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Bags & Shoes Celebrities Loved – Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, South Korea

31 Dec — 25 Mar 2023

Historic celebrity shoes and bags on display at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts

A red version of American basketball icon Michael Jordan’s “Last Dance” jersey — worn during the 1998 NBA Finals — was reported to have been sold for a record $10.1 million last year at a Sotheby’s auction.

Eland, one of Korea’s largest apparel retailers, owns the original white one. The company says that it bought the piece back in 2015, and while it did not disclose how much it paid for the jersey, there’s little doubt that it’s worth any less than its red counterpart.

It’s part of the brand’s extensive collection of over 500,000 celebrity garments and is now on view at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Jongno District, central Seoul.

Eland and the arts center partnered up to hold a curated exhibition of 200 pieces in Eland’s collection, ranging from those worn by classic Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor to pop legends like Michael Jackson.

The retailer’s roots lie in fashion, though over the years it has branched out to other businesses like restaurants and hotels.

According to Eland, the company started buying these notable clothing articles around 30 years ago, usually from auctions, because it plans to open a museum in the near future for the entire collection.

As for now, the pieces are being stored in Eland’s headquarters in Geumcheon District, western Seoul. Most of the pieces in the exhibition this time are being shown to the public for the first time.

The exhibit, the title of which translates to “Bags & Shoes Celebrities Loved,” centers on the two categories as they “go beyond being simply fashion items; they are a means by which celebrities can aesthetically express themselves,” curator You Bo-eun told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Monday.

“They can also tell a lot about the sociocultural situation for when each celebrity wore each item.”

Some examples of the attention-grabbing memorabilia on view are Jordan’s aforementioned game-worn Chicago Bulls jersey and his Air Jordan 13 sneakers.

Another portion of the exhibition is dedicated to the renowned singer Michael Jackson, showcasing his black sequin jacket from a 1983 performance of the Billboard-topping single “Billie Jean” and a pair of black loafers he wore while performing his signature move, the moonwalk.

The bags on display tell stories from the past. Taylor’s Fendi and Chanel purses elicit nostalgia from the luxury fashion brands’ vintage pieces, while others portray the celebrities’ signature style — for instance, English comic actor Charlie Chaplin’s luggage bags are stenciled with his initials “C.C.”

The bags include road cases used by rock bands like Pink Floyd when on tour from 1987 and the American R&B singer Ray Charles.

Other bags are direct symbols of the figure, like that of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which became so famous to the point of becoming a verb of its own: “to handbag,” which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “to treat a person ruthlessly or insensitively.”

Her handbags represented her political presence; they were even described as “weapons” by people who had served in Thatcher’s government.

“They say that whenever she received questions or was treated in a way that made her feel uneasy, she would slam her purse shut,” curator You said. “Or other times during meetings, even if she was absent, the meetings would still go on as long as her purse was sitting on top of the table.”

The last section of the exhibit, appropriately titled “The Last,” is an array of celebrities’ lasts, which are wooden forms shaped like a human foot. Dubbed “the heart of shoes,” they are tailored to each person’s foot and become the blueprint for the shoe’s design.

Visitors can get a glimpse into celebrities’ shoes, including those of Madonna, Frank Sinatra and Renee Zellweger.

“Bags & Shoes Celebrities Loved” will continue until March 25. The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are 15,000 won ($12) for adults.

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