Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Vintage Furniture Flea: London gets the Itch

Greetings loved ones,

For some, Sunday March 27th was a day like every other. For those in and around London's York Hall, it was not.

It was around 7am. Commuting from the four corners, vintage pilgrims in vans and transits descended on early-morning Bethnal Green with bags under their arms and bags under their eyes. Unloading in the early morning light, husbands and wives, good friends and work mates to-me-to-you'd big,burly boxes and objects indoors, casting shadows all over Old Ford Road. Setting up shop and swapping hellos with fellow traders and neighbours, these early-morning soldiers were here for one thing; The Vintage Furniture Flea.

An event not even a year old, The Vintage Furniture Flea is the younger sibling of Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair, the nation's largest vintage marketplace. Coming from that lineage, one automatically expects great things -affordability, eccentricity, an event not so niche as to exclude but not so open as to be flavourless. With its November debut being heralded by the likes of Time Out and BBC Homes and Antiques, the Flea's sophomore event had a lot to live up to; gone was the element of novelty and in its place, an audience waiting with bated breath. Opening it's doors to the 'earlybird' public at 11am, it was crunch time.

To wander around the Vintage Furniture Flea is to lose yourself; gone are the right angles and clean lines that are the staple of modern retail. Instead of standing stacked in plastic and cardboard at the end of a concourse, mid-century furnshings refuse, rebel; whole sets of china, lighting, magazines and furniture are placed together as if to say 'here I am, just as I ever was.' Wandering around the Furniture Flea, one instantaneously gets the vibe that these lounges and living rooms were so much more 'living' then their modern-day counterparts. Marketed as an 'antidote to flatpack,' founder Judy Berger's passion for furnishings from the fifties and onwards is reflected in the G-Plan tables, the European glassware, the lens of a Diana camera in the hands of a curious stranger. With pricing openly the most affordable in the game, how did we ever get so stifled in the way we decorate?

To observe the 2,000 strong crowd throughout the day was to see a plethora of emotions; young couples and students came, searching for the kitsch and the affordable, the perfect object to spark up conversation with an envious housemate or neighbour. As with any event catering for a particular taste, the collectors flocked, tipping-up cups in the search for a certain signature or mark to make their hearts jump. Perhaps the most interesting group to any vintage voyeur is that of the family; generations bonded over an afternoon out, mums and dads move through the living rooms of their childhood, every cut of glass, every colour of a curtain a memory. Whilst their kids run around York Hall like an alien territory, grandparents pull out chairs and plunge down, uttering 'they don't make them like they used to.'

Way beyond the thrill of simple bargain hunting, there is a sense of reverance that permeates The Vintage Furniture Flea. Away from the forced awe and floor plans of Ikea and similarly, the sense of forced appreciation in many popular tourist attractions [I'm not saying Ikea is like the Colusseum but hey, both do share a sense of forced head-turning, a 'look at this now'] there are no lino arrows or 'You're Here' signs in the Vintage Furniture Flea; just like Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair, every event is what you make of it, every stall is a call to memory, to personality and that's the beauty of it.

Editor of W Magazine Stefano Tonchi wrote that during a dinner with Marc Jacobs, he asked the designer who is both accused of "setting more trends than almost everyone whilst incessantly referencing" what qualifies as new? Jacobs quite simply replied that "anything can be new, anything can be given a fresh, new context." In the Spring light of York Hall, these objects are made new again. If we agree with Tonchi that "obsession with the new is like a drug," give me rehab [Flea-hab] any day.



  1. I don't even have a cat, but I love that little whicker basket! Not sure exactly what it could be used for in the absence of a cat though?!

  2. Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article