RG Insights: Gentle Monster
Futuristic and often difficult to define, Gentle Monster undoubtedly altered the way eyewear and retail can be experienced. Founded by Hankook Kim in 2011, GENTLE MONSTER (젠틀몬스터) is a South Korean eye and sunglass label specializing in experimental frames for all faces. With most eyewear brands following tried and true formulas, Gentle Monster’s high-effort approach not only diversifies the label from its eyewear contemporaries, but also from most luxury labels operating on the market.
Before the launch of GENTLE MONSTER, founder Hangkook Kim was running Camp Korea, an English learning camp in Seoul. At the job he met Jae W Oh, a partner in Camp Korea with investment ties who convinced him to flesh out an idea for a new eyewear company; an early skeleton that would be later developed into GENTLE MONSTER. Kim noticed that most eyewear labels adhered closely to the brand formula Warby Parker had initiated, which was based on accessible frames often sold in pairs. However, Warby Parker mainly sold frame shapes and sizes fit for “Western faces,” and Kim saw an opportunity to introduce a new model centered around oversized frames, which made faces look smaller. This flattering look accommodated a diverse array of face shapes and sizes which would inspire GENTLE MONSTER’s first collection.
After purchasing a Korean factory with a history in metal frame construction and a factory in China specializing in crafting acetate frames, GENTLE MONSTER was born. The first collection introduced the label’s striking aesthetic: cutting-edge frames offered in a variety of modern shapes, each made at a luxury standard.
GENTLE MONSTER’s popularity follows the success of these diverse collections, but ultimately exploded through its stunning foray into immersive brick-and-mortar experiences. The label employs a team of 60 designers who develop store visuals, with a focus on futuristic storytelling through a lens of imagined technocratic societies, often presented with a cyberpunk veneer. Animatronics, robots and towering screens point to worlds bursting with imagination, each close enough to our current reality that they seem just over the horizon.
Its worldwide expansion in over 30 countries with 450 select shops includes these imaginative concept flagships in Korea, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the United Kingdom among others. GENTLE MONSTER’s SOHO flagship in New York, named “The Visitor” allows its customers to experience “a future where the earth and moon drift apart.” The store is decorated with artificial fauna, distorted rocky landscapes, and warped backgrounds dotted with an array of multicolor yarn bundles.
A flagship location in Seoul Sinsa named “Time – Sleep” follows a story “where sleep is used to slip through time.” A visceral experience of dream travel, the store is filled with surrealist imagery and sculptures: suspended from the ceiling is a harnessed Dali-esque elephant cast in plaster, slowly rotating among pillars, an enormous pine tree spinning on its side with the help of robotics is displayed in the front windows and a human figure spliced into sections with dark graphite digital clocks signals passing time. The exhibition-like experience of walking into a GENTLE MONSTER flagship store was something Hankook Kim wanted from the get-go — a testament to innovation rarely seen in eyewear shops, and in most shops for that matter. Kim shows no signs of slowing down:
“Gentle Monster started out as an optical company, but the goal is to make it a creatively disruptive corporation,” Kim says. “Brand really is the genuine tool.”
GENTLE MONSTER continues to host a wide variety of brand, actor and artist collaborations, with past collections made in partnership with Marine Serre, Diplo, Ambush, Tilda Swinton, and Henrik Vibskov among others. Look forward to the release of more innovative styles from the label as we approach warmer seasons. The latest collection from GENTLE MONSTER SS21 is available in-store and online now.
The latest collection from GENTLE MONSTER SS21 is available in-store and online now at Roden Gray.
Source links: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gentle-monster/