Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bags of charm


A peek into the Simone Handbag Museum

By Kwon Mee-yoo of The Korea Times

The average male might consider the handbag an unnecessary element of everyday life. And that would be one of the many reasons why women consider them, well, idiots.

When it comes to understanding why the handbag is so valuable and essential to women, men have always been left at something of a loss. But French thinker Jean-Claude Kaufmann offers to help.

“The handbag is a key piece in the day-to-day construction of identity,” Kaufmann once said, expressing his unique interest and insight into the item in his book “Le Sac, un Petit Monde d’Amour (The Bag, a Small World of Affection).”

“Veritable extension of the self, the handbag accompanies a woman throughout lots of life events, while stocking many of her intimate memories.”

Park Eun-kwan, president of local handbag company Simone, subscribes to Kaufmann’s theory that the handbag is much more than just a fashion statement — it’s an extension of one’s personality. While the company manufactures products for global fashion houses like Michael Kors, Tory Burch and Coach, Park’s ambition is to launch his own brand, named “0914,” by 2015.

But before taking that critical step, Park wanted the opportunity to step back and examine the culture and history of the handbag and put them in meaningful context. The result was the Simone Handbag Museum on Garosu-gil in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, which explores how an item that was supposed to be a functional complement to the wardrobe emerged as a key driver in the business of desire that is fashion.

At the museum, Park’s passion for handbags is evident. Even the building of the museum, which Park named as Bagstage, is shaped like a shopper bag. Aside of the museum, which is claimed as the world’s only museum entirely dedicated to handbags, the building is also home to Gallery 0914, an art exhibition space, and two fashion shops.

Museum for handbags 

The Simone Handbag Museum is located on the third and fourth floor of the building and features a variety of valuable items, such as 16th-century silk bags to the contemporary classic that is the Hermes Birkin Bag.

The third floor is highlighted by handbags manufactured in the early 20th century. Seeing how the shapes and function of the handbags changed through the course of time is a delightful experience.

“In the early 1900s, the ‘art nouveau’ style was in vogue and many bags are in elaborate curves. Then after the 1920s, the shape of bags became simpler as the designers focused on function of the bags. The famous gas mask bag used in Britain during the 1930s was also a product of necessity that reflected where society was at the time,” said Ko Ji-na, a curator at the museum.
The Simone Handbag Museum in southern Seoul is claimed to be the world’s only museum entirely dedicated to the handbag. / Courtesy of Simone

It was after the end of World War II when aesthetics became critical in the making of handbags. They became smaller and more decorative. A magazine-shaped clutch bag from the 1970s illustrates the influence of pop culture in design.

The shapes and designs of handbags have become more imaginative recently. Anne Marie’s Champagne Bucket Purse is a fun and deceptively elegant accompaniment to an evening dress, while the dog-shaped bags from Fuzzy Nation convey unique exuberance.

Recent products from the traditional fashion houses Chanel, Hermes, Coach and Gucci are also on display at the museum, highlighted by the Hermes Birkin, acquired by Park through an auction for about 100 million won (about $94,000).
Kim Yong-ho’s “The Woman is Going Into Her Bag”

The fourth floor takes visitors a further step back in history, highlighted by Western and Asian artefacts of the 16th century that could be considered as equivalents to the modern handbag.

“These bags, while beautiful, were defined by their functions. The perfumed sachets were necessary as these were times when people didn’t hit the showers every day. Some of the bags here aren’t really bags, but tie-on pockets attached to dresses, which were much more puffier than now,” Ko said.

As dresses got slimmer, bags increasingly became independent items and were designed with more sophistication. In the 20th century, the bags became sturdier, using metal frames and leathers, Ko explained.
Material Bazaar exhibition of the Simone Handbag Museum

Bag is psychology 

There is also a separate exhibition in the building’s basement, part of nine-segment project running through September of 2015, featuring some imaginative art work devoted to handbags.

The first part of the program, which is currently on display and will be until Dec. 29, is titled “Bag is Psychology,” featuring the works of photographers Kim Young-ho and Hong Jong-woo and psychiatrist Kim Hyun-chul.

On one wall, Kim Hyun-chul wrote his own ode to the handbag, inspired by Kaufmann’s writing, arguing that bags convey an unconscious part of their owners’ desire. So attempting to buy a new bag doubles as that person’s attempt to gain distance from her past, according to Kim.
The Bagstage building,where the museum is located

Kim Young-ho’s “The Woman is Going into Her Bag” is displayed in a space which resembles inside of a bag. Viewers have to walk through a slit of a bag to see Kim’s images printed on mirrors. Images of an opened bag and a naked woman are reflected on each other through the mirrors, which Kim says illustrates women’s urge to look into someone else’s bag.

Hong’s work is more dramatic, making subjects of his photos as heroines of a movie. He randomly interviewed people and asked what was inside their bag and took pictures of them.
A mannequin showing a Louis Vuitton creation

Bag stage also has Material Bazaar, which features some 8,000 different types of leather from cowhide to sharkskin, and offers four-week workshops to create a bag of one’s own.

Those not satisfied with just seeing all these handbags can make a purchase at the 0914 Shop on the first floor.

The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is 5,000 won. For more information about the museum, visit or call (02) 3444-0912. 

Look who beat Gangnam Oppa "Psy"

Pororo Beats Psy and Other Celebrities in Google Search Results

Google Korea on Monday released a top 10 list of the most-searched words in the first half of this year, as well as the most popular entries in each category including TV programs and celebrities.

No. 1 on the overall list was the hugely popular animation "Pororo the Little Penguin," followed by the MBC show "Infinite Challenge." Ryu Hyun-jin, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball, was third.

Two songs by Psy helped fill out the rest of the top 10, which was as follows: "Gangnam Style"; actor Park Si-hoo; the movie "Masquerade"; Ultimate Fighting Championship Octagon girl Kang Ye-bin; "Gentleman"; figure skater Kim Yu-na; and the Japanese animation "Attack on Titan."

Some adult-only keywords were excluded from the list.

The most-searched personalities were Ryu, Park Si-hoo, Kang Ye-bin, Kim Yu-na and TV personality Clara. Park became embroiled in an ugly scandal in February when he was accused of rape; Kang was named Korea's first UFC Octagon Girl in October; and Clara recently made headlines with her sexy fashion style.

"Infinite Challenge" was the most-searched TV program.


How to Survive End-of-Year Binge Drinking

Source: The Chosun Ilbo

Parties and gathering celebrating Christmas and the end of the year fill up people's calendars in December, but the pressure to consume vast amounts of alcohol with friends, family members and coworkers can take its toll.

Here are some tips to help keep things in moderation and not overtax your body during this festive season.

The first principle is not to drain glasses of beer or liquor on an empty stomach. There is a tendency to encourage people to drink quickly in Korea's drinking culture, such as by downing jaeger bombs or shots of soju mixed with beer. But chugging down drinks rapidly accelerates the onset of inebriation and usually leads to a longer and more painful hangover.

If such drinking rituals cannot be avoided, at least make sure you head to the party after lining your stomach with some food to help it better manage the alcohol. A light meal, rice porridge or soup is recommended, but even a cup of milk will help.

Meanwhile, nibbling on snacks like peanuts, seaweed, fruit or whatever is at hand will slow down the speed at which the body absorbs all the alcohol, meaning you will be able to enjoy the social gathering longer.

Many people suffer from skin problems the day after drinking alcohol, or after they drink for several days in a row, and frequent binge drinking and sleep deprivation can lead to problems of the liver and skin. Drinking plenty of water and eating fruit that is rich in vitamins and fiber will help break down the alcohol and prevent the skin from drying up.


Fruits of the Sea Just Part of Busan's Bounty of Local Delicacies


Local and regional specialties add an interesting twist to any trip, and the rich diversity of dishes that can be found Korea's largest port city Busan certainly makes any visit here a treat for the senses. Spending a few days in the city sampling its culinary delights while soaking up the ambience near some of the country's most famous beaches can leave visitors with some unforgettable memories.

◆ Anchovies in Gijang

The country's biggest anchovy festival takes place in late April in Gijang, in the eastern part of the city. Local people enjoy the fish in various forms -- raw, boiled in a stew, grilled and fried -- but seasoned raw anchovies are not to be missed.

As anchovies die quickly after being removed from the sea, they are normally boiled on the boat immediately after they are caught, then dried in the sun and sent to market. This is why raw anchovy dishes can rarely be found elsewhere, making Gijang one of few places where they can be enjoyed at their freshest. Special seasoning removes the fishy odor, while hot sauce and vegetables add taste and nourishment.

◆ Pork and Rice Soup in Seomyeon

Dwaeji gukbab, or pork and rice soup, is made from the broth of pork bones and meat, to which boiled rice is added. A district of Seomyeon in downtown Busan is well known for its long history of serving the dish, which is especially popular on cold days.

Rich in collagen, which contains useful amino acids, and known for its excellent detoxifying properties, it goes down a treat with a few glasses of soju or local makgeolli (traditional Korean rice wine) to help keep the cold at bay.

◆ Grilled Clams in Taejongdae

This seaside park is a popular spot to try clams by the sea. It ranks as one of the most beautiful costal attractions in the area, and its magnificent cliffs are said to have inspired many poets.

The sweeping views and refreshing clams have long proven to be a winning combination. Locals like to add butter and a special sauce to give the clam meat more flavor, while a serving of fried rice completes the meal.

◆ Pajeon in Dongrae

Pajeon, or green-onion pancake fried with chives and seafood, is said to have been the preferred accompaniment to drinking sessions among kings of yore, and these "Korean pizzas" still serve much the same purpose today.

The popular side dish emerged from Dongrae in northern Busan and the area remains famous for this concoction of fried golden flour added to sweet green onions to stimulate the appetite. Usually cooked with an egg on top to keep it soft and succulent, pajeon also goes down well with a few glasses or bottles of local beverages.