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  1. #1

    Default Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    Do any Basenoters have experience of shopping for fragrance in Korea? My partner and I are relocating to Seoul for a year in September. We have the hideous task of deciding which fragrances to take with us (my collection alone is 100+ bottles) as we have to keep our baggage to a minimum. I'm also a bit disturbed at the fact that I won't be able to get my hands on a variety of fragrances whilst I'm over there. I've heard that only the mainstream department store brands are available and brands such as Creed, Le Labo, Serge Lutens are non-existent. Eeeek!

    Can anyone here comment on their own experiences of fragrance shopping in Korea? (men+women's fragrance)
    Also are there any fragrances I should check out whilst I'm over there? Does Korea have any of their own fragrance gems that i should explore?

    Any personal recommendations/advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
    Last edited by konglishbeauty; 23rd August 2008 at 03:12 PM.

  2. #2

    Talking Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    I saw most of the bvlgari line there in a shop last june. Also most of YSL line. I do not remember seeing Creed or Luttens though. Perhaps there will be an online shop carrying those, because I've seen that almost anything can be bought online in korea. Have fun and enjoy this wonderful country! Sorry I can't be of more help.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    Well this does look like a question I should be answering

    Unfortunately, the fragrance market is disproportionately small, considering that people do have a lot of buying power there.

    Forget about finding niche products in Korea. You won't find any. Oh, yeah, some select department stores in Seoul have Creeds but at completely outrageous prices that I would not bother with. Hence I make most of my acquisitions when I'm in the US (which is 9 months of the year).

    Even with mainstream brands your choices are rather limited - some brands that are dirt cheap and line the shelves at every store in Britain or US just happen not to be available. Those that are there tend to lean towards recent releases, and stores tend to be thin on the more classic stuffs well-loved here on Basenotes. It means you won't ever see Antaeus or Kouros, and Egoiste very rarely. Men usually go for bland, aquatic chemical concoctions and women for sugary-fruity messes... I really wish they knew better. The most popular brands seem to be Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Issey Miyake, Chanel etc. Guerlain (especially men's) and YSL don't do so well, and never have I seen a Caron in Korea. I think it's also safe to say that women have a wider selection than men.

    I've heard that knock-offs do exist among online retailers and some local markets, so I think it's best stick to department stores and reputable cosmetics chains to be safe, should you wish to purchase anything while in Korea. But you're really caught between a rock and a hard place - regular retail prices at those stores are significantly higher than in Europe or North America, but outside of them you risk unwittingly buying fakes. Also the SAs usually are petulant despite knowing next to nothing, but if you talk to them in English very fast, they'll get scared and leave you alone. There's a chain called Todacosa, which is like the Sephora of Korea, and you can sample at your own pace. They have a branch in Sinchon and another near Gangnam metro station (both in Seoul), as well as several others.

    A few Korean cosmetic companies have begun producing their own fragrances, but frankly they have neither the expertise nor the financial resources, so it's unrealistic to expect of them anything to write home about. They're really just targeting the younger crowds who don't have enough money in their pocket to buy foreign brands (which are far more widely used).

    Hope this helped - and have a great time in Korea!
    Last edited by heythatslife; 23rd August 2008 at 05:50 PM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    The Korean cosmetic company called "Skin Food" has a small line of fragrance. I've never tried it though but just give you more info.
    Current Top 5

    1. Creed Aventus
    2. A*Men Pure Malt
    3. L'instant Extreme
    4. Nasomatto Duro
    5. CDG - Kyoto
    Currently wearing: Desire Silver by Dunhill

  5. #5

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    heythatslife: thanks very much, your advice is really helpful and a great overview! It is as I'd heard / feared: I'm going to have to haul my niche and HTF scents with me. I'll try and make sure to squeeze as much I can with me and maybe leave a few bottle here and there with friends and family who are coming out to visit us to bring along. We do intend to make a trip to Tokyo at least once whilst we're over there and I know that they're better stocked for brands there so I shall make sure to save up for then.

    I was mainly hoping that there were some great native scents to discover in Korea but sounds like it's not likely I know that the parent company behind Lolita Lempica are Korean but I think the creative and juice development are from France so it's probably an exception rather than a rule.

    I know I can great clothes and other luxuries in Korea but a fragrance dupe just isn't the same. I've been warned by my Korean friends that sillage monsters and powerful scents are disliked in Korean society so I guess I can leave anything like Fracas or Opium behind!

    Thanks for the advice about internet shopping too: I've just checked and some of the bigger US discounters such as fragrancenet seem to delivery worldwide so I might end up relying on them for the mainstream scents.

    Thanks for all your help!

  6. #6
    Echo777's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    Manhattan, KS

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    I have just moved to Korea and there is precious little in the way of niche. Your best bet is to get stuff shipped over via Luckyscent or Barneys or LusciousCargo or whatever (for niche)...parfum1 and others if you need designer stuff.

    What I did was look thru the wardrobe (100+ !!) and decant into 10ml bottles which I then packed in my bags with a couple bottles.

    Your best bets are Lotte Departmartment stores and Duty Free shops. Here you find real designer stuff, but nothing you wouldn't find in US department stores. The prices are about the same.

    Failing that your friends and family can send stuff over. Also, Japan has good stuff and is pretty close.

    A year should be pretty easy with a dozen decants or more, but I understand needing the variety!

    Korea has a few online places here. Just designers stuff, though.

    The local brew tend to be poor imitations of bad designer stuff. The Face Shop and Beauty Credit among a half dozen others have watery scents that aren't much cheaper than their designer counterparts.

  7. #7
    Echo777's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    Manhattan, KS

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    I found a website that has Creed, Bond No. 9 and some others like Robert Piguet and L'Artisan.

    I haven't ordered anything yet, but it seems pretty legit.
    They also sell on which is a good place to check out.
    Also, has a few things. They sell designer decants. I went to and didn't find as much, though. has some stuff, but mostly designer. It's the Ebay of Korea.
    "Flagrantly fragrant and they can't escape me. My perfume pursued them everywhere that they went.
    You don't want a loan, leave my cologne alone. It's a little too strong for you to be putting on".
    - Lupe Fiasco

  8. #8

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    I lived there for four years after college. Just be careful while there, as most South Koreans are not accustomed to fragrances (at least not strong ones) on men or women. While frags are commonly given as gifts (primarily to women there), well, seldom are they actually worn. (They mostly sit as luxury items, unused on shelves in many homes.)

    If you do wear frags, try to choose discreet, "tailored" frags which don't easily offend or "stick out" too much.
    Light fragrances (think Eau Sauvage, Eau de New York, R de Capucci, Moustache, Crave etc.) will likely be your best choices.
    Last edited by tvlampboy; 26th October 2008 at 04:14 PM.

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  9. #9

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    Quote Originally Posted by Echo777 View Post
    I found a website that has Creed, Bond No. 9 and some others like Robert Piguet and L'Artisan.
    They are selling Brut $100 a bottle. I must admit that I am fairly amused.

  10. #10
    Echo777's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    Manhattan, KS

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    After some additional exploration I have determined the best route is to hit the Shinsaegae in Gangnam, a neighborhood in Seoul. They have a Creed counter and a Diptyque counter across from the Hermes boutique. They sell L'Artisan, but only the candles and no EDTs. The prices are pretty high though. I picked up Acqua Di Parma at a reasonable rate and some Vetiver Tonka inside the Hermes store nearby.

    If you want mainstream stuff, try Artitaum or Beautyplex. They sell a limited selection of overpriced Bulgari, Vivienne Westwood, Aigner and Burberry.

    Local stores tend to have better choices (read: mom and pop places) of discontinued products at cheap prices. I've gotten to know a store real well and ended up with mega-discounts every time. I just bought my second bottle of Havana Reserve (50ml) for $30 USD this weekend. It feels good to drop a hundred bucks and get 3 bottles (50ml) of frags I can never find.

    If you must shop in Korea for scents, do it online or just go to Japan. It's a cavalcade of cheap and ubiquitous scents of all designers. The Creed is obscenely expensive at the Daimaru or Mitsukoshi department stores. Like tripled. Etro was discontinued from the Daimaru in Japan, but with prices double that in the US, whaddya expect?
    "Flagrantly fragrant and they can't escape me. My perfume pursued them everywhere that they went.
    You don't want a loan, leave my cologne alone. It's a little too strong for you to be putting on".
    - Lupe Fiasco

  11. #11

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    Echo777: thanks so much for your help and research. I've been here for over a year now and have dropped off the basenotes scene for a while as there haven't been many perfume-heads to interact with. In the end I bought over a selection of 30 fragrances (mostly decants!) and have slowly been growing through them. I did have a huge wardrobe in the UK so it's been interesting limiting myself to a smaller selection whilst in Korea. My must have were my Serge Lutens and Annick Goutals and I thank the heavens above that I didn't shy away from bringing things over. Whilst it is true that Koreans don't enjoy stronger scents as much as they do in the UK, I've not had any negative reactions to any of my fragrances only interest and enthusiasm when people have caught my sillage. Narcisso Rodriguez for her EdT and Hermessences Vanilla Tonka have been my most complimented scents when wearing.

    The only fragrances I've bought whilst I've been here are Diptyque's Philosykos (a re-purchase) which has been fantastic in the humid head (it blooms like it never did in the UK) and a citrus neroli scent "Tangerine Dream" from Innisfree, a Korean brand. It's the only one of the Korean branded scents I've tried which is even vaguely pleasant which is why I bought it but it's pretty linear and dull.

    I'm actually heading back to the UK in a few months time and I've already got a wishlist a mile long of scents I want to sample and buy. I've missed having access to niche! It's time to get back into gear for my die-hard fragrance habit.

  12. #12
    New Member MizM's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    South Korea

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?

    I have been living in South Korea for a year now. I have spent a lot of time trying to find fragrance gems, and here's what I've learned:
    Koreans just aren't that into fragrance, and they generally are much more interested in having a designer-name brand of something than any niche thing. They do favor very light floral fragrances and overly-sweet fruity things, so that is what the stores carry. Men's stuff is very blah. I have been surprised by how little variety in inventory there is between stores. Most department-store SAs are of no help at all, but if you're looking for something specific, writing out the name of what want will work better than trying to tell them.
    My best find has been Shiseido's Zen White Heat. It was released in Jan 2011 only in Asian markets. I don't care for Zen nor the other flankers, but this one is really compelling. Starts off very sharp, cool, and masculine, but soon veers into this cool-but-spicy thing, then warms right up to be so autumnal and deep/cozy/hot and feminine enough for my taste. It's coming home with me!
    Some department stores have Chantecaille and Sisley, and they all have Guerlain, Chanel, Dior, Bvlgari, Estee Lauder, Lolita Lempicka, Lancome, Calvin Klein, Clinique, and DKNY. Be warned that even for these, the offerings skew toward the most light/sweet/inoffensive scents from those makers, with nothing edgy in the mix.
    Yes, Shinsegae department store in the Gangnam area of Seoul has Diptyque and some Serge Lutens on the ground level; Acqua di Parma and Creed one level up in the Luxury Goods dept.
    I did find a small fragrance boutique directly across the street from the entrance of the Leeum Museum in Seoul (Itaewon area) that carries Penhaligon's. I think the boutique was called "Bleu", "Blue", or "Bleue". Five minutes' walk from there is a Comme des Garcons flagship store. Their fragrance display area is shoved into three little cubby-hole shelves in the men's department, and the salespeople couldn't even find a paper strip to spray for me. They looked at me like I was an alien when I asked about samples.
    I have seen some Demeter fragrances at stores that cater to young people, but never more than 12 different scents. There is a Hermes boutique in every major city in South Korea, and each seems to carry all or many of the fragrances Hermes makes. (They're generous with samples, too.)
    The huge upside I have found to living here has been being able to buy minis, which I never saw back home in the US. You'll never find a mini of a recent release, but I've been able to pick up all sorts of quality perfumes in cute 5-10ml sizes for $8-30. The place for these is the mom-and-pop stores Echo777 was talking about. They're also the most fun to shop at because you never know what you'll find, and they're usually staffed by young people who aren't trying to pressure you to buy anything. I came across a couple of Annick Goutals in one, and Violetta di Parma, which I'd always wanted to smell.
    The only time I've had a problem with fake fragrance here was when I bought some cheap decants from Even the good decants I got that way were not worth the trouble of that clunky website. Having decants shipped from the US has been the best way to go. BTW, many mainstream frags are available here in a 30ml size, which you can't get in the US.
    Actually, the hardest thing to find here has been a fragrance-shopping buddy!

  13. #13

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Washington, DC

    Default Re: Perfume shopping and fragrance in South Korea?


    I was in Seoul for a week this summer. I noticed the small beauty center in front of the Leeum. Really nice architecture! They have a couple more brands in addition to Penhaligon, I think Carthusia or the like. And I totally agree about CDG. The architecture is gorgeous, modern white, on 5 floors, but the SAs are most annoying. Most of the perfumes, you couldn't even spray! I wanted to take a pic of the store, but they didn't let me. Perhaps Koreans, whose courtesy is otherwise impeccable, are fine at being treated badly in fancy stores.

    For smelling, there's a full Santa Maria Novella store in the basement of the Shilla hotel (though for me it's cheaper to buy in Italy), and a Hermes store (Hermessences) in the lobby.

    Finally, I was very pleasantly surprised by a little gem, Minime ms hot stick - a harajuku knock-off that nonetheless smells perfectly fine for the price. I started a thread about it:


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