ALL POSTS Interviews POP-IN@Nordstrom

Unmistakably Korean Materials | Pop-In@Nordstrom x Gentle Monster

The 2017 series of Pop-Ins at Nordstrom begins with three shops featuring the exciting cultures of Korean fashion and style, curated by Olivia Kim. To start: Gentle Monster, the youthful Korean sunglasses company with a penchant for artistic storytelling.

Beyond making fantastic sunglasses, a big part of the Gentle Monster brand is creative store design. You don’t just inhabit a Gentle Monster retail zone, you get a rich offline experience. We knew they’d do something special for our Pop-In Shops—and they did.

We went straight to the source to learn more, asking Renee Kim, Gentle Monster Associate Space Designer, about the seemingly somber concept behind our joint shops and the meanings behind the Korean materials she used.

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SHOP: Pop-In@Nordstrom x Gentle Monster

POP-IN: The concept of a Korean requiem informed your design of our Pop-In x Gentle Monster shops. How did you approach this idea?

RENEE KIM: We wanted to invoke a sense of tranquility (gentle) and magnificence (monster) through the concept of a requiem, which is a music piece to celebrate the dead and their posthumous repose. Gentle Monster’s requiem is an art piece that will transport the public into a unique dimension. The solemnity of the space washes over participants like a powerful and touching piece of music.

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POP-IN: Could you please explain a little bit about the linen used in our shops? Is there something traditional about linen or woven materials in general in Korea?

KIM: The usage of linen has more than just material implications in our case. It brings an invaluable cultural resonance. Ramie fabric has been an essential element of Korea’s daily life and is specific to the local context of Korea. Its painstaking process of traditional sewing methods and natural dyes is representative of our ancestors’ wisdom. The outcome is much more translucent than that of regular linen. It lends itself to the mystery and dreaminess of our concept.

POP-IN: What was your thought process about including nature references in the shop? Specifically, the charcoal is interesting.

KIM: Just like the ramie fabric, Korean charcoal goes through a special process before being used. As an all-natural material it culturally implies purity and cleansing of the mind and body. By placing charcoal in the shop, we wanted to suggest symbolic purification of the space and celebrate our concept, “requiem,” which is a transition into another dimension.

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POP-IN: Usually Gentle Monster shops exist in neighborhoods, not department stores. Did that different context change the way you designed our shops?

KIM: It did. The fact that we were working with Nordstrom brought us new challenges and possibilities in design thinking. Usually what happens with our stores is we design temporary art installations within the parameters of the given space, so there are more limitations in a way. Collaborating with Nordstrom was refreshing in the way that we were able to work with a new perspective to put together our own style, an amalgam that is authentic to our identity and that of Nordstrom.