It’s been a tough year for retail, but Muse—a veteran showroom representing an A team of independent jewelry designers—has taken the pandemic’s lemons and turned them into a gem-studded lemonade stand. The showroom, which has primarily worked behind the scenes for close to 20 years, selling to retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Moda Operandi, recently made its first foray into brick-and-mortar with a pop-up shop in New York’s West Village. Stocked with a colorful array of little luxuries in addition to the requisite jewels, the boutique is a Shangri-La for last-minute holiday shopping.
The showroom, which handles wholesale operations for such design stars as Silvia Furmanovich, Nikos Koulis and Elena Votsi, has long been respected within the jewelry industry and has steadily amassed a loyal following of intrepid jewelry lovers (the agency’s Instagram is an essential follow for anyone bling-inclined). But Jennifer Shanker, Muse’s founder, tells us that she’d never seriously considered an IRL store until the pandemic.
When a street-facing retail space next to Muse’s headquarters became available, the pieces fell into place. “We re-evaluated the retail landscape downtown,” Shanker says, noting the closure of Meatpacking District pioneer Jeffrey and Barneys before that. “It started to sound like a great idea for our designers, to make sure they would have exposure during the holiday season, but also for the neighborhood. I’ve lived and worked in the West Village for 20 years; we wanted to help bring some joy to the neighbors and the New Yorkers who are in the city.”
In that spirit of community, the shop is something of a family affair. In addition to Muse’s roster of designers, there are several jeweler friends like Elie Top and Castro NYC. Shanker also turned to her little black book for a wide range of non-jewelry delights: collectible mid-century glass goods from The End of History, tabletop accessories and textiles from Lateral Objects, cashmere sweaters from Leret Leret and Lingua Franca, vintage décor bibelots curated by Stacy London and Cat Yezbak, artwork by Ori Gersht, signed books by noted jewelry authors Marion Fasel and Stellene Volandes. The options run from opulent to stocking stuffer, from Furmanovich’s wood marquetry and gold jewelry boxes to Lingua Franca’s cashmere eye masks and travel blankets.
The jewelry selection, too, is prime for gifting. One of the main displays is dedicated to Muse’s philanthropic Have a Heart initiative, comprised of charms from each of the designers with 10 percent of sales donated to a range of charities. From sculptural solid gold hearts by Greek designer Christina Alexiou to enamel and ruby lips by Luis Morais, there’s truly a charm for everyone on your list. If choosing the right one is a daunting prospect, there are combinations curated by a few tastemakers like actress Cynthia Erivo, entrepreneur Lizzie Tisch and InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown.
Of course, Shanker and her staff are on hand to help advise. “We have seen a lot of success with Christina Alexiou’s collection, Nikos Koulis’ spectrum studs, Bea Bongiasca’s colorful tendril rings and an array of charms and chains,” she says of the best-selling baubles.
With a laidback, congenial atmosphere, cocktails on hand and unexpected gifts aplenty, the Muse pop-up has everything needed for inspired holiday shopping. And who knows? You may even find a precious little something for yourself.