It’s reassuring to learn that even someone who has spent their career working with luxury brands finds walking into a high-end boutique daunting. That’s partly why Isabelle Dubern-Mallevays started her website The Invisible Collection, to make it easier to access great design.
‘Luxury companies can be super-intimidating,’ she says. ‘Even when I worked for them I was always thinking, “Oof, I have to go into the store.”’ Launching in 2016 with co-founder Anna Zaoui, the site’s ethos was to offer all of the glamour, but with a more inclusive approach.
From the start, The Invisible Collection became the place to find contemporary design (pieces that would never normally have been commercially available), serving an audience who wanted to collect furniture like art. These were custom designs by established names and rising stars, reimagined in unique colours, dimensions and materials, and made by exceptional craftspeople.
For the brand’s appeal you need only look to the recent reveal of its collaboration with fabric house Dedar in Paris, timed to coincide with the city’s annual Maison & Objet fair. Placing its strikingly upholstered modern classics beside the Belle Époque beauty of Féau Boiseries was a masterstroke that became a must-have pic for design fans’ Instagram grids.
Now, to mark their fifth anniversary, digital natives Dubern-Mallevays and Zaoui are continuing this year’s success by putting down roots in an elegant three-storey building, tucked away in London’s Marylebone. It’s The Invisible Collection’s headquarters and event space, but ultimately, a home. The serene space is filled with pieces from the brand’s starry stable.
Dubern-Mallevays explained how they settled on this particular spot: ‘We needed an industrial building and Marylebone is so cool. Because I’m not British, I’m always surprised by mews buildings – you don’t imagine the volume that lies behind.’
The interior has been finished with eco-friendly paint and untreated wood, while soft light is filtered through sheer Dedar panels that cover the double-height windows. It’s very tempting to curl up on the curvy Studioparisien sofa, or take a seat at the monumental marble dining table on one of Laura Gonzalez’s rose-pink bouclé chairs, but it’s also essential to save time to explore the venue’s well-stocked materials library of natural stones, rare woods and fine textiles.
‘It’s a home – we are not a showroom,’ says Dubern-Mallevays, who explains the trick to achieving that atmosphere: ‘We hate the“total look”. Everything is a complete mix of very different designs.’ That blend includes the work of Francesco Balzano, a minimalist designer, as well as reissues of Pierre Chareau’s iconic wall lamps, and items by maximalist interior designer Laura Gonzalez.
‘When you have beautiful and big pieces, everything works,’ adds Dubern-Mallevays. It’s this eclecticism that is the brand and the space’s power, encouraging others to be more creative in their decorative choices.
The pandemic gave the founders time to reflect on the past five years. ‘At the beginning, we were so afraid that everything was lost, but after two months it was the opposite.’ She is proud that The Invisible Collection champions young designers alongside the giants.
While expansion is the goal, with permanent bases in New York and Paris planned, what won’t change is the carefully curated offering and a refusal to compromise on values. ‘It is a huge responsibility,’ says Dubern-Mallevays. ‘When you have so many orders, how do you continue to have the same quality? We want to build this community, the designers, the atelier and the teams.’
The London space will be open to visitors by appointment only, and an exciting programme of events, including dinners, solo shows and talks, will bring the new home to life. ‘We are nomads, but it feels like a good idea to have something permanent,’ says Dubern-Mallevays. ‘People come here to understand the quality of the pieces, to touch them, to meet people! I think after the pandemic everyone understands why we need this.’ theinvisiblecollection.com