How often have you found yourself coveting a K-drama character’s dewy ‘glass’ skin, perfectly coiffed hair and stylish wardrobe? Apart from the strong appeal of K-beauty, K-fashion is also a hot topic of discussion amongst K-drama lovers, where passionate fans have become experts in identifying the specific styles and designers that are worn by their favourite characters within a few hours after a new episode has been aired.
Now, if you’ve managed to catch some of the top K-dramas of late including Crash Landing On You and Itaewon Class, you will realise that the actors often sport the coolest, oversized sunnies — and chances are that they are by South Korean brand Gentle Monster.
Gentle Monster, which was founded by Hankook Kim and Jae Oh in 2011, reportedly shot to popularity after its designs were worn by top Korean actress Jun Ji-Hyun on the K-drama hit My Love From The Star in 2014. Since then, the eyewear brand has been strengthening its presence beyond South Korea by setting up shop in major cities across the globe and has also partnered with notable designers and personalities in launching highly anticipated collections.
In its latest venture, the brand worked with Chinese rapper and former member of K-pop group EXO Kris Wu in releasing a four-design ‘Gentle Wu’ collection, which was launched worldwide on 25 June. With most of the pieces being sold out in just a few days, it’s a strong testament to the brand’s success in attracting the fashion-conscious, trendsetting crowd.
Curious to learn more about Gentle Monster? Read on as we round up the most notable collabs from the brand that have caught our eye — from our favourites to the ones that fell short of our expectations.
Hit: Gentle Monster x Tilda Swinton (2017)
British actress Tilda Swinton is a force to be reckoned with in the world of film, having taken on unforgettable roles including the evil ‘White Witch’ in the fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia and as the ‘Ancient One’ in Marvels’ Doctor Strange.
Although Swinton has always made a strong sartorial statement on the red carpet with her platinum hair and androgynous dressing, she still comes off as quite an elusive and reserved artiste, hence we were pleasantly surprised to learn that she had taken on this bold partnership with the brand.
The designs and visual concepts of this exclusive collection were inspired by Swinton’s directional influence. In the campaign film, we see her contemplating her next move in a game of chess against herself in a pair of futuristic-looking, mirrored sunglasses. As for the collection images, they captured Swinton’s chillingly captivating persona and the striking features of each of the eyewear designs.
Why we loved it: This was a collaboration that no one saw coming — which made it even more exciting and special. We also admired how Gentle Monster had tastefully tapped on a celebrity’s influence to promote their eyewear designs without losing their otherworldly, unique approach to visual storytelling.
Miss: Gentle Monster x Alexander Wang (2018, 2019)
American fashion designer Alexander Wang, who is touted as the King of ‘models off-duty’ dressing, collaborated with Gentle Monster on two eyewear designs, the ‘CEO’ and the ‘M.PRI$$’ for his 2018 and 2019 Fall/Winter shows respectively. Both sunnies have been embraced by numerous fashionable female celebs, including Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Hailey Bieber (above) and Kaia Gerber.
The ‘CEO’ features a pair of jet-black rectangular frames with the title ‘CEO’ in raised lettering across the temples, whereas ‘M.PRI$$’, which we find much more exciting, boasts a cat-eye frame that is adorned with a fluid metal snake detail around the front of the lens.
Why we didn’t love it: Having collaborated with another luxury eyewear brand Linda Farrow in the past, Alexander Wang’s partnership with Gentle Monster lacks novelty. Furthermore, the designer also has his eyewear line, hence avid Wang fans would’ve expected much bolder design details to come out from this collab instead of keeping things relatively safe.
Hit: Gentle Monster x Jennie of BLACKPINK (2020)
Gentle Monster’s collaboration with Jennie Kim of BLACKPINK is arguably one of the most high-profile collections for the brand. Prior to this collab, the brand had mostly worked with niche artists and designers, as opposed to popular celebrities such as Jennie.
The singer and rapper's involvement in the collection has brought huge awareness for the brand, especially among teens and young adults, who make up over 60 per cent of BLACKPINK’s fanbase. Jennie created plenty of social media buzz and publicity around the collab after releasing 59 different selfies of her in the ‘Jentle Home’ pieces on Instagram. She also dedicated her first Instagram ‘live’ to sharing details about the collection.
The collection is inspired by Jennie’s childhood memories and includes four eyewear designs and three accessories. (Learn more about our top picks from the collection, and how to style them here.)
On the design front, most of them are a nod to the eyewear styles that are trending at the moment, such as the '90s-inspired square wrap sunnies and classic oversized frames. It was a smart choice for the brand to include accessories in the collection, such as the oversized ‘Onyx BK’ acrylic chain as it gave the collab a little edge to cater to bolder, more experimental dressers.
Why we loved it: Every aspect of the campaign, from the designs to visuals, felt very engaging and exciting, especially for K-culture fans who were beginning to learn more about the fashion brands that are well-loved by their favourite celebrities. Jennie’s active involvement in publicising the collab also made it stand out from other celebrity collaborations that we’ve seen so far.
Miss: Gentle Monster x Fendi (2019)
In May 2019, Gentle Monster teamed up with Italian luxury house Fendi to release a capsule collection which comprises of two unisex designs in three different colourways. The campaign, which was directed by Russian artist collective AES+F, saw models sporting head-to-toe Fendi pieces along with the new Gentle Fendi sunnies, as they were surrounded by alien-like geometric forms against a surreal, futuristic landscape.
The first design from this Gentle Monster collaboration, ‘Gentle Fendi 01’, is a cat-eye frame with both brands’ logo details at the top front of the lens, while the second, Gentle Fendi 02, is an oversized aviator frame with bright colour details.
Why we didn’t love it: Fendi’s own line of sunglasses is much more striking in comparison to the designs in this collaboration collection. Similar to our sentiments towards the Alexander Wang collaboration, we wished both brands had pushed the style envelope a little further in producing more statement-making designs rather than sticking to contemporary silhouettes. That being said, the campaign was nothing short of stunning as we loved how it beautifully portrayed the pieces in an intriguing, futuristic setting.
Hit: Gentle Monster x AMBUSH (2019)
Tokyo-based luxury brand Ambush and Gentle Monster may have only jointly released one eyewear design through their collab, however, one was more than enough in showcasing the strong energy and distinctive identity of both brands.
The ‘Zip Tie’ sunglasses bear a strong workwear-meets-high-fashion quality and are available in three translucent colourways. Each of them is equipped with Ambush’s signature silver-toned, zip-tie hardware detail, and also comes with a metallic logo accessory which can be attached to the temple.
Why we loved it: The 'Zip Tie' sunnies are such a strong, statement piece, yet still very wearable, hence we believe that many streetwear fanatics would've already added this design to their collection. This collab is a great example of two forward-thinking brands that have successfully used their respective strengths to produce unique, covetable designs for their trend-conscious consumers.
Do you agree with our verdict on the Gentle Monster collaborations?
(Cover photo from: gentlemonster.com)