The most recent Snapshots installment gave us a peek inside Yeonnam-dong's Neon Moon. Shortly after opening in 2014, the delightful vintage toy and trinket shop has quickly attracted high profile attention. It was most recently spotlighted in W Korea and received a personal visit from Lazy Oaf's Gemma Shiel. In this special interview, conducted by MUTZINE's chief editor, Neon Moon's creator Lee Soso opens up about her 'Kidult' romance with Pipi Longstockings, how she accumulated the shop's nostalgic items, and her thoughts on Yeonnam-dong's gentrification.
Interview Gissella Ramirez-Valle, Interpretation Juyeon Lee, Photos Lee Soso & Maria Etienne
Hello! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Soso: I am Lee Soso and am in charge of the shop Neon Moon. I studied visual design and worked at the Korean street fashion magazine Cracker Your Wardrobe for 4 years as a graphic designer. I left the job in order to open Neon Moon in April 2014.
Can you tell us more about Neon Moon's unique concept?
Soso: Neon Moon is a retro/vintage shop. I introduce a fresh concept once every three or four months and the window display is rearranged. The current concept is "Pink Paradise." I design some items for sale that follow the concept too.
What kinds of things do you design yourself?
Soso: I designed some sweaters, shirts, pouches, and key chains. I also created the Neon Moon logo, business cards, neon signs, and stickers myself. My boyfriend is an interior designer and he constructed the interior of the shop.
Where do you source the vintage items in-stock?
Soso: I always thought about opening a retro/vintage shop someday, that's why over time I compiled old things that I liked. I've gathered items from the United States, Japan, and some other places. An acquaintance sends me stuff from Europe too. I try to go on business trips often because I'm sure I can find unexpected items anywhere!
What has been your biggest influence?
Soso: Pipi Longstocking left a big impression on me when I was young. Her personality, fashion sense, her house, and everything has inspired me. From then, I also started a romance with the mood of the USA during the 60's and 70's. I love Michel Gondry and Wes Anderson films. I would love to take a look inside what goes on in their heads!
Do you have a philosophy on growing up?
Soso: I don’t want to become a practical adult. Instead, I want to be an adult who always has a whimsical imagination full of wonder. I’d like to become a cute bobbed-hair grandmother that wears colorful dresses.
Please tell us more about Yeonnam-dong. Why is Neon Moon located there?
Soso: Up until I opened Neon Moon, Yeonnam-dong was really quiet with only old buildings and Hanoks around. My boyfriend opened his shop in Yeonnam-dong first when I still worked at Cracker Your Wardrobe. My boyfriend's shop, 40Home, is actually just 30 seconds away from Neon Moon. I was lucky to be able to find a vacancy so near to his shop.
Yeonnam-dong has received wide-spread media attention recently. It's become a very popular neighborhood, so most Hanoks have disappeared and many commercial buildings have been reconstructed in their place. It's really a shame.
It really is a shame! Development in Seoul happens in a blink of an eye. Now please tell me, what's Neon Moon's clientele like?
Soso: The clientele is varied. The store’s appearance attracts lots of teenagers of course, but there are also many visitors in their 20's and 30's. The toys tend to bring many old memories of the past. I think that older people visit us to meet old memories and young people visit us because of the novelty of the items. Neon Moon is quite unique so that celebrities even visit sometimes too!
The best part of being a shop owner is ...
Soso: I don’t have to mind my boss’s feelings? I’m joking. (laughs) I am able to decorate the walls with my my own stickers and posters. The shop can be painted whatever color I desire. It makes me happy to be able to fill a place with only the stuff I want!
And what is the most challenging?
Soso: There are some shops springing up nearby that are now selling similar things which means that I have to keep innovating to set myself apart. Even then, the shops continue to imitate me which is frustrating.
Finally, what is the greatest lesson that you have learned so far?
Soso: Being stuck in the present is like putting yourself in a box. I must always see and feel new things.
That's so inspiring! Thank you for allowing me to interview you.
Soso: It was a great experience for me too. Thank you!