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Experiential Retail Goes Surreal at Gentle Monster’s Latest U.S. Flagship

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A futuristic world of kinetic lifelike robots greets visitors in Santa Clara, Calif. — only it’s not a museum art installation. Rather, it’s the scene of the latest flagship store for innovative South Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster.

Known for its edgy, fashion-forward and creative approach to both product and stores, Gentle Monster launched its Santa Clara store (its third in the U.S.) as part of plans to establish a physical brand and commercial presence in key U.S territories over the next three years with the opening of an additional five stores.

The experience-focused brand emphasizes creating dynamic and inspirational frames — a philosophy it also applies to its showrooms, designing retail stores with a concept unique to each location. For Gentle Monster, its physical stores serve as retail experiences that blur the boundaries between art and commerce. “To us, our offline experience is vital in expressing our passion and devotion toward not just eyewear, but a disruptive creativity that pursues weird and beautiful,” said David Kim, U.S. Director of Customer Experience for Gentle Monster in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our physical stores are what complete our brand, our lifestyle.”

In keeping with the brand’s attention to detail, surrealist DNA and fascination with futuristic concepts, the 4,300-square-foot Santa Clara store invokes the theme of “memory,” inviting shoppers into an advanced world where technology is able to restore forgotten memories. The concept takes shoppers on this mind-bending journey through the eyes of a kinetic life-size robot of a strikingly lifelike old woman, who gives them a peek into her memories and some of her childhood friends — most notably a pair of life-size moving donkeys standing opposite each other on a podium to create the optical illusion of a mirror image, and a looming kinetic pine tree held up by a giant hand.

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Dreams Come to Life

The old woman robot has been designed to look half asleep, displaying a series of movements where she seems to be dozing off and waking up again. “We wanted to illustrate a dream state to convey how we interpret the memory restoration process and, more importantly, what the reaction and emotion would be when you wake up from a dream and see something physically appear from your dreams in front of your eyes,” said Wonho Moon, Spatial Designer for Gentle Monster in a statement. “For the old lady, we see her waking up to see her childhood friend, the donkey. When designing her, we focused on trying to create that emotion through an expression she gives once she awakens.”

The immersive installations — which took six months to design by a team of Gentle Monster spatial designers consisting of architects, robot designers and engineers, installation artists, and media and textile artists — create this futuristic world that serves as the canvas against which the eyewear line is showcased.

The creative nature of Gentle Monster’s stores is certainly a draw for shoppers as the world emerges from the pandemic and consumers begin seeking inspiration and experiential stimulation. “The shutdowns proved that digital experience, as much as it has developed, is still a substitute, not an alternative, to culture, to fun and, most importantly, memories,” Kim said. “The mere fact that there are places to go and talk about, completely new things to experience, motivates people to discover more, in real life.”

Photos courtesy of Gentle Monster

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