass desktop accessories. Song is relentlessly on the hunt for new brands to be carried here, so you can expect constant changes in the products (that also means if you like something, don’t hesitate to buy it right then and there).
The cafe is a testament to pared down basics at its best. It only offers a handful of drinks, one of which is their signature, the “Honey Black.” It’s a concoction of “shakerato” (all the boom in Italy, made by vigorously shaking espresso with a ton of ice until froth forms) and acacia honey. The natural sweetener sits at the bottom of the glass, while the shakerato tops the cool drink with a considerable amount of crema. The acacia honey exudes a sweetness that’s clean and slightly fragrant, not at all cloying like the simple syrup you might pour into your Americano. The cafe also serves Mariage Frères black tea among a handful of coffee shop staples, as well as Nagasaki castellas.
Just on the other side of the cafe counter is their outdoor space, furnished with three small tables and a shelf lined with potted plants for purchase. However, the real gem is on the third floor. The rooftop space functions mostly as a garden, but also has a couple of tables with parasols (warning: it does get pretty hot in the afternoon!). So far, the staff has planted staples like kale, strawberries and lettuce, and they’ll be given away to customers whenever they’re ripe for picking. Once they’re given out, more will be planted, so there’s a constant rotation of produce. You can also take part in the “farming” by helping them plant other vegetables and flowers (ask a staff member and they’ll even give you a quick Gardening 101).
MO Jain Song packs all the charm of a city life, coupled with a genuine heart for the environment. It’s one multi-shop that actually gets it right.