Founded in 2012 by New York based Andrew Apostola, founder of Portable; Sam Wheeler, a creative consultant to Hermes and Barneys, and Melbourne based Marc Goldenfein, former editor of TheVine, Svbscription is a quarterly service that delivers a selection of commissioned and custom designed products curated around a central theme.
The premise is in some ways similar to a print publication – however instead of a publication writing about cool and interesting products, Svbscription sends you cool and interesting products. With the first four editions based on themes of Travel, Study, Leisure and Collecting, each parcel comes in a solid wooden box that sets the tone for the items inside… These are items to keep, to hold on to, or, if one or two aren’t quite to the recipient’s liking, to pass on.
For Volume 5, Svbscription has teamed up with photographer Todd Selby to create Home by The Selby: A selection of items commissioned by the photographer from his friends, peers and people who have been captured by Selby’s lens. March Goldenfein talks about creating the service, working with The Selby, what’s been in the boxes to date and what’s coming next.
How do you describe Svbscription to someone not familiar with it?
It is a quarterly service that delivers parcels of curated goods to members around the world. You sign up online and then wait to receive a wooden box in the mail with an assortment of limited edition wares all made specifically for Svbscription and our audience. It is a bit similar to a magazine, but instead of just reading about new designs or interesting projects, you actually receive the items. Members know the theme of the parcel, but they don’t know exactly what is inside the box. We are currently shipping parcels to over 20 countries.
And what is your career/background that enabled you do create this?
I was previously the editor of TheVine at Fairfax and before that I was working as a film and TV producer. I handle the content side of the business, the blog, marketing and also hunting down good partnerships with magazines and designers.
How big is the Svbscription team? Is it your main gig or a side project?
There are two of us working on Svbscription full time (one in Melbourne and one in New York) and three part-time. We also have a group of consultants who work on the curation of the products. This is a full time project for me and is one of the most fun projects I have been involved in. We mix editorial, fashion, technology and marketing and it feels like we have found a great audience who appreciate the effort that goes into producing the parcels and the content that goes around it.
What planted the seed for creating this service? Are there similar item-based subscription services elsewhere in the world?
I wanted to work on something physical and to create editorial that wasn’t supported by advertising. There are a lot of subscription services in the marketplace, you can subscribe and get underwear, socks, meat, coffee and clothes, but most of the offers are at the cheaper end. We wanted to build a premium service and so we are a little bit different. We don’t do samples; all the products are custom made by designers to fit our current theme.
What was involved in seeing the idea from concept/prototype to completion?
The business isn’t too complicated in terms of the financial model, so we spent most of the time working on the branding and our first product. Initially people were signing up purely on the aesthetic of the brand. Thankfully we sold out the first edition in just a few weeks so we knew we had a niche audience.
How much does one pay for a Svbscription? What has been the response of subscribers to date?
You sign up online at svbscription.com and choose either a membership or just one parcel. It costs $350 for one parcel but we always provide vastly more value. The last parcel had over $700 worth of value.
So far the response has been great. Some people cancel after the first parcel, but others are now receiving the fifth delivery and love it.
Svbscription V5: Home by The Selby
So you can’t find items that are in a Svbscription package out in the retail or online universe?
No, generally speaking, you can’t. In our current parcel (V5) absolutely everything is exclusive to Svbscription or has some type of customization that isn’t available elsewhere.
And therefore it is more than simply curated buying for people too busy or not savvy enough do their own then?!
Yes it is more than just receiving a parcel of random stuff every three months, the main idea is to introduce our members to new brands, concepts and cult designers that they might not have come across previously. The model is about discovering something new that is timeless and you want to keep for a long time. Our members are very savvy and have good discovery skills, but they understand the value of curation and that we provide something very unique.
Can you share some examples of the items offered in previous Svbscription packages?
We have produced four parcels looking at the theme of travel, study, leisure and collecting. One of my favourite items was an engraved metal tube and fragrance set by Le Labo. They don’t make them anymore and it a really nice piece. I also really loved the desk magnifying glass made by Field in Washington and designed by Daniel and Emma in Australia.
Svbscription V2, Fragrance set, Le Labo
Tell us about the next edition.
We are very pleased to have a guest curator on board for this parcel. Photographer, author and illustrator Todd Selby from theselby.com has been working with us for the past three months on this collection, V5: Home by The Selby. Todd has previously worked with Louis Vuitton, Nike, Colette and FENDI, so we are very lucky to have him involved. He collaborated with a number of designers in Mexico, Brooklyn, New Zealand and London. This edition is out next week and if you sign up on svbscription.com you will have it in your mailbox very soon.
How was it working with Todd?
I have loved working with Todd and his team. He is very considered, creative and has taken a lot of time to produce a parcel that captures his world and reflects the many great spaces, homes and creative people that he has photographed over the past five years.
What next for you guys?
The next edition will be launched mid-July and we are also planning to release a collaboration that involves only Australian designers. More can be revealed soon…!
Will there ever be a Svbscription edition for women?
There are some preliminary plans for a service for women. At the moment we are currently focussing on men, but I would dare say that many of the products inside the next edition would appeal to everyone.
If you went back to the start of the process, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself?
Plan the first four boxes all at once rather than one at a time. We could have saved ourselves some late nights. But that is part of the fun.
Released quarterly – Volume 5, Home by The Selby, released July 2013
by Matt Hurst