Hankook Kim of Gentle Monster: CEO of the Future

Fashion industry publication WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) recently wrote about Gentle Monster and the brand’s future plans and trajectory. WWD is often referred to as the ‘Fashion Bible.’ It’s a venerable publication, but in recent years it hasn’t published as many in-depth profiles as they were once known for. But their recent article on Hankook Kim, CEO and cofounder of Gentle Monster, really hit it out of the proverbial ballpark and left a surprisingly good impression.

Gentle Monster is a hot eyewear brand that creates and develops unique retail spaces to sell their wares. Launched in 2011 in South Korea, Gentle Monster eyewear has made an impact on fashion forward consumers; it’s one of the fastest trending brands in Asia. What makes Gentle Monster different than other eyewear brands is its creative and intellectual retail strategy; their conceptualized outlets are truly something to behold. Each Gentle Monster store highlights a story around a particular space focusing more on experiential retail than the eyewear it displays and sells within its walls. Kim focuses on unpredictability as his secret weapon when developing and creating installations for each store

Gentle Monster
Hankook Kim via WWD
He Wants All of His Employees To Own A Home

At the end of the article Kim spoke of his wishes to grow the company to the point where it can go for an initial public offering. Kim stated that he wanted an IPO for his employees to benefit from Gentle Monster’s success.

What resonated with me was his final statement to WWD corespondent, Nyima Pratten, when she asks him why he wants to take Gentle Monster public:  

Why an IPO? In order, Kim said, for his employees to benefit from Gentle Monster’s success. Houses are very expensive in South Korea and few Millennials can afford to buy a house. “I want my employees to be able to buy a house,” said Kim.

My eyes grew into huge saucers when I read this, and furthermore, did I even read his answer correctly? So I read it again. Frankly, I’m surprised said eyes are still intact and didn’t fall onto my laptop. Then I wanted to stand on my desk and clap. I don’t think I’ve recently read such a meaningful message from a CEO. Let this sink in: Hankook Kim wants his employees to own homes. Kim’s sincerity and depth of gratitude for his employees is moving. He understands that without his employees, Gentle Monster wouldn’t be such a well-known brand and have such success in such a short amount of time.

Imagine Zuckerberg or Bezos stating they wish for all of their employees to own their own homes. Nope, not going to happen. Kim is a CEO with empathy and compassion that you don’t find that with many of the top guns; furthermore, this type of genuine sincerity is very hard to fake. Last year we read heart wrenching stories of Facebook employees having to sleep in their cars because they couldn’t afford sky-high rents. As far as I know, Zuckerberg never came forward with a statement. You can bet that Hankook Kim would never knowingly let an employee turn their car into a makeshift home. As for Amazon, we have also read several reports of meager working conditions in many facilities and warehouses.

Some say it takes ego to climb to the top in the business world and firmly cement yourself as a CEO with ribs of steel. I disagree. Kim is a CEO that doesn’t need to rely on self-centered, overly indulged ego which I surmise is an indication he’s a truly kind, genuine soul. There is a lot of faux social justice in the world around us today. The head of a company publicly denounces sexism while in private still treats certain employees unfairly- we see this scenario often. We can’t change a person entirely, but we can change the types of CEO’s we look up to. Hankook Kim is the CEO of the future. He doesn’t need to fake awareness because he already possesses kindness and sincerity.

It’s worth repeating: Hankook Kim, CEO of Gentle Master wants his company to succeed so that his employees may own their own homes.