Having toyed with the idea of adding an e-shop since the early days of their online magazine, Sight Unseen, former I.D. editors Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer weren’t going to make the jump until they were truly inspired. “The blogs that we admire all have shops and it’s a way to…give your readers something extra and basically make them feel like there’s a universe around what you’re doing,” says Khemsurov, “but we never felt that it was something we definitely wanted to do until we had our pop-up shop.”
Sight Unseen hosted a temporary storefront at the Noho Design District in May 2011 with a simple idea that evolved into something truly unique, and formed the basis for their jewelry-focused e-shop launching today. “I don’t even remember how we thought of it, but we did this ‘wearables’ section in which we asked a bunch of designers to make something specifically for the shop that was wearable, like a custom piece that we commissioned from each of them,” explains Khemsurov. Soon, she and Singer found that the smaller-scale endeavor, besides being relatively more cost efficient and easy to ship, allowed for tremendous creative experimentation for designers who didn’t normally make jewelry.
What started as a fun experiment garnered enthusiastic response from customers and the golden idea for a quintessentially Sight Unseen e-shop—something more than just “a bunch of books and stuff”—was born. “We noticed there were a lot of designers and artists that were actually making jewelry or experimenting with it and there wasn’t a great place for them to sell it,” says Khemsurov. ” The Future Perfect and Matter both have amazing jewelry collections and they do a good job with that, but for product designers and furniture designers and people not necessarily in the fashion world it’s nice to give them their own space.”
Jim Drain, Rafael de Cardenas, Confetti System, Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Bec Brittain and Silva/Bradshaw, among others debut an array of statement pieces in that space, bringing their varied backgrounds in design to the world of jewelry. According to Khemsurov, Sight Unseen’s editorial foundation brought together the somewhat expected group. “A lot of them are people we knew or had interviewed for the site,” she says. “It’s also a mix of people who mainly design furniture, and who may have a jewelry line going on the side…it’s people for whom [jewelry] is another discipline for them, but not their main platform.”
For instance, ConfettiSystem‘s woven mylar and silk necklaces mark a departure from the brand’s signature pinatas and party garlands; while Jim Drain‘s pieces Khemsurov rescued from a cardboard box in his studio, where they were sitting essentially as scraps from a sculpture he had created. Chen Chen and Kai Williams turned the resin-encased ham hock coasters they made for the pop-up shop into necklace pendants. The shop launches with two men’s pieces as well, including loafer kilties by Study O Portable.
What may the future hold for the e-commerce arm of Sight Unseen? Specializing in custom, experimental pieces firmly rooted in an editorial spirit, Khemsurov jokingly pointed out that “someone with a retail background would probably be like, ‘OK, here are five reasons this isn’t an ideal business proposition,” when faced with the prospect of longer wait times and limited inventory.
So, for now, Sight Unseen remains sharply focused. Says Khemsurov, “We don’t want to do what everyone else is doing and encroach on other shops that we love, that are already doing a great job. I’m interested in carving out our own space and this is a good way to keep it focused. But we’ll see.”