From English Summer Camp To $160 Million Eyewear Company… Meet Gentle Monster

South Korea’s famous eyewear brand Gentle Monster is a business worth $160 million dollars, and this is how they did it.

The C.E.O of  Gentle Monster Hankook Kim was running a Camp Korea back in 2011, an English summer camp based in Seoul.

One day his business partner Jae W Oh offered to invest in a new business if Hankook Kim had a good idea for a new business.

He started researching for a business idea and stumbled upon Warby Parker, a trendy eyewear business that offers customers to try on glasses from home with free returns and offer a buy-a-pair-give-a-pair model to help those in need of glasses in third world countries.

Inspired by Warby Parker’s business model, Hankook Kim added his creativity to create an eyewear brand suitable for the Korean fashion trend by designing oversized glasses.

“In Korea, having a small face is the biggest compliment. There were no competitors for oversize glasses, which make heads look smaller.”

— Hankook Kim

With the investment provided by his business partner Oh, Hankook Kim bought one factory in Korea and another in China to manufacture acetate frames, which are illegal to produce in Korea.

“By owning the factory, we can maintain high quality at a cheaper price and control the shipping”

— Hankook Kim

He put a lot of effort into creating unique designs for Gentle Monster’s products, and also created an offline store that looked a lot like an exhibition and a gallery rather than a store.

“I wanted the products to look as if they were being exhibited”

— Hankook Kim

Gentle Monster’s products became widely popular as they started celebrity placements.

In 2013 and 2014, Jun Ji Hyun wore several sunglasses from Gentle Monster on My Love From the Star, which was very successful across Asia.

Gentle Monster’s products were smoothly advertised throughout Asia with Korean celebrities who wore them, making roughly $160 million in 2016.

They now have 10 retail stores worldwide, including Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles, and are planning to open more stores in the Western world, including Europe.


Although they benefited largely from placement advertising with Korean celebrities, they are now moving onto another strategic plan with fewer celebrity placements but by promoting their unique sensibility to reach out to a broader audience.