From a blog to a furniture brand: The Socialite Family turns 10

Founded in 2013 as a website on which to narrate homes in a documentary tone, in 2017 it becomes a brand of furnishings and décor, with an e-commerce site and physical points of sale. Founder and artistic director Constance Gennari narrates this success story

Constance Gennari – The Socialite Family
Constance Gennari – The Socialite Family

The Socialite Family celebrates its 10th birthday. Created in 2013 as an online platform to narrate real homes and the stories of their inhabitants, in 2017 The Socialite Family becomes a brand of furnishings, décor and lifestyle, with online shopping and points of sale in Paris, Lyon, Megève, and a corner at Rinascente in Milan starting in February.

The success story is told by the founder and artistic director Constance Gennari: “The Socialite Family was born on 13 January ten years ago, precisely on Friday the 13th. I wanted to narrate and illustrate homes from a different angle, more like a documentary, avoiding the excessive perfection of glossy shelter magazines. I wanted to show how modern families really live, people who have children and also buy things on the basis of their needs. People who travel and purchase in an eclectic way, mixing design pieces, rare items, family heirlooms. A lifestyle that becomes natural, which can be taught and passed down to the next generation. The Socialite Family is a modern family that travels, where the women have kids later in life than in the past, and the approach to upbringing is different than in the past.”

Constance Gennari was born into art and beauty: “I am half French and half Italian, I grew up with my brothers and my sister in Paris and Milan. My mother is a collector who could have been an antiques dealer. I often went with her to auctions or flea markets in Paris. She always taught me to learn about the origin of pieces, their history and the know-how of the past. In Paris we lived in a house full of objects, paintings, antique carpets. Then I discovered Milan, thanks to my father, a more ‘ascetic’ person, less focused on objects. My Italian friends have shown me the secrets of the city, its architectural beauty and its connections to cinema.”

With The Socialite Family, Constance Gennari enters the homes of people and offers us a fresco of a contemporary way of living and dwelling. An engaging website whose appeal is its real content and its immediate, fresh approach, which in 2017 became a true brand of furniture and décor.

“At first people always asked me about my business model. The answer was simple: I didn’t have one! The market of reference arrived gradually, with the first families who appreciated our style. Then came the first big clients, like Mango in Spain, the fine jewelry maison Chaumet in Paris, and others. After that I formed a partnership with Marianne Gosset, and together we began the part of the furnishings, with a junior designer, while I acted as artistic director. We worked, purely by chance, with a French company that wasn’t sure what to do with us, since The Socialite Family was originally a project of online media about decorating. I proposed creating a complete bedroom together, from the bed itself to the bedding, as well as the lighting. They granted us total freedom, and the adventure began with Marianne, leading to the creation of our first collection of furnishings.”

The first items designed and produced by The Socialite Family were an immediate success: “The idea was to position the brand by establishing a direct relationship with the client, without middlemen. We wager on the quality and durability of furnishings over time, and we produce our furniture by working with Italian, French and Portuguese companies and artisans.”

The furnishings invented by Constance Gennari and her team are eclectic pieces, referencing different periods and styles, and they reflect the very personal way in which young families furnish their homes, combining different genres and makers: “I grew up amidst décor in the style of the 1800s and an essential Japanese aesthetic, but I was born in the 1980s so I absorbed different influences. Our pieces take their cue from the 1970s, with a mixture of steel and wood, but I also adore the 1980s, with the interesting use of black on furniture. We blend the history of Italian and French design, but also the Danish design of the 1950s, with great masters like Hans Wegner. We do not look back to one era in particular; I’m inspired by everything, also by fashion which I often call into play.”

The shift from writing about décor to producing and selling furniture, also in physical showrooms, represents a big step: “It has been a gradual transformation. The online platform continues to exist and to generate contacts. Parallel to the website, we have the collection, developed together with the designers. Today The Socialite Family is formed by 35 people, from logistics to creation, from website management to editorial activity, with the same people writing for the online platform and the product descriptions. Where the showrooms are concerned, my partner Marianne and I select the locations for the openings. In particular, for the point of sale in Lyon, it was a natural choice to be on Rue Auguste Comte, a beautiful street in the old center of the city. In April we will open a large space at Bon Marché in Paris. It is interesting for us to be involved with this shopping institution, after having had a pop-up store in the same facility.”

Once an experiment, today The Socialite Family is a well-structured brand: “We have a precise calendar of launches, one in September and one in February, plus other smaller releases throughout the year. I handle the artistic direction, with the designers who collaborate with us, including external creative efforts like the one with LaDoubleJ presented last Christmas. I usually provide creative input, translating what I have in mind in a simple drawing. From this initial idea, I then add the choice of the materials, wood varieties, metals, fabrics. The next step is to find suppliers that have the know-how best suited to the creation of our pieces. When the first samples arrive, we then try to find the right balance, in order to move forward with production. We work a lot in Italy and Portugal, so we can often physically oversee production. The relationship with our suppliers is intense and engaging; it is fundamental to be at the location, if you want to achieve excellent quality.”

The Socialite Family has both online sales channels, meaning e-shops, and offline facilities like stores and corners: “We began online, so our sales are mostly at the website. For this reason, the photos of the products have to be extremely precise and detailed. We also have many physical addresses, like 12 rue Saint Fiacre in Paris, in the city center; and we operate at the BHV and Bon Marché department stores. We have points of sale in Lyon, and Megève until the end of March, and at Rinascente in Milan, on the sixth floor, starting in February 2023.”

For the 10th anniversary of The Socialite Family, Constance Gennari provides a preview: “We will have many surprise encounters this year, so it’s best to keep a close eye on developments. We will also be presenting a collection for small children, stemming from our collaboration with an artist. It will be exciting! And for the future, we would like to travel, presenting the style of The Socialite Family in the United States as well.”