Last night I happened to check out Gentle Monster’s Shanghai store, and wow, what a treat. Yes it’s a store, but it’s a store that behaves more like an art museum.
If (like me) you’re a noob to K-pop and fashion and haven’t heard of Gentle Monster before, they are a hipper-than-hip eyewear brand from Korea that has been making waves under the creative direction of Hankook Kim.
Every store is unique and hugely ambitious. A train station in Hong Kong, an aquarium in New York, a “rotating installation” that transforms every 25 days in its home city of Seoul, and now in Shanghai an artisan’s workshop, playing homage to Shanghai’s past as a place where masters of all crafts congregated.
Raw materials of wood and metal take centre stage, telling a story about the intersection of nature and industry. There’s a fallen tree trunk divided by metal shards, suggestive of the long journey that lumber goes through (and made my advertising brain think of this Canal+ ad). There are gorgeous kinetic sculptures, some creating soft sounds that made the whole space feel like the inside of a clock, and one that actually made me think of the Westworld questions about the divide between machine and soul…! I just wish they had credited the creators of these works - they deserve a mention even if they are working for a brand.