An online platform, The Invisible Collection makes customised iterations of furniture designed for private projects by the world’s best designers available for purchase online. Sourcing outstanding contemporary design that would previously never have been made commercially available, the company has created a unique inventory, further customised by exclusive colours, dimensions and materials.
Sold online and throughout pop-up exhibitions in Paris, Miami, Milan, London and New York, and in a private showroom in the heart of Belgravia, London, the retailer’s roster includes most AD 100 top names including the likes of Pierre Yovanovitch, Charles Zana, Emmanuelle Simon and Francesco Balzano.
The Invisible Collection works with designers and craftspeople to facilitate customisation, making each piece unique and impeccably manufactured, guaranteeing authenticity and educating clients on cultural context and long-term appreciation, The platform has created an innovative culture of customer engagement to drive sales. It generates almost 50 percent of their sales in the US and 15 percent in the APAC market, with EMEA accounting for the remainder.
Today, numerous entities in the fashion and luxury industries are moving into homeware. Brands like Ralph Lauren and Fendi, which have been in the home business for decades, are now joined by a flurry of new contenders. In the US, the market is particularly strong. Market research company NPD Group predicts non-electric housewares will enjoy 13 percent growth over the holiday season this year in the US.
“It’s a universe with a radically different rhythm from fashion,” said Isabelle Dubern-Mallevays, co-founder of interior design retailer The Invisible Collection and former creative director of Dior Maison.
Below, the co-founders of The Invisible Collection shares their insights on building an aspirational retail brand and how the London-based French brand is championing a new approach to luxury furniture.
How did the events of 2020 impact consumer attitudes in your experience?
In those times, the focus wasn’t on clothes but on the furniture and objects surrounding you. On a deeper level, this unprecedented situation has made us more human, and made us rethink priorities: do we really want another dress or another bag? Do we need them? On the other hand, we want to experience a beautiful, comforting setting where we might end up spending a great part of our life.
Now more than ever, consumers look for products that are meaningful, timeless and collectible. Besides the obvious, inevitable acceleration of e-commerce, as the internet has become the main — if not, the only — channel for purchasing almost any and every product, there has been a big shift towards the home. The home is now a one-stop multi-destination where you live, work, and even spend your holidays in the last year.
How has your business evolved?
For us, 2020 was a year of great business acceleration as we improved our efficiency in all sectors, from manufacturing to customer service — we have seen a 163 percent increase in our sales since January 2020. We gained momentum as our products became items that fulfilled a need. We also already had our “digital” playbook in place when the pandemic hit us — all we needed to do was upgrade it.
We have seen a 163 percent increase in our sales since January 2020.
No project is too big or too small as long as it has meaning. It always comes down to human interaction, and the way we connect with our clients. There are no rules for the customer’s lead time — the biggest sales can be fast. The customers know the classical time limits for the production of the pieces by craftspeople.
How is the way you do business evolving?
In times such as these, one thinks about values — what are our core values as human beings and as a company? The pandemic accelerated our commitment to tackling ecological and social issues even further. Since last January, we believe we are the first company in our industry to entirely compensate our carbon footprint for transport and delivery of our furniture. And our new London showroom, set to open in September, is being designed and executed in line with sustainable principles as best as is possible. We also appointed a sustainability officer within our team. However, this is of course a work in progress.
It’s also about community building and social responsibility. We try to work with companies that promote social equality and women empowerment, that preserve traditional crafts and local production.
It’s time that we rethink luxury as a means to promote craftsmanship and culture. We want to set new standards in the way we look at luxury products, no longer short-lived objects of desire but designs that transcend time and that will stand testament to culture, creativity and savoir faire.
How do you engage and convert customers online?
The curation of the website and the added value of craftsmanship, plus the community of talented interior designers that we present on the site, have played a big role in cementing our brand. We do a lot of collaborations. For instance, we appointed the preferred room at Sotheby’s during their main contemporary sales and we hosted a talk on Brazilian design at The Design Museum in London. Our next project is to bring to Europe some rare, exceptional designs by Oscar Niemeyer, which we’ll exhibit in London and Paris.
Although we are a digital brand, we interact personally with all our clients.
This is what we do at The Invisible Collection — we showcase the work of talented designers that put emotion, history and culture in every piece they create. Besides, our clients can experience how the product was made, and discover more about the craftspeople who handmade it — and their craft techniques, which are fascinating.
How has your approach to customer service evolved?
Digital technologies are allowing us to engage and interact with our customers with new and enhanced experiences. It also helps our associates to be even more efficient, with greater flexibility by removing some complex steps, allowing them to be at even greater service to our clients and their experiences. The digital landscape is changing every day and we want to share its best with our clients and employees.
Since day one, we have given priority to perfect service. We exchange by all possible means with our clients, WhatsApp, mood boards, sample shipments, Instagram, telephone, virtual meetings and our teams are often on site for installations. We organize private visits in workshops too with the most talented of our artisans.
How do you educate your customers on your product mix?
Educate is a big word. We prefer to “share” with them our knowledge and passion. Customers can feel the sincerity and enthusiasm of our team and they reward us with their trust. On a more practical level, it means that although we are a digital brand, we interact personally with all our clients.
The same must be said about our relationship with designers and craftspeople: we know each one of them personally. And this year of pandemic and lockdown strengthened even further our already tight bond. We struggled together and did our best to keep all these businesses alive. We are so proud to have built a truly close-knit community of artisans and designers who share the same values and goals as us.
This sponsored feature is part of a media partnership between BoF and The Invisible Collection.