Want to build a solid brand following? Give the people experiences to remember. Through each of its 13 stores in Korea, China, Hong Kong and the USA, Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster has established itself as force with a powerful momentum and a unique voice. Chaos, aromas, laundry, play acting, bathhouses, ‘frogism’ (frog + sadism), traps and post-apocalyptic conditions – it’s a mixed bag of themes but each of them have been explored in a Gentle Monster store through art-like installations and spaces.
The new Singapore store at ION continues the irregularity with the theme ‘Samsara’ – which means ‘cycle of life’ in Sanskrit. Gentle Monster’s in-house spatial designers Somi Shim and Wonho Moon took visual inspiration from film director Ron Fricke’s non-verbal documentary Samsara, which itself was a modern vision of Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi. The store concept borrows the notion of time lapse, among other things, from the films.
The designers reimagined the ‘cycle of life’ without any social or religious attachments. The idea was to mimic the evolution of human thought, and the notion of non-linear repetition – with reference to Nietzsche – was part of their conceptual thinking. It’s not your standard set of design references. And this is certainly not your standard retail space.
Various zones were created that hark back to the three-step philosophy from Nietzsche’s novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Each zone presents vividly different stories and objects that trace a progression from obedience to freedom.
In the ‘Camel’ zone, a handmade fabric sculpture with a kinetic hump sits beside a skein pulling strings that connect back to a wheel. The ‘Lion’ zone is a small tented area where a tall chair adorned by a conceptual lion’s tail is surrounded by canvases. No eyewear products are displayed in this space; rather it functions as a representation of the state of mind that occurs before enlightenment and after the ego is dispelled.
The third zone, titled ‘Judge’, contains an altar-like space and a set of figurines that symbolise self reflection. Following this, the ‘Mobius’ zone has a vividly coloured Mobius strip at its centre in addition to child-shaped dolls. Finally the ‘Backstage’ zone lands customers back in reality and leads them to the cash register and exit.
What does the journey have to do with eyewear, you may ask? The more apt question would probe what it has to do with Gentle Monster the brand. Plenty. See you there.