An ode to my OOTDs, as captured by some of the photographers at Seoul Fashion Week. I went to watch shows, and observe street style, but I, in turn, was being observed. While I have not found nearly all of the photos, here are a few, be sure to click the link to check out their Instagram accounts and websites for more Seoul Street Fashion! Also, don’t forget to follow my Insta!
It’s officially been a week since I’ve moved to Seoul. A week and I’ve been calling a new place home. Fashion Week just occurred in NYC, but I’ve been focused on calling a new place home, and reflecting on what that means. I get the feeling that I’m finally becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be. The woman, who is still rising despite the heartbreak and tragedy. The woman who fights, triumphs and throws a haughty laugh. The woman I was destined to be. Her. I think I’m finally becoming her. Free and bold, a woman who loves extravagantly and courageously in every aspect of life.
And, God, it feels so good.
In a week’s time, I managed to almost join a cult, I’ve went on a date with KDrama Guy who saved me from said aforementioned cult, hung out at Han River solo dolo amongst all the couples, I’ve agreed to record a music cover with my host, have another date lined up with a different guy, gotten lost countless times, learned how to speak some Mandarin while drinking with the roomies and talking about boys, spoken in Korean every single day, and tackled Dongdaemun, pushing and shoving with the thousands of people and vendors to get the swatches I need to design with.
I’ve actually unpacked my room and set it up nicely so I’m not living out of a suitcase, and realized just how much I’ve committed to calling this place home for a spell. I never unpack if I don’t have to. Here, though, I did. Something about Seoul. Something about wanting to reset and refresh and explore the fullness of myself again, as a Creator, and as a woman. I look back at the things that interested me as a child, when we were free to think and dream, and as a teenager full of energy, and I’m going back to that child-like faith that anything could happen. Moreover, I’m seeing so many connections with present interests, and interests of my childhood.
It’s strange to find myself back on a road that I’d abandoned over 10 years ago, but wholly exhilarating.
I’d rather be her. Her, full of faith, her, the self-proclaimed jet-setting auntie who is gonna travel the world, her, the leader of a girl group, her, the fashion icon and mogul, her, the multi-linguist who strikes up conversations in different conversations at a moments notice, her, the model living in Tokyo, her, the story teller, her, one half of an eclectic, cool, and sexy power couple, her, the musician turned actress, her, a representative of the people later in life, her, the poet and novelist, her, the dancer who wanted to do a summer session with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, her, who was ready to drive across the country the day after graduation for an epic roadtrip, her, who had so many big dreams and hopes and a lot less fear.
Yeah, I’d rather be her.
So, as you all know, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea a bit ago.
And my bags. (but that’s a story for another day)
And I learned somethings taking my first international trip, alone at that, so I thought I’d share. Some lessons I learned from the situations and simply being there, others from friends. Either way here it goes:
- “Slowly, slowly.”
My very first lesson came from an older man working at the airport when I arrived at Incheon. I was trying to get some T-Money to take the train to the Metro, and being the New Yorker that I am, I was rushing. For, like, no reason. I arrived mid-week, no one was behind me, and frankly, had I dropped a 50,000 KRW (오만원) for the sake of rushing, it would have a been a sad day. So the older gentleman walking me through the process kept telling me “Slowly, slowly”, to make sure I had everything, to make sure I put my money back in my wallet, and all that jazz. Even on vacay, I had forgotten to breathe. So remember, especially whilst traveling alone, you must look out for yourself. You could be fortunate and have a stranger look out for you, but even so, remember to take your time, take a breath, adjust to your surroundings and take care of what you need to take care of, even if there is a line forming behind you.
2. It’s Ok to Ask for Help. Not only is it OK, it’s a Requirement.
By now, I’m feeling fancy, I’ve gotten on the metro like the saavy New Yorker I am, and learned to slow down and collect myself. Fantastic. Now, what else was for me to learn? Well, after successfully switching from the local to the express line after a man watched me sit for far to long in my opinion, told whomever he was speaking on the phone with to hold on for a moment, and told me in exactly 3 words of English, “Go, across, go. Express across. Go.” I took his advice, and got off and hauled my luggage across the platform. So thank you kind sir. I couldn’t possibly need more help than that, right? Wrong. That man offered helped, I hadn’t asked, and in the wild, whilst traveling alone, you must learn to ask for help.
My AirBnB was a minute walk from the metro station. And that’s if I wasn’t walking like a New Yorker. Upon my arrival to said metro station, however, I found myself walking in circles. I found a Wi-Fi Spot, I called my sis over Wi-Fi and asked her to look up the address. She was finding a 15 minute walk. I didn’t understand what was happening. Then my sister had my phone turned on for texting, and wouldn’t you know it, I get a text from my AirBnB host saying she was worried, because she was expecting me, and I hadn’t arrived during my estimated time. I remember when she text me. I was crying in front of a Hana Bank 하나은항(don’t worry, this will come up again), while staring at this guy:
Actor Kim SooHyun 김수현, who played Do Min Joon in My Love From Another Star (별에서 온 그대). Apparently he holds the record for most endorsements in a year cuz he’s totally adorbs. He was literally everywhere in Seoul. And there he was, in an ad in front of the Hana Bank I was crying in front of. Le sigh. I should have just asked for help earlier, because my host found me within minutes of me finding my way back to the metro station. My host must have seen the distress in my face, and swept me up in a big hug upon meeting me. She hauled my huge bag(against my protests) and walked me a minute to her lovely apartment. Lesson learned. Asking for help can save you an hour of your life and some tears.
3. Identify Your Person
Why was the bank with the South Korean cutie, Kim SooHyun, oh so relevant? I’m getting to that. When traveling alone, you absolutely have to have someone who is, what we call in my family, Your Person. You know, that friend since the playpen, sister, cousin, play cousin, uncle, or whomever who is your absolute ride or die. If you called them from a prison in Mexico because of some plans gone astray during your travels, they’d be on the next flight. They would curse at you the entire drive back, but they’d come break you out, or work their diplomatic connections. I had a few people in the Travel Squad, but my main Person, that I called at all times while freaking out, was my twin. From giving me a pep talk at Seoul Fashion Week, to getting my phone turned on internationally at no extra cost to me, to wiring me money at, you guessed it, the same Hana Bank I was crying in front of the day before my return flight home, she was my absolute ride or die. Your Person will figure out a way to help you, even if it takes using Google Translate and some hand signs to do it. Your Person will encourage the spiritual journey that traveling alone can take you on, and do what ever they can to help you stay at peace, so you can, absolutely, make the most of your journey.
4. You will Cry, and it’s really OK. (진짜, 진짜~ 괜찮아!)
Traveling alone has it’s stresses. Even though plenty of people were super helpful, and I got to go on a date with a local, and I had incredible experiences, there is just something about traveling alone. I truly believe no matter what prompts you to travel alone, it’s an a act which ultimately awakens, heals, and nourishes your soul. For me, it’s been the ongoing struggle with the loss of my mother, and the desperate need for magic. Traveling, to the exact place my heart said to go, didn’t mean I wasn’t going to cry, it just meant I was going to cry and cleanse in the right place. You get to let it all out, pray, meditate, and just be in a place, simply being. I cannot tell you how nourishing it is for the soul, to just, cry.
5. Answer to You.
This life is ultimately between you and Source. The same goes for your planned or random vacation. The beauty of traveling alone is you don’t have to answer to anyone else’s itinerary or expectation. One of my friends in the Travel Squad, encouraged me over KaKaoTalk, and reminded me that this trip is just for me. I can do every touristy thing imaginable, or I can wander around aimlessly, as long as I was happy. I did way more of the latter. Praying, meditating, smiling at cute locals, and wandering. I got a greater local experience by doing that, and had more opportunities to practice the Korean I spent 3 months learning! This trip is for you, you will emerge stronger, braver, and wiser, so do whatever makes you happy.
I’m sure there are more lessons I learned while traveling alone, but I’m still discovering them, next I’ll post on my practical travel advice! What did you learn traveling alone? I’d love to hear from you!
Drink soju like a boss, dance til dawn in Hongdae, haggle over prices, wear sequins on a Tuesday, whatever, just do what you love. You betta werk! I’m rooting for you!
Hello my loves,
I’ve decided since I’ve been crazy busy, but do want to continue offering you great content, to venture into the world of vlogging! Don’t worry, I’ll get back to writing great content too! In the meantime, check out the first vlog where I talk a bit about Seoul Fashion Week, the well dressed men walking around in Seoul and even the couple dressing! My travels were so inspiring that I’m eager to get back, but, I’m here for now. In the meantime, I’ll keep sharing photos of street style and updating both the blog and the new vlog and most importantly, I’m just going to have some fun!
My heart was not prepared for eye lust my wanderlust would bring about while traveling to Seoul. I fell in love for so many reasons, and one of them easily being that Seoul fashion is, simply put, one of the world’s most beautiful lies. It thrives on expertly executed ease and youthful whimsy while maintaining a duality of utter sophistication.
I. Just. Can’t. Even.
Of course, it’s a major city, and a darling of Asia, so one might easily assume that it carries weight in the fashion world. Even so, assuming, and witnessing, are 2 completely different things. Let’s dig in, shall we?
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE MEN?
Because the men came to slay. While I did snap this at Seoul Fashion Week (서울 패션 위크), I would just see squads of men, dressed to kill on a daily basis.It was the norm, and not the exception, trust me. It made me remember why I am in love with menswear. If more men took the time to appreciate it on mass…I’d die a happy woman. Well dressed men. Just roaming in droves. Men unafraid of color, of slim fit, and of bold patterns. Men whose sole focus was not on their shoes matching their belts. Men who wore suits just to go out for dinner with friends. Men who looked sexy in pink, like, bite your bottom lip and cross your legs, and clutch your pearls levels of sexy…in pink.
But, seriously, I’m pretty sure that so many stylish men travelled in packs as a result of
the school culture and mandatory military service. The minute you enter middle school(or for some, starting in elementary school), you’re in a uniform. Thus, time outside of that uniform is precious. I would surmise that in the midst of developing, growing, and nurturing friendships, style is simply one of those things that naturally fall in line. After all, self expression is paramount to self development. If I have fewer opportunities to be expressive in the clothing that you wear, I could easily imagine being attracted to those whose style I admired. Scarcity breeds necessity, no? The result? Roves of men, uniform in their level of style, while still managing to be utterly individualistic. #swoon.
Next: Couple Dressing is a thing, like, a big THING.
I’m so used to seeing, unfortunately, so many couples whose aesthetics do not match. Thankfully, I live in New York City, and while I do see many well-dressed couples to swoon over, but I’m not sure we have the most aesthetically pleasing couples per capita. Frankly, Seoul couples looked stunning, and often wore articles of clothing that were the same. Seoul is crazy for kicks, but can you imagine seeing so many couples wearing the same pair? I lost count, but managed to snap this couple, whose style suited each other.
Also, Heels For DAYS!
It didn’t matter how many women I saw doing the MyFeetHurt Shuffle, they were going to stomp the city of Seoul in their heels!
But, it also seems like the heels made in Korea, are way better suited for us city girls. They typically had a thicker and sturdier heel. #Werk . Yes I drooled over the men, but the women also came dressed to slay!
So much more street style to report, but for now, enjoy some of what I found whilst wandering the streets of Seoul!
“The world is in awe of your beauty and enchanted with your being.”
-Me, just now (Sphinx Rowe)
Let that sink in, digest it, and let it nourish your soul. Write it in lipstick on your mirror and recite it daily. While I don’t wish to alienate any of my readers, I needed to write this topic. Traveling While Black is an experience, and not the negative one I was led to believe it would be. So I have some lessons for other travelers, especially people of color.
Lesson 1: Stay Away from “Well Meaning White Folk”
For some reason, Well Meaning White Folk(WMWF), feel the need to tell travelers of color, especially Black travelers, that the world will reject them. After being largely helpful with answering questions about Seoul, out of the blue, I was assured that “Koreans are racist” and even though I was American, my dark skin would make things problematic.
Why did this White American male feel the need to tell me these things? Probably because he was hold on to his own prejudices and carrying them with him to South Korean, where he now lives. The truth is, there are issues everywhere, but I was largely welcomed, and accepted! This is true, especially once I spoke bits and pieces of the language, and did even the littlest things in a Korean manner, like giving and receiving with 2 hands. Most of the White Folk in my life were nothing but absolutely positive, but this friend of a friend felt the need to be negative. This prompted me to ask loads of other Black or mixed travelers, and, interestingly, the WMWF seems to be a trend, “Oh, you know they’re gonna be racist towards you over there”, the more I asked, the more I got a response similar, said by their WMWF who are carrying their prejudice with them.
Firstly, as Person of Color, how much do we hate that we are lumped into this often ill-perceived category, continually perpetuated by the media? So, who am I to think that of an entire people or even listen to someone who has the audacity to think that of an entire people? It doesn’t sit well with my soul. It’s his own brokenness, because that’s all prejudice is. Brokenness. Take some time, connect with Source, pray and meditate and love people. Are some people going to believe what they see on TV? Yes, but that’s all the more reason to travel and take your #BlackGirlMagic with you! #BlackGirlMagic has allowed beautiful, diverse, women of color from all different shades and backgrounds to share their truth, and not the negative image largely displayed by media. We get to control our narrative instead of letting others continue to control it for us. WMWF are consciously or subconsciously attempting to stamp this out this power when they tell you “X” place is going to be racist towards you. Don’t believe the hype. Everywhere has it’s issues, problems whatever, but don’t allow that to stop you from traveling. I cannot stress how beautiful I felt there(soooooo many photos taken), dark skin and all! I had a blast!
Moral: I’m thankful, because of Jason, the WMWF, because in that brief moment of weakness, I wrote this post, and I did some research and found the fantastic blogger Jenny, of Western Girl Eastern Boy, whom I actually ended up meeting and dancing the night away in Hongdae. We talked about race, dating, and her encounters with WMWF and foreigners. So, because of that foolishness, I ended up connecting with a beautiful soul in 서울. #LookAtJesus
Lesson 2: Tell Your Story, The World Needs to Hear It
This continues with Lesson 1. You are a vibrant story and culture wrapped up in to skin that drenched in melanin. And honey, the world needs to hear it, see it, touch it, and if you’re feeling frisky, taste it. Firstly, your culture is so everywhere. Hip-Hop, rap, soul, R&B, rock and roll, lip injections, chocolate tanning, braids, locs, style… the Black cultural diaspora is real. We are global citizens, and need to embrace that. It’s really easy for Americans to get stuck, to believe that everyone should speak English, and to not interact with any locals, even when they do travel abroad. Don’t be that way. Listen to their stories, wander off the beaten path, and share your stories. It is incredible to experience the culture exchange that can happen (which I will get into on another post! ). People responded so positively when I did things the Korean way, spoke with a good accent, and just tried. It showed I was respectful of the place I was entering. Also, don’t shame your ancestors, carry yourself well, because you have the divine opportunity to control your narrative.
Moral: Don’t only go to McDonald’s, tourist traps, and only talk to fellow foreigners. If you’re going to be there, be there, experience new things, try new foods, and talk to people, preferably in their language(there are apps for days at this point, blogs, vlogs, you name it, so learn some things to say, and cultural nuances).
Lesson 3: A Simple Smile Can Be Disarming
Frankly, I’m a lot. I know this about myself. I’ve embraced it. My style(but hey, it got me photographed at Seoul Fashion Week…I mean, I wear sequins on a Tuesday), my big hair (#TeamBigHair #TeamNatural), my piercings…I’m…just…a lot. So, going to a place where piercings or tattoos or whatever isn’t as common, or is associated with things that are inherently negative, is something to be mindful of. Whether you are traveling to Seoul, or anywhere else, take the time to be mindful of the culture you are entering. I wasn’t going to take out my piercings, but for the the few people I encountered with judgement in their eyes, I smiled. It worked wonders. I often got a smile back. So, whatever pre-conceived notions may have been held, may just melt away by you being there and being your beautiful self.
Moral: Smile. It can do wonders to break down barriers. Also, smiling while dancing may just lead to one of the best dates you’ve had in a long time!
Travel, meet interesting people, do dope things.
The most incredible thing I learned was the importance of being able to control my narrative and sprinkle my #BlackGirlMagic. You should too, and let me know how it goes! I’ll be posting even more photos on the (Insta)’Gram, so follow me @FashionNeedsJesus. Tons, more to write, I haven’t even gotten to the fashion yet, so #StayTuned!
While in search for magic in the land of Seoul, I found myself out on a date. True story. When searching for magic, believe anything can happen, including a touch of romance.
So, my host and I found ourself out in Gangnam on a Friday night. I had fallen asleep and woke up around 9:30 PM, upset because, hello, it’s Friday and I’m in a posh Seoul neighborhood on the other side of the globe.
Obviously, this needed to be rectified, but since I was on vacay mode, I had determined I would let it be. My host comes to the guest house and we chat for a bit, and she had to return some jeans. Yes, my 3 round date started with saying yes to walking with my host to return her torn denim. #AnythingCanHappen #AllYouGottaDoIsSayYes. So we stroll, and get to know each other more. I told her how I found myself in Seoul and she felt honored that she got to be a part of my healing process and search for magic.
Then, we found out we both loved to dance. She said all her local (Korean) friends hate dancing. I suggested she get better friends. Dancing is life, if you ask me. Anyways, the streets are jam packed with everyone out and dolled up, so after her errand she popped into an Atrium, which is a make-up store similar to Sephora, and did a little make up and we headed out in the nabe.
First we went to a booking club, where I had my first taste of soju. #Dangerous. Then we went to a club, and there it happened.
Somewhere between dancing the night away with my host-est with the most-est, and taking a breath of fresh air, he watched me dance for maybe a minute max, before pulling me close with the K-Drama arm tug and saying “I have to buy you a drink”.
Then his friend found him with us, we drank together, and danced the night away. At one point he lifted me off the ground into the air while we were dancing. I almost got crowd surfed *clutches pearls*. They asked us to go to dinner so we made tentative plans to meet up a few days later. Now, I don’t know how your nights at clubs normally go, but I was pretty sure this double date thing was all buzzed banter and nothing would come of it.
Alas, I was wrong. Our double date lasted 3 rounds, and it was really fun, actually the best date I’ve had in a long time. (do Korean boys do it better…or…?) So here’s to a night out with cute local with abs for days and a great smile.
If it happens to you, just #SayYes.
People keep asking me why, oh why, did I come to Seoul. Me with my delectable brown skin, kinky curly hair, and non-ability to blend in, why would I choose Seoul as my first international trip. Truthfully, then answer is still somewhat murky, but I shall try to explain.
2015 was ending, and as the worst year of my life came to a close, all I knew is I was in desperate need of some magic. I’d lost my mother, my very best friend and confident, and the very best cuddler. I’ve had some pretty tragic years most of you could only begin to imagine, and while I’ve always had the travel bug, thanks to my mother, some tragedy has consistently swiped my coins away. So, in the old US of A, I sat. But in 2015, I was looking at life, feeling dead all but for the breath in my lungs and the occasional hunger pangs. I’ve still felt all but dead until very recently, still. Still grieving, still pining away at night, still screaming for my mom.
So there I was, with 2015 coming to a close, and I was blessed to have my family visit me in NYC. It was a hard Christmas and New Year’s. The loss was very present, but we desperately celebrated being with each other, it’s all we could do… packed inside my studio just thankful to be together. Conversing, laughing, cooking, vegging out at vegan brunches, and geeking out with light saber fights. We’re a really cool family.
I remember saying that in the years of tragedy, and the most recent and greatest tragedy I’ve faced, I’d lost myself. My spunky, fabulous, whimsical self that did things on a whim and took chances and grabbed life by the horns. I remember saying, how is it possible that I’d still not left this country? If you knew me, you’d already assumed I’d travelled the globe. I moved across the country for college, to a state I’d never even been to before. *shrugs* I make friends easily with so many people from other countries, people who appreciate that I even take the time to say their name correctly (which normally happens on the first try anyway). So, the assumption is, I’m well-travelled. My twin replied to this heart to heart with, “You’ll never know until you look up tickets.” So, I did, and I found myself only looking up one place. Seoul. The plane ticket was unbelievably low, and I thought to myself, if it’s still that price at 12:01 AM on 1/1/16, I’ll buy it.
No rhyme, no reason, it was just on my heart, and I believe it was Source talking to me. I just believed in my heart, in my 2.5 second decision, that Seoul would have that magic I was desperately searching for. I had been interested back in college, about teaching there with my bestie, and then interested again because of my interest in the city as a non-European fashion hub but none of those thoughts were recent. Still, it’s the only place I thought to look up a ticket. And the price remained the same, so starting the new year, I bought a ticket to Seoul, and, my loves, it’s given me such life.
I could’ve gone to Japan, where I could still read the language at least (I studied it in high school), and been lusting over for over a decade. I could’ve gone to Paris or Milan or London, which would’ve been expected. I could’ve gone to the Caribbean where people look like me, and there’s warm weather and white sandy beaches to boot. But none of that came to me. Even my AirBnB was ridiculously cheap (#Blessed). I’m staying in Gangnam for $25/night. Cray.
Anyways, there was only Seoul, and I’ve been soul-searching ever since. It gave my wandering, dark life a light and a meaning. I had to start from zero. I learned how to read Hangul, and began learning how to speak the language. I studied every day. I started designing a mini collection so I could wear some original pieces. I started working out again (vacay bod on flex!). It gave my life purpose when it had been filled with nothing but despair. I’ve had so many people praying for me, loving on me and wishing me the best. I’ve had a surprising number tell me they don’t think I’m coming back! *giggles* We’ll see. There have already been soooo00000 many miracles and blessings. For now, I’ll keep posting my journey, talking to Source, and carrying my mom on this journey. #StayTuned. Follow me on Instagram: @FashionNeedsJesus for lots of exciting travel-worthy posts!
So, funny story, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written. Frankly, I’ve been soul searching and it’s been leading up to my big trip in Seoul, South Korea! After losing my mother last year, I knew I was in desperate need of some magic. There’s a ton more to share, but for now, know that I’ll be posting here some fabulous finds amidst my travels! To celebrate my trip, Ms. Jules Z. Alexandros shot and created this fabulous collage!
NYC behind me and Seoul in front of me. It speaks volumes, no?