Scout Out!: Secret Ships

photo-14One’s a performer in rock bands, sideshows and burlesque shoots. The other is an avid global traveller. Together, they are Secret Ships – an online store and traveling fashion boutique offering unique jewelry and home decor from all over the world.

“Our customers can expect to find handmade jewelry, home accessories and global curiosities from Bolivia, Turkey, India, Afghanistan and about 15 other countries,” says Sara Hartmann, co-owner. “Many of the pieces are designed by us and made [at The Industrial Stitchers Guild in South Boston] using artisan textiles, so you won’t find them anywhere else.”

Any Secret Ships products not made in Boston are made by artisans outside of the United States, all of which identify as fair trade organizations or social enterprises.

Hartmann and her business partner, Natalie LaChall, both attended MassArt, but didn’t meet until after college when they were both costume designers at The Boston Conservatory. Their shared interest in design and adventure make them a dynamic duo –Hartmann’s traveled to about 40 countries, for work and for pleasure, while LaChall has a side career as a performer and musician.

“Even though we’re both designers, we have very different aesthetics,” Hartmann says. “[Mine] tends to be more global, and Natalie’s is vintage-inspired. Our combined tastes result in a unique style.”

Intricately designed, colorful pieces such as pillows, parasols, totes and jewelry grace Somerville-based Secret Ships’ online shop, and customers have the choice to browse by item or country. If online shopping’s not your thing, curious consumers can explore Secret Ships in person with its new caravan.

“The Secret Ships Caravan is a mobile boutique in an old world-style, wooden trailer,” Hartmann says. “Our mission is to recreate the excitement of shopping at the foreign bazaars and open-air markets that many of our products come from.”

The caravan stocks a revolving selection of global items handpicked by Hartmann and LaChall. It came to life after Secret Ships ran a successful Kickstarter campaign which funded the construction of the caravan.

“We collaborated with a woodworker in the Berkshires to custom design and build the trailer. We are also working with another woodworker in Jamaica Plain to customize the interior,” Hartmann says.

P10902022This summer, Secret Ships will also be piloting a Dress Bar on their website, which is currently available at the local markets they frequent (check their Facebook page at to see which markets they’ll be at next).

“Shoppers can order a dress made just for them, customized by choosing from a revolving collection of global fabrics with a variety of detail options, like buttons, bows and other finishes,” Hartmann says.

Whether you’re in the market for a new dress, a toss pillow, a bracelet or all of the above, Secret Ships promises a unique collection of one-of-a-kind options.

To shop Secret Ships’ products online – or to track down the caravan – visit