DISCOVERING UNDECEMBER WITH A GENTLE MONSTER
Expecting the unexpected
When entering the month of Undecember, you might find yourself in a world far from the expected. The 13th month of the year is probably like imagining your wildest dreams: everything is different and all is set to change. The basic laws of nature don’t apply anymore, the moon has shifted out of place and axis and resources are scarce. Humans and Animals behave in a different manner – religion and technology are means of coping.
The Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster sets out to ask questions that seem wild and imaginative. When in fact the answer to: “what will happen to this earth next?” has never been more relevant than right now. Dealing with future scenarios and walking down a path that not many of us dare, Gentle Monster definitely reads the signs that are written in the stars.
Their selected and neatly curated shops are a new level of experience shopping – all designed in house. Walking into a store feels like stepping into Undecember, experiencing a new world. You can see massive eyeballs, almost moving like spiders, a horse that is investigated in a lab or you may also get lost in a jungle like isle of ferns. All you have to do is: dare to get involved.
Focusing on optical glasses as well as sunglasses, Gentle Monster blasts boundaries with their designs. The silhouettes are techy and extravagant, fierce in their aesthetic. Who doesn’t want to go all in also finds pieces that are more toned down, still chic.
The brand was founded by Hankook Kim in 2011 and toys with technology as well as high fashion: Huawei, Alexander Wang and the newest collaboration to this day is the one with FENDI. Innovative design meets craftsmanship – Seoul meets Rome.
A certain mystique and a sense of newness surrounds Gentle Monster that urges the wish to look behind the veil. Interview tried to do exactly that – in the attempt of grasping the gist of it all, Gary Bott, Managing Director of UK and EU, took the time to answer questions about the brand and its operations.
Interview What defines a gentle monster?
Gary Bott It is a creative, left-field individual who thinks differently. There’s a duality to our brand name and meaning; how we appear is not necessarily who we are. The reality is we are all Gentle Monster in some way, shape or form. Our family is inclusive, not exclusive.
I How much of the city Seoul’s spirit is found in the brand Gentle Monster?
GB The Company was established at a time when Korean pop culture (fashion + music) became more widely recognised and loved globally. There is a new and exciting energy that exists in Seoul as a city that has highly evolved over recent years and whilst we share the same experimental spirit, our brand is an anomaly, even in our home market of South Korea.
I Would you say that Gentle Monster is from this earth?
GB We are more from a parallel universe where everything is out of ordinary.
I Which planet resembles best?
GB Imagine us as a mothership, traveling through wormholes, visiting other worldly planets that inspire each one of our retail spaces.
I What can a customer expect from shopping at a Gentle Monster shop?
GB Wonderment. Expect the unexpected, with each stores unique concept and narrative. There is always a kinetic element to our installations that help bring these fantastical stories to life. Whilst we take our customers on a visual journey of discovery, it’s a multi-sensory experience including scent, tactility, sound and with our latest Gentle Fendi Cafe in Seoul, “taste”.
I Can you elaborate on the shop concept of Seoul, the salvation moon?
GB This is derived from our 2019 concept and collection, “13”. In this new dystopian future, societies have broken down and rebuilt, with religious sects praying that the moon will once again reconnect with the earth and restore balance to our planet.
I What is Gentle Monsters approach to collaborations?
GB Each partnership begins organically with a mutual respect for one another and a strong need to create something together. We’re interested in reciprocacy and not simply manufacturing eyewear for another like-minded brand; there has to be product design values we can add to our own that our audience will relate to and covet.
I Which measures have to be taken in order to not lose the brand identity?
GB Balance between both sides is fundamental so that the weight of the collaboration is equal, eg. not too much of our brand identity or too little of theirs. It’s a sensitive formula like a delicate recipe where, if you mess up the ingredients, the end result is less than desirable.
I Can you elaborate on the concept of the 13th month?
GB 13 is the title of our 2019 collection and concept; where the moon has tilted on its axis, becoming disconnected from the Earth and changing our calendar year.
I How did this idea grow?
GB Climate change is very much front-of-mind, globally; however, 13, like many of our ideas, is inspired not just from our environment but from the depths of our imagination where anything is possible.
I Why the name Undecember?
GB This mysterious month fits between December and January as the 13th month. We like this nonexistent word/term and how strange it looks/sounds.
I Which scenarios is Gentle Monster turning to now in order to define the future?
GB We are heavily influenced by experimental design. If there is a concept that has never been translated into product or space before then we want to play with these scenarios to arrive at a totally new place. Whilst we are aware of market trends, our mission is to create future trends and stay ahead of the curve, always pushing boundaries. Robotics are and forever will be an integral part of our spatial design offer and we continue to develop this technology at our own animatronic workshop in Seoul.
I Are there any plans of extending the product range and going into different fields of accessory?
GB Yes, we are more than just an eyewear brand. Already we are incorporating wearable accessories that either attach or integrate with our core product. Through collaborations we also develop other product categories such as our raincoat with Xander Zhou.
When Undecember seems to be right around the corner, you can just look at Gentle Monster frames in the meantime via their website.
Words & Interview JULIA DEUTSCH
During the REFERENCE BERLIN Festival, Gary Bott elaborated further on the brand and its concept – watch the video below:
Interview in collaboration with CZUKUNFT