For founder and creative director Constance Gennari, The Socialite Family started as a bit of an experiment in 2013.
A blog, a book and a clutch of boutiques later, the 10-year-old media-turned-interiors brand has installed itself as the purveyor of designer interior fare with a French-Italian flair and is now eyeing moving into something bigger — the U.S. market.
Come September, The Socialite Family will be opening an office in New York, buoyed by high-double-digit growth rates (the brand declined to share its revenue) and around 15 to 20 percent of its orders coming from abroad.
“We are starting there because it’s quite close to the European spirit and we feel that bringing this French-Italian DNA, with its know-how, the quality and our production could really find resonance,” says Marianne Gosset, the brand’s chief executive officer.
The market opportunity is huge and she expects the territory to become a sizable share of the business within two to three years, particularly on the b-to-b side, as they are already fielding requests from architects and decorators, a segment that’s long had its eye on the French label.
Before the furniture and home goods business launched, Gennari was already working with the likes of Mango and Massimo Dutti on retail projects with a home-like feel. In recent years it’s been France-based law firms, software companies, coworking spaces and hospitality labels that have come calling, looking for that je-ne-sais-quoi home feel that Gennari and Gosset have devised.
The Socialite Family’s wares can be spotted at the third Parisian outpost of coworking hubs The Bureau and Morning; at destinations such as the über-chic L’Etoile des Baux vacation homes complex imagined by Iconic House in Provence, or even thrown into the décor of destination events staged by luxury brands.
That’s the other area they’re planning to capitalize on by making their trade show debut at the September edition of the Maison & Objet fair with a 500-square-foot space in the Hospitality Lab, a newly established area dedicated to new uses in the hotel industry.
“We want to show that a brand like ours is capable of going into hospitality, where you need high-quality products that resist intensive use,” says Gennari. “I like the idea of people living there, passing through but also staying a while, with quiet luxury that makes you feel at home.”
The idea of building a home is how The Socialite Family started. “People always wonder how we went from being a media to a furniture brand,” says Gennari. But for her, this was the natural continuation of the eclecticism and knack for solid, lasting choices that she’d grown up with.
Born to a French mother with a knack for collecting antiques and an Italian father with a sparser vision of interiors, Gennari and her siblings grew up between Paris and Milan, soaking in both sides of their aesthetic heritage — and homes with the spoils of their mother’s shopping expeditions to flea markets and auctions. The future interiors maven first studied law and art history with an eye toward becoming an auctioneer before veering off into media.
After five years as editor-in-chief of French contemporary children’s fashion and lifestyle quarterly Milk Magazine and a four-year stint in advertising agencies, Gennari “wanted to show how modern families lived,” she recalls.
Not only did she want to capture the chic homes of urbanites — with or without children — but she also felt the interiors needed the presence of their denizens to truly express “how you really live when you have kids after 30, how you create an apartment with personality, even how you educate kids — because they’re doing a lot more than we did at their age — breadcrumbs on the dining room table, toys on the floor and all,” she says before adding with a laugh that their photos remain quite polished “because people are well-mannered and tidy their homes.”
That approach caught on and soon enough, her website gathered a substantial audience and Gennari herself even had a 20-episode show broadcast on French television. Two years later, she was joined by Gosset, a graduate from the French business school HEC who cut her teeth in investment banking, and by 2017 The Socialite Family was ready to make the leap from the digital realm to the physical world.
“When I teamed up with Constance, we knew we wanted to start a brand, with the notion of the product becoming central to our conversations,” says Gosset. For them, cutting out the middlemen by going direct-to-consumer was par for the course of a label they wanted to be close to their readers.
“It’s a way of speaking to our readers first,” she continues. “The goal was to offer original designs made by the very people who worked with the biggest furniture companies but at prices palatable for families.”
These days, the Socialite Family community is 405,000 strong on Instagram and on Pinterest, its pins, all images produced by the company, garner some 15 million monthly views. Its website audience comes at 35 percent from outside France, a proportion that grows to 50 percent on social media.
“But we were a media so we didn’t really know how,” adds Gennari. That’s when catalogue retailer La Redoute came calling. “They wanted to work with us and I found it interesting to design a whole bedroom — my favorite room in a house — for their home department. It worked really well and that’s when we started creating ourselves in earnest.”
The designs imagined by Gennari and team — the duo was determined to do everything in-house from the start — are rooted in references that include midcentury Danish design, French and Italian aesthetics but also the steel-and-wood of the ’70s.
Modularity is built into most of The Socialite Family’s designs, since Gennari likes “the idea of a living space that’s alive, where furniture can move around so you have that sensation of a new apartment without buying more stuff or doing a complete overhaul.”
Cue best-sellers like the Mara shelf that can fit into a corner or be assembled into larger sequences, retailing for 1,150 euros; the Carlotta coffee table with dozens of permutation options for its marble top and wood base, starting around 1,300 euros; the Rotondo modular couch unit that can be redressed in new fabric coverings, from 1,750 euros, and the 380-euro Gioia lamp with its undulating tubular outline, available in an array of colors and lampshade textures.
Five years on for the furniture and home goods side of the brand, the team is 35 strong and goes from design to logistics and retail, with 85 percent of sourcing and production done in Europe — family-owned Italian textile producers, linen from French makers, Portuguese weavers using handlooms.
Rather than external designers, The Socialite Family has done a smattering of collaborations with like-minded labels, including Parisian contemporary womenswear label Coralie Marabelle, Milan-based La DoubleJ and most recently French kidswear label Bonjour.
After a well-received pop-up, the brand opened its first store in Paris in 2019, on Rue Saint-Fiacre, a quiet street in the buzzy central Grands Boulevards neighborhood, while a second one in Lyon, France’s third-largest city, followed last year. Gennari says that she knew they were onto something good when clients started to come in requesting items by name.
In April, they also opened a 1,000-square-foot corner in Le Bon Marché in Paris called L’Appuntamento (or “the appointment,” in Italian). Complete with a café, it’s “a place for people to sit, take time and why not, think about what kind of fabric or furniture you’d want. It’s really a lifestyle that we pursue through the collections and our media,” she says.