“Open Closet,” a non-profit organization that lends out formal suits to young people
Koreans have a saying, “even a bagger needs a proper dress for having a guest.” Job seekers at some point wear a suit and have a profile photo taken. With excitement and expectation, a little bit of anxiety comes in. You smile bashfully when you see yourself waiting for a photo shot under flashy lighting. At the exact moment when you started to talk to yourself, “Shucks, I should’ve touched up my makeup……,” the camera flashes go off.
And here’s your first, awkward profile photo for your CV.
Open Closet, a service for the youth
“Open Closet” is a non-profit organization that supports young people entering into society. Founded in 2011, Open Closet lends formal suits to young residents in Seoul. Their list of available rental items is endless: jackets, blouses, suit skirts, suit trousers, shoes, etc. For males, ties, belts, plain-toe shoes, moccasin, you name it.
How to use? It’s simple – create an account at the Seoul Job Plus Center website, book online, and it’s done. You can also visit their offline shop to try out and pick up an item. The offline shop is located near Exit no. 1 of the Konkuk University Station.
You can rent an item for up to 4 days. For extension or overdue, there’s 20% late fee. Young residents in Seoul can use their service for free up to twice a year.
Open Closet dreams of a world where people get closer to each other by sharing their clothes as well as their stories. Especially for those young job seekers who are under heavy stress during their job search, Open Closet is a helpful service to feel less pressure to get a proper suit for job interviews.
LEE, Seong-il, a manager at Open Closet, says, “Our ultimate goal is to make a world no one feels left out or denied opportunities simply because of what they are wearing. Under the slogan of “everyone deserves to be cool,” managers and volunteers have teamed up to keep Open Closet running, which represents hopes for the youth.
Creating warm bonds through pocket letters
Manager Lee shared a memorable episode. Two years ago, their team visited the National Rehabilitation Center to run “Remind Wedding” project for patients with reduced mobility. They prepared not only wedding outfits but also bouquet and party wear to realize the dream of “Remind Wedding” for the patients. Lee recalls that “It was heart-warming to see a dressed-up husband who has difficulty moving around admiring himself in the mirror and then saying he wanted to walk again.”
And there are many more moving episodes shared through “Pocket Letter” project, a simple message such as “Lots of nice things happened in my life thanks to your suits, brother!,” as an example. Open Closet runs this “Pocket Letter” project to create bonds between donors and lenders by giving them a chance to thank each other. More than 17,000 letters have been exchanged so far. This shows how Open Closet contributes to making a warm-hearted society rather than just renting out clothes.
70 to 80 users a day; clothes available by size
About 70 to 80 people use Open Closet a day, which is about 2,500 a month. Half of them are for employment activities and job interviews while the other half are for weddings or photo shoots. JEONG, So-yeong, 21-year-old college student, visited Open Closet to find a formal dress for a job interview at a hotel kitchen. She said she liked the dress because it looked neat and tidy and she was satisfied with the perfect fit since she could borrow a dress based on her measurements. I tried out some of the formal suits when I visited Open Closet to write this article, and they fit quite well even compared to products you can get from the market. You can find body sizes, code numbers of each item, and shoe sizes next to the fitting room to find items that work you.
A user is trying a suit (on the left); a fitting room (on the right)
Check in at the front and go to the waiting room to see your name and an available fitting room number show up on the screen. And then a staffer escorts you to a fitting room and help you get clothes in your size. You put on the clothes and wear a tie, belt or any other accessory if you want. When you are done, go back to the waiting room to wait to see your name displayed on the screen and you pay 20,000 to 30,000 won as a rental fee. All of this takes about 30 minutes or so. Besides, you can wear the suit you just rented and go to the “Open Photo Studio” to have a profile photo taken for 5,000 won.
Open Closet opens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday except Sunday and national holidays. Online booking is required.
According to the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate for people aged 15-29 stands at 9.2 percent in Korea. In the harsh job market conditions where 1 out of 10 young people are left unemployed, we expect Open Closet can be a useful stepping stone for young people.