You’d not be remiss if you thought you’d inadvertently wandered off Broadway onto the set of The Addams Family. Perched atop mother of pearl platforms, a mechanical troupe of Cousin Itt-like figures sashaying in a darkly-lit space makes for a startling sight. These are, in fact, ‘scarecrows’ that are guarding the entrance to Gentle Monster’s new boutique in Downtown Los Angeles, opened earlier this month.
The cult Korean eyewear label’s second US flagship after New York, the 5,000 sq ft store ‘leads visitors on a journey through the stages of harvest’ by way of moving installations, surreal sculptures and handcrafted objects. There’s a gently undulating ‘rice field’ comprising 2,000 metallic rods, while rugs by Korean knitting designer Misu A Barbe bring a softness to the polished space. Eyewear is displayed on marble and metal shelving which take their cues from the blades of crop tractors.
The ‘paddy fields’ at Gentle Monster’s harvest-themed Los Angeles boutique. Courtesy of Gentle Monster
The centrepiece is a kinetic installation by artist Jung Uk Yang that is inspired by threshing. The multi-layered artwork combines traditional machinery with modern design, while a repetitive bell sound (symbolising the end of the harvest process) entices visitors deeper into the store. It’s an offbeat aesthetic that has become associated with Korea’s creative scene, from films to fashion – then again Korean fashion designers do kooky-cool like no one else.
Founded in 2011 by former curator and professor Hankook Kim, Gentle Monster is known for its conceptual store designs, which have previously referenced launderettes, bathhouses, and the scientific laws of entropy, no less. More recently, the brand set up shop in Singapore with a moveable feast inspired by Samsara, Ron Fricke’s acclaimed non-narrative documentary from 2011.
The Seoul-based brand releases 140 completely new styles each year, and counts Opening Ceremony, Henrik Vibskov and Hood by Air among its collaborators. It also acts as an incubator for a number of creative installations, from an experimental bakery, to a garden post office, a conceptual pop-up hotel, and a ‘smash pong’ court (the brand’s brilliantly bonkers take on ping pong). Last month, LVMH invested $60 million – or a seven per cent stake – in the company, so expect to see Gentle Monster’s creative cache soar. Up next for the label: a collaboration with Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.