One of the advantages of online shopping is being able to sift through thousands upon thousands of designs and products. On the flipside, however, you lose the opportunity of experiencing said designs and products in person before you make your purchase. At Dwell on Design, you have the rare chance to hold, sit on, and touch a handful of items curated by Stéfanie Gélinas and sold on her brand-new online-only shop named Sleek Identity. Gélinas’s goal is to bring the work of small, European designers without distributors in the United States to the North American market. Dwell associate editor Miyoko Ohtake popped into the Sleek Identity book for a quick chat with Gélinas, who is based in Santa Monica, and to find out what are her favorite products for sale.
Why did you start the Sleek Identity?
I launched only a month ago to bring to the U.S. the work of young European designers—from France, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Holland, Austria, all over Europe— who don’t have distribution here.
What were you doing before this?
I’m from Montreal but lived in Germany for 10 years. I was doing non-scripted television but didn’t like it. In Germany, I realized how much great design there is and how, here in the United States, there’s high end but not a middle range. We try to make it as affordable as possible.
How do you choose the products you sell?
I get what I like and then test it at home with my kids and if we like it, we sell it.
Where do you find the designers?
I do a lot of website searches and go to smaller shows. I try to find university students and young people coming out of school. Then I work on building relationships with them and hope they’ll also send their friends and their work to me. It helps too that I speak French and German because a lot of small designers don’t translate their websites into English but I can access them.
On the site, you have a bio for each designer.
Some people hide the designers, but I try to promote them. We also have this “Made to Order” section where we have designers’ concepts. They’re expensive, $1,000 or so, because only one is being made but the hope is they’ll be liked enough that someone will start manufacturing the product.
Any favorite products here on display at Dwell on Design?
I like the Meins Bag by Gudrun Geyssel, a German designer. They’re made of recycled sailcloth and hand stitched. They have windows in them that you can open and put what you want them. There’s also the Pipes Candelabra by Nick Fraser that you can mix and match and put together as you want.