Drapers looks at what retailers can learn from eyewear label Gentle Monster’s first UK store.
Curious shoppers have slowed to peer into the windows of Gentle Monster’s new store on the day of Drapers’ visit. The South Korean eyewear brand opened its first European flagship, on London’s Argyll Street, last month. Inside, the label has justified its reputation for innovative store design with an unusual but engaging concept that blends martial arts and “extra-terrestrial” creatures.
The two-storey shop tells the tale of alien visitors to earth who discovered kung fu, before taking the martial art back to their home planet. Designed to look like a kung fu training ground, the store’s ground floor is dominated by towering armoured aliens made from a combination of raffia, patchwork and shredded metal. Space-age sculptures and forests of metallic shrubs surround the minimalist shelves displaying Gentle Monster’s trend-led eyewear. The store is bordered by screens showing a video installation of tumbling waterfalls, and yet more alien life lurks downstairs in the store’s basement floor.
Gentle Monster prides itself on creative immersive in-store experiences. The brand, which was founded in 2011, has 15 stores worldwide, including a harvest-themed shop in Los Angeles and a flagship dominated by washing machines in Daegu, South Korea.
Engaged customers are taking selfies and posting on social media as Drapers walks around the store. There is a buzz of interested curiosity in the air as customers take in the unusual surroundings. Even minutes away from Oxford Street, where retailers tend to bring their A game when it comes to store design, the Gentle Monster shop stands out.
The brand has reimagined the way it displays what is a relatively simple product – eyewear – and given customers a real reason to visit the store. Its art-led, sensory approach prioritises customer experience, which is further enhanced by attentive staff dotted around the store.
Such an experimental approach might not work for all retailers – devoting so much floor space to telling a story rather than displaying product is bold. Nonetheless, there is plenty the UK high street can learn from Gentle Monster about creating a buzz and attracting customers to bricks-and-mortar stores.