LVMH’s private equity arm has invested in South Korean sunglasses brand, Gentle Monster, banking on the Korean pop culture boom to fuel sales of the country’s luxury brands. Ravi Thakran, chairman and managing partner of L Catterton Asia, told Reuters that the LVMH company "has become the second-biggest shareholder of IICOMBINED, the owner and operator of Gentle Monster, after its two founders.”
Thakran did not confirm the value of the transaction. However, media speculation suggests that it could be worth about 60 billion won ($53.17 million). Per Thakran, the investment will serve to kick-start a strategy to grow the company into a billion-dollar business over the next six to eight years, up from the nearly $200 million it does now. “I believe that across Asia there are only about six to eight brands that can achieve this level of notoriety, with a unique image, that’s differentiated among lifestyle brands,” he told WWD.
The deal comes a little over a year after L Capital Asia, LVMH’s investment arm, took a minority stake in South Korea's CLIO Cosmetics, swelling the ranks of global investors placing a bet on booming demand for Korean beauty products in major markets like China. And still yet, that move is not all that surprising of we consider L Capital Asia's $80 million investment in K-pop talent agency YG Entertainment in 2014.
Thakran says L Capital Asia's existing stake in YG will prove beneficial in further growing Gentle Monster. “YG is the leading name in the sector, [representing] G-Dragon, Psy,” he told WWD. “It’s the number-one modeling agency, it’s the number-one television drama producer. Each of those arenas is a gateway. The founders of those two companies [YG and Gentle Monster] are good friends and they both have great respect for each other. Even before we completed our investment they already had been in talks with the South Korean stars of YG.”
Founded in 2011 by Jay Oh and Hankook Kim, Gentle Monster surged in popularity in South Korea and China – traditionally dominated by Western luxury brands – after South Korea actress Jeon Ji-hyun wore its sunglasses in the popular drama “My Love from the Star.”
The brand, which has collaborated with everyone from actress Tilda Swinton to brands, such as Hood by Air, Henrik Vibskov, to influencer Aimee Song, is part of a new guard that is making waves in South Korea, with an array of young brands helping to not only keep Korean fashion – an industry that has already brought in billions of dollars from pop-cultural exports to the West – firmly on the map but to elevate it even further in the eyes of international consumers.