A women's ice hockey team from North Korea crosses into South Korea via the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, just south of the inter-Korean border, on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yonhap News Agency.
SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Two weeks ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, rush hour in Seoul is a sea of black and white.
From schoolchildren flocked around the bus stop to those in their 40s and 50s commuting to work, many South Koreans are sporting the Pyeongchang-inspired "long-padding coat" amid the freezing cold snap.
"I got mine this winter because it was trendy. Everyone's got one these days -- even the celebrities. I would say two-thirds of my classmates have a long-padding coat," Lee Ga-yeon, a 17-year-old student in Seoul told UPI.
"It was very cold this winter and this coat almost goes down to my ankles so it keeps me warm and it's stylish. It's become a big trend because of the Olympics I think. You can find the style on pretty much any shopping app," Lee Sae-hee, a 35-year-old office worker in Seoul.
The so-called long-padding coats have become a winter wardrobe essential this season, inspired by limited edition coats released as official merchandise of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Available in black, grey and white, the coats hit online and offline stores on Oct. 26, and 150,000 pieces were snapped up within a fortnight, after celebrity endorsements and social media posts turned the coat into a must-have fashion item.
"We tried to keep the coats as simple and minimalistic -- without overbearing logos or designs so that they would appeal to a mass and can be worn before and after the Olympics. So we simply printed the Pyeongchang slogan, Passion.Connected.' on the back," Kim So-hyun, Licensing Manager of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, told UPI.
Shops restocked the coats on Nov. 16 but they were all sold out by the end of the day, with shoppers forming queues that stretched hundreds of meters outside a department store in central Seoul.
"I was lucky to get this coat. A lot of people ask me how I managed to get one," Yoon Sae-ra, a 25-year-old student told UPI.
"I liked the simple design and it's a bargain considering the quality. But more than that, it's special because it's a keepsake of the Olympics in our country," she said.
When all 300,000 coats were sold, demand for resales drove up prices to almost double the original level.
Meanwhile, clothing brands in the country have rushed in to fill the market. Top Ten, a high-street brand which produced the original Pyeongchang coat, said its own-brand products of a similar design have been flying off the shelves.
"We were bombarded with phone calls on whether the Pyeongchang coats were available. Top Ten's own down-padded jackets saw sales surge 30 percent over the first two to three days," said Hwang Sun-hee, Director of Marketing at Top Ten.
The official coats won't be restocked but the range of Pyeongchang merchandise has expanded to sneakers, and other winter products like gloves and blankets.
The sneakers have already seen a flurry of demand, with more than 20,000 pairs sold on pre-order.
Pyeongchang Olympics merchandise stores can be found in Incheon and Gimpo Airports, and Seoul Station as well as Lotte Department Stores and other outlets in Seoul and Gangwon Province.