Sun 26th July

ELEVEN Things to Know About Gentle Monster

Text   Dino Bonacic

From an experimental niche to a global label synonymous with innovation – consider this your ultimate guide to the cult of the Korean eyewear brand.

While we know it today as the ultimate collaboration brand with a truly unique approach to retail, Gentle Monster was actually born with a straightforward mission – selling oversized sunglasses primarily focused on the Asian market. Since its inception, the label has extended into numerous directions (including surreal desserts in the shape of your favourite accessories) and has proven to be equal parts a booming fashion business and a creative hub pushing technology to its limits. With so many nooks and crannies powering Gentle Monster into its second decade, we’re here to break down every fact you oughta know before calling yourself a superfan.

1. Gentle Monster was founded in Seoul, South Korea in 2011 by Hankook Kim – an academic with no previous fashion experience but a great idea of filling the gap in the Asian market for taking the oversized eyewear trend to the next level.

2. After a couple of years of finding its visual language and dropping singular products, their first full collection of eyewear was released in 2013 with the hero silhouette being DIDI-O – a bold acetate frame with a rounded square shaped which later inspired the shape of their brand’s signature FLATBA line. FLATBA frames continue to be some of their best-sellers thanks to the unique technique of lenses being mounted on top of the frame instead of the traditional fitting inside the frame.

Gentle Monster's First Signature Frames – DIDI-O

3. Since its birth, the brand mission has evolved from innovation in silhouette and shapes into providing the customers with experimental spatial design and immersive experiences as Gentle Monster defies the hallmarks of an eyewear brand. Their first expansion into this realm was established in 2014 when they launched the Quantum Project – a series of 36 spatial installations, redesigned every 25 days through collaborations with artists and brands, spanning over 29 months. The ethos today is all about providing every person with a pair of glasses that will allow them to embody the duality of being.

4. And when they say every person – they truly mean it. You can shop Gentle Monster’s shades in any of their 19 global flagship stores with locations including London, Dubai, New York, L.A., Singapore, China as well as the OG shop in the Hongdae region of Seoul. In addition to their own wonderland physical spaces, the sunnies are stocked with 210 stores and – of course – their e-tail platform that digitally reflects the store-as-an-art-gallery approach to shopping.

5. But while you might be able to buy your favourite pair of frames in each of those stores, the shopping experience will be totally different depending on where you go. Each store follows a unique storyline and theme that changes regularly – for example, the current set-up in Gentle Monster’s London flagship on Argyle Street is titled ‘KUNG FU’ and features a tribe of extraterrestrial robots in actions such as training martial arts next to a ‘waterfall’. It’s a Pixar film in the making!

Around the World with Gentle Monster's Experiential Retail

6. It takes a village to make these villages, of course. Gentle Monster has head offices in UK, US, UAE, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, while their main HQ is settled in a specially commissioned building in Seoul which resembles one of those places Leonardo DiCaprio runs through in Inception. In case you aren’t one of the 400 people that works there, you can explore its fascinating architecture via Google Maps.

7. A story about Gentle Monster is also a story about the first global wave of collaborations. From Xander Zhou, Ambush and Fendi to Hood by Air, Alexander Wang and Tilda Swinton – the list of brands and creatives who the label teamed up with on eyewear designs goes on and on… But who was the first? In 2015, Gentle Monster worked with Hong Kong-based label Ground Zero, run by Eric and Philip Chu. Their partnership resulted in two sci-fi frames that looked like something out of a Stanley Kubrick film.

Best of Gentle Monster's Collabs

8. A big factor in Gentle Monster’s growth (luxury conglomerate LVMH invested $60 million into the company in 2017) can also be attributed to its popularity with pop stars from all over the world – including the likes of Billie Eilish, Beyoncé and Rihanna – all of which have a dedicated fandom that guarantee a sold-out label slapped across the product. In addition to popping up on just about every street style blog out there, the brand has recently worked with both K-pop superstar Jennie of BLACKPINK and singer-cum-actor Kris Wu on designing collections that embody their personal styles.

9. Proving that their tricks are (also) for kids, Gentle Monster launched their debut children’s collection in 2019. Sizing down six of their most popular, genderless designs – Chapssal, Newturtle, Peggy, Ribbon, Jackbye and Eastmoon – they extended the reach of their dreamy world to the next generation without compromising on any of its style. The face of the collection was everyone’s favourite Instakid, Miss Coco Pink Princess herself.

10. Unlike a lot of eyewear brands that try to follow the vigorous tempo of fashion seasons, the team at Gentle Monster works at a pace of its own with one main collection released annually. Individual drops come out every other month, with collabs sprinkled throughout. Each of the collections is accompanied with visual campaigns that set the tone for the year and are created through the eye of an artist and/or photographer that is part of the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. The list includes Hugo Comte, Daniel Sannwald, Jonas Lindstroem, and London-based artist Matthew Stone, who was responsible for the latest campaign…

11. …which is titled MY MARS and is inspired by the important notion of paying attention to one’s inner self and laying bare the truthful self. These deep and complex ideas result in equally thought-provoking artwork which reimagines Stone’s signature techniques of combining CGI 3-D imagery with traditional brushstrokes into a rhapsody of colour and texture. Thanks to Stone and Gentle Monster, we now know there truly is life on Mars – and it’s just as fun as you imagined.

@gentlemonster

'MY MARS' by Matthew Stone for Gentle Monster