Some of the most stunning designs on the market are made-to-order pieces only available for private projects. Why shouldn't those designs be more accessible? That's what Isabelle Dubern wondered on her journey to find an armchair that was only available to the designer's private clients. During her search, she paired up with designer Anna Zaoui and they co-founded The Invisible Collection, an e-commerce platform that sells made-to-order pieces by top designers.
As the pair are coming up on their three-year anniversary of founding The Invisible Collection, we asked Zaoui and Dubern about the ins and outs of curation, their relationships with designers, and of course, their childhood influences.
Interior Design: What is your big dream for The Invisible Collection?
The Invisible Collection: Through our work we aim to continue to best curate and highlight the world of 21st-century interior designers, architects, and craftsmen with a growing roster of industry-leading designers who preserve the standards set by legendary talents.
When we started, we had a model in mind— to become the Net-à-Porter of design—and that is what we are doing. As pure players and purveyors of exceptional furniture online, we provide a unique curation as well as a rich yet controlled offer.
Our concept for The Invisible Collection stemmed from a desire to curate custom pieces by interior designers and architects featured in private projects that would not have otherwise been available on the market, existing for those who appreciate great design, and seek things of the utmost quality. It is for professionals and collectors alike.
ID: Is there a person in the industry you particularly admire?
TIC: The origin of The Invisible Collection stems from our passion and admiration for interior designers. Before creating it, we decided to seek advice from Pierre Yovanovitch and India Mahdavi—two of the designers we most admire. We promised ourselves that if both supported us, we would go for it. Both were enthusiastic and supportive and have remained so. The Papa Bear armchair became the lucky charm of the site and we made it iconic.
Three years later, we are still sticking to this principle: All designers on The Invisible Collection are our favorite. We admire them knowing that they all have their own unique design and individuality, each one matching a singular project. We are thrilled to bring access to iconic works from Pierre Yovanovitch, Osanna Visconti, ETEL, Damien Langlois-Meurinne, Humbert & Poyet, Bismut & Bismut, Charles Zana, Nicky Dobree, Isabelle Stanislas, and Elliott Barnes to name a few.
ID: How would you describe your relationship with interior design?
TIC: We are design buffs and obsessed with interior decoration: we can easily recall a piece of furniture we saw 20 years ago in a magazine, or the name of a landscape gardener in a Belgian property. This platform is a love affair with design and craftsmanship, all in one. The Invisible Collection is an opportunity for us to share our passion and knowledge of the design world with a wider audience. Our goal is to provide access to one-of-a-kind, coveted items to those who are passionate about interior design.
ID: How do you curate the collection—what do you look for aesthetically?
TIC: It is very exciting to meet with a designer and discover their work, understand their approach, and then select and curate among their best pieces. We choose a designer or an architect because we believe in his or her talent. Aside from their distinct aesthetic, the pieces we select must be iconic and relevant, high design yet functional. Our experience has allowed us to learn to love new pieces that were not on our radar at first glance. We respect every designer’s vision.
ID: How do you think your childhood influences your approach to design?
Isabelle Dubern: As a child and teenager, I loved cinema, mainly for the sets and decors that I could watch in film repeatedly, particularly Hitchcock’s work.
Anna Zaoui: The pleasure of discovery: I remember tagging alongside my mother in her constant visits to the souk in Marrakech, and to the famous puces (flea markets) in Paris. All those beautiful crafts and amazing details stayed with me. This was truly the beginning of my passion for design, when I developed a taste and an eye for it.
ID: Are there any design trends that you’re tired of seeing?
TIC: What is surprising is the abundance of trends and the very approximate quality of the products associated with them. Our goal with The Invisible Collection is to stay true to diligent craftsmanship methodologies and dedicated faithfulness to original works.
Each piece on The Invisible Collection is made to order by the only best and delivered to our clients with white-glove service, thanks to our informed and experienced team, who are endlessly dedicated and committed to sharing the iconic traditions of the decorative arts and collectible design.
ID: What is the best thing about your job?
TIC: We are lucky to be entrepreneurs in the digital world and as close as possible to creation, immense talent, and craftsmanship. What else could one dream of? Discovery and creativity! Each day brings a new unearthing of talent and unmatched design, and we enjoy the process of nurturing every relationship with our design partners. The family grows every month and The Invisible Collection are the first collectors of these pieces. Many designers have become our friends.
ID: What are you currently reading?
ID: I read and reread the biography of Jean Michel Frank by Laurence Benaim, biographer of Marie Laure de Noailles et Yves Saint Laurent. Right now, I am reading “Exterminate All the Brutes” by Sven Lindqvist, a seminal essay on understanding the past and having the courage to draw some unsettling conclusions.
Read more: 10 Questions With… Marc Ange