Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, seatbelts on, you are about to experience the most surprising, unique and disorienting retail in the world, Gentle Monster.
The South Korean brand has created an unprecedent retail concept in the realm of luxury and fashion: its stores are non-stores where products are hidden and where instead of a retail environment you will find surprising contemporary art installations narrating the Brand story with an experimental, immersive and artistic experience. Entering a Gentle Monster Store is like entering an imaginary world surrounded by art installations with clear Steam Punk inspirations.
For instance, at the flagship store in Garosugil, Seoul at the time of our visit we were welcomed by an installation with dozens of crow drawings hanging from the ceiling and recorded crow noises. In the above floors we respectively found: the spaceship of the Gentle Monster who in the Brand’s storytelling is a kind alien landed on our planet, his food supplies for the intergalactic trip (mostly capsules with insects) and various and somehow less comprehensible installations.
In the Hong Kong flagship the shop was divided in various ambiences: the Monster’s personal bathroom, his living room and a display of his artisanal yet ingenuous weapons.
In Shanghai a mechanical horse being built by robots welcomed us as we walked in, then at the upper floors more spaceships and few portable green houses for the Monster to colonize his destination planets.
The history of the Brand is a true lesson and almost a legend in design manuals. When Hankook Kim launched Gentle Monster in 2011, it focused on functional sunglasses, with no success. At some stage he was given the advice to invest more on design and he took the advice at face value doubling down on it, pushing the boundaries beyond imagination on both sunglasses (creating the trend of oversized shades compared to smaller Asian faces), and staging the surprising and artsy installation in its stores.
Indeed, what really makes Gentle Monster unique in the global retail landscape, is not only its quirky and disorienting aesthetics, but the fact that each of the 41 stores in the world is unique and completely different from the others, transforming them into a living contemporary art installation.
But maybe, more than describing it, it is worth browsing below between some of their most surprising installations, some of which are renovated and rotated every 25 days.
By the way, Gentle Monster stores sell sunglasses.
Retail is dead, Long live Retail