This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
This past weekend I experienced my first international gig performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jeju Swing Camp in South Korea. In spite of a typhoon imposing itself upon the event, the organizers and dancers persevered and an incredible time was had by all and the sun came out for the last day of the event so that we could have an epic beach party with four bands and dancing on the sand. Following the event, several of the musicians would spend part of a day in Seoul waiting for our flights to various locations – my number one request was that I be able to visit Chloe Hong’s shop, FROMChloeHong.
Over lunch with MG Chris Jung and Scully Heejin Kim, Scully made arrangements with Chloe for me to come by the shop. I found out later that Chloe’s shop is by appointment only and that I was able to get in, perhaps, even before people who live in Seoul could get an appointment! Scully is my new hero, clearly. ❤
I traveled with reed man Keenan McKenzie on all the legs of this journey and he joined me at Chloe’s shop, with a mission to obtain one of Chloe’s legendary trumpet skirts for his wife, swing DJ and dancer Allison Meeks. Scully arranged for a cab to take us to Chloe’s shop and we ended up walking into some sort of laundry facility by accident and probably amusing several Korean women with our confusion and language barrier. Around the corner and up a short flight of stairs we found the shop.
Upon Keenan’s recommendation, the soundtrack to my entrance into Chloe’s shop is Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination,” feel free to cue that up for the rest of this post. Keenan also snapped the photo of me going into the shop, a pleasant surprise!
I often muse about Chloe’s excellent taste – you only get a glimpse of it at the events in the US, with a sampling of the shoes, ready to wear women’s clothing, and custom menswear pieces. Stepping into her shop was personal, an affirmation of her love of vintage style and decor, quality garments and fabrics, personalized goods, and Lindy Hop. Ella Fitzgerald’s dulcet tones greeted me as I walked through the custom painted gold door. The shop was on the smaller side, yet spacious feeling, furnished with early to mid-20th century furniture, vintage haberdashery items, and artwork, including various vintage-inspired Lindy Hop event posters. The chevron stripe wood floor gleamed. A teddy bear sporting one of the reproduction Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers jackets sent me over the edge. Bolts of beautiful fabrics, racks of sample menswear garments with exquisite details, rows of sample shoes to try on, a rack of Chloe’s staple women’s items, and vintage and vintage-inspired accessories completed the offerings in Chloe’s shop. I would also characterize the space a hybrid shop and studio – there was a room to the side I could see through glass that was clearly a sewing workroom. Most of the space functions as a custom menswear studio, where one would come in to be fitted for garments, view and try on sample garments and fabrics, select various cuffs and collars on display that could also be tried on, and once an ensemble was completed or conceived, select carefully curated accessories – vintage ties, Trafalgar braces, vintage cufflinks, tie cips, tie bars, caps, etc. – to complete the look.
The front portion of the shop was dedicated to Chloe’s dance shoe line, both women’s and men’s shoes. The shoes samples could be purchased if the color and size you needed were in the sample stock, but otherwise the shoes were made to order. I purchased my first pair of Chloe’s dance shoes last year at ILHC and they have become my favorite dance shoe, so I made plans to purchase two more pairs in colors I wear most often for dancing. A few weeks ago I had come to the realization that my 1930’s gold shoes were more of a deeper, bolder gold than most modern gold shoes and, of course, Chloe had the perfect leather sample to make just such a shoe so I can now have a dedicated pair for dancing. Does one have a conversation about 1930’s gold leather characteristics with just anyone? My heart sings for Chloe…
Back to our mission, we located a trumpet skirt for Allison – I imagine Chloe’s skirts are in such demand, as there was a limited selection, so don’t feel slighted if you’ve tried to order online only to find out she is out of stock. Everyone wants this skirt! There will be more coming soon, I understand, as well as some lovely trousers that look like they will lay perfectly, move well, and be as durable as the trumpet skirts.
It must be impossible to go into Chloe’s shop and NOT order menswear, so Keenan decided it would be a good idea to order a couple of dress shirts and to get measured in case another purchase may be viable in the future. It was such fun picking out fabrics from the lovely samples, selecting collars, cuffs, embroidery, and details for the shirts. Chloe was a wonderful collaborator, discussing options, allowing for opinions, and making suggestions. The turnaround was predicted to be fast for custom garments, about 3 weeks for the shirts.
While Chloe was working with Keenan, I essentially floated around her shop, absorbing all of her good taste and beautiful things, giving me life and energy and joy. I spotted a cap hanging on the wall I had been seeking for years – black and white tweed with a rainbow fleck. Into the bag it went!
As I finish this post, I realize that Chloe has been on my radar since 2013 and I have known her since shortly after that, seeing her at least annually at dance events in the US. It was thrilling to be able to visit her on her home turf, to visit the bustling city of Seoul that she calls home, and to glimpse into her daily life at her shop/studio. If you find yourself in Seoul, I would highly recommend setting up an appointment and making your way to her shop – it felt like a home away from home.