I love glasses. I’ve been wearing them for 20 years, and while I have toyed with the idea of getting LASIK multiple times, I just love the fashion aspect of glasses too much to give them up entirely; I’ve also never really been keen on wearing prescription-free eyeglasses as I think it’s kind of corny.
The people who hang out with me on a semi-regular basis know of my love for Gentle Monster and their Sinsa concept store. Gentle Monster is a popular high-end eye wear brand based in Korea, and if you want to be in “the know” then you need a pair of these unique frames, whether they’re glasses or sunnies. I knew the time would come to retire my aging glasses, and I had my heart set on a pair from this too-cool-for-school brand.
A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to take the plunge: Gentle Monster frames aren’t cheap, especially compared to the tens of thousands of cheaper options that litter Seoul, so I had to make my decision count. I went down to the Garosu-gil location, tried on dozens of glasses, and finally found the pair: the Dunn, a thicker frame with a hint of geometric flare, which made it fashionable and a tad quirky (
like me …ha).
So I waited a week, and the next weekend I went back to the store — we’re talking a 40-ish minute commute from my place, so I was dedicated in getting these glasses — to make my purchase….and the color I wanted was sold out.
Seeing the obvious despair on my face, the associate asked me gently in Korean, “Do you want to check and see if they’re at another store?” Of course I said yes.
Which led me to the Gentle Monster showroom.
The showroom is located in Nonhyeon, which is about a 25-minute bus ride away from the Garosu-gil location and tucked away in one of the multiple alleys that make up Seoul’s grid. When I came to to the intimidating black entrance gate, I did not expect this:
At first, I couldn’t find the entrance to the place: the only recognizable door I saw was clearly not a door made for entry, so I scratched my head for about 15 seconds before I noticed the big yellow arrow pointing to the Plexiglas walkway (on the right). Really? I have to walk into a shipwreck — you can’t see it, but yes, there was a shipwreck just beyond the above picture — in order to get into the store? But I was a lot more intrigued than annoyed.
After making my way through this trippy wooden corridor, I came upon the strangest, most out-there concept I’ve seen here in Korea: the entire store was this deserted island concept, with sand, expanses of white, thick nautical ropes, and a mock-up of a whale skeleton. Yes, I said it: a whale skeleton. There were also skulls scattered throughout (and I’m a huge fan of skull and crossbones motifs, so I was all for it), and one of the rooms looked like a straight-up factory, with legitimately working machinery. This place was cool.
Once I found my desired glasses and color, the associate led me to the cash register in a separate room, and I was transported to yet another place; this small section was straight out of a speakeasy, with “liquor” interspersed with frames on the walls. There was even leather furniture and a place to have coffee. I remarked to one of the associates how much I loved the concept, and that’s when he explained to me that they were a week out from completely switching it up: the showroom would close down for two weeks for remodeling, and then upon reopening it would look completely different. I visited the showroom the week before Seoul Fashion Week, so by the time you read this post the remodeling will already be completed; the pictures above are now merely memories.
Even if you don’t have/don’t want to spend the money on a pair of Gentle Monsters, I do still highly recommend visiting their showroom if only to peep the concepts. In addition to the Nonhyeon Showroom and the Sinsa/Garosu-gil flagship, there are also flagship stores in Hongdae and Samcheong-dong (nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace).
Gentle Monster, Nonhyeon Showroom
192-10, Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul