That’s Vintage Gorgeous evolved from a hobby into the full-time occupation of husband and wife team, Darren and Lyn Riggs in 2019. The couple now divide their time between South Wales and Brittany, visiting France every month to source their collections of affordable French art and quirky French interior pieces. Darren and Lyn both have degrees in Fine Art and since getting their first student flat together in the late 80s have always sought out second hand and vintage items. Their training in art gives them a natural leaning towards their specialism of buying and selling affordable French paintings. With prices ranging from £30 to several hundred pounds they cater for every budget. Find them at www.thatsvintagegorgeous and on Instagram @thatsvintagegorgeous
What is the unique appeal of antiques?
It has to be the unique story – a story that is often unknown and often undiscoverable but can still exist in the mind or the imagination of the new custodian. We recently bought a simple still life in France of a glass containing a mix of purple and white flowers – unremarkable in itself until you look to see that it was painted when war was raging across France and Europe and you wonder what was going through the mind of the artist at the time.
What items are currently selling well?
Original art continues to make up the majority of our business but we love discovering quirky French items; from dachshund knife rests through to wire egg baskets and these are also very popular!
What antiques do you have at home and why?
Unsurprisingly, we have a large collection of original art but it is all for sale. The great thing about doing what we do is being able to rotate stock around our own home to curate a new look whenever we feel like it. We do have a few very special pieces that we would be reluctant to part with but……..if the price is right!
What do you think will be the antiques of the future?
That’s a really tricky one but hopefully the antiques of the past will remain in the mix as well as the contemporary art of today.
How is the industry changing and are you optimistic for its future?
The industry is obviously undergoing significant challenges and changes. The UK’s regrettable decision to leave the EU has had a massive impact, creating a big financial and administrative burden on those of us that have chosen to continue sourcing stock in France. But our motto has always been ‘ improvise, adapt, overcome’. We are where we are and have to work with it – we have now got extremely robust systems for buying and bringing our items back from France, by following the rules, paying the HMRC duty and having full paperwork compliance – unfortunately not everyone is doing this. We hope we can continue doing what we do as it is our lifestyle – yes, it is our only income but as long as the bills are paid and we can go back to France to buy every month then we are ‘lapins heureux’!
Is new technology good for the trade and buyers?
Absolutely – since the pandemic stopped us doing three markets a week we have transferred all our business onto social media and the web. And now things are opened up again we intend to keep it online but do ‘real life’ markets at least once a month to see our gorgeous customers and catch up with our fellow traders.
As for buyers it is great as long as they are realistic about what they are buying and they are buying from reputable traders. Vintage and antique items will show the scars of a life well lived and buyers should expect this; equally the seller should describe and photograph their items accurately and honestly.
Tell us some trade secrets – what key questions should buyers ask?
Within reason always buy with your heart and if you see something you love and it is within your budget- BUY IT because that item may never come up for sale again.
And don’t be mean with your money – we know it is the fashion of TV antique shows to get the dealer to drop their price by 50% but that is TV and not the real world. Think of the cost involved in the dealer sourcing, buying, transporting, cleaning, repairing, photographing and marketing that item; particularly with fuel prices at an all time high!
If you see a painting for £80 and you love it – BUY IT – don’t lose it for the sake of haggling over a tenner because it is you that will go home empty handed not the dealer – they’ll still have the painting they love to put back on their wall until the next fair!
What antiques and artworks would you buy if money were no object?
More of the same but maybe a few pieces of classical sculpture if we were really splashing the cash. We only ever buy pieces we love so whether it costs £30 or £30,000 is irrelevant to us, it is all about the joy it brings and that is not something you can put a price tag on.
You’re down to your last 50 quid – what would you buy?
Well, we probably have been down to our last £50 on more than one occasion so we’ll go with what we know – £48 on paintings and £2 on a bottle of French wine!
Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why?
Obviously France and the vide greniers, although we tend to avoid the massive trade bonanzas such as Le Mans or Lille, preferring instead to seek out the quiet rural sales where you are buying granny’s old painting from her granddaughter.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that buyers make?
Just look at the item properly – turn it over, hold it up to the light. If it is a painting stand back and look at it as though it is on your wall, if it is a chair, sit on it! And as we said before, if it is within budget don’t miss out on something original and vintage gorgeous because you want the price of a couple of pints knocked off. The cost is really irrelevant if you can afford it – don’t think how much can I resell this for in the future think how much joy it’s going to bring now.
What do you consider the high point of your career in antiques?
Every day is a high point but the days spent seeking out gorgeous things in France really are hard to beat.
Are antiques attracting younger buyers and, if not, how can the industry reach out to them?
Young buyers are definitely being attracted and not just by the aesthetic desire to own something different from the ‘high street’ offering but for the very crucial fact that buying second hand is the best way to save the planet! Sustainable and slow living is the key!
What advice would you give to people new to antiques who want to learn more?
Go to fairs and speak to the dealers about their items. Good dealers are not just insanely passionate (if not obsessed) about their stock but are usually very knowledgeable and happy to chat.
And follow the most important rule – don’t buy to make a future profit, buy for love. If you love an item then chances are someone else will love it too so if you need to sell then they’ll buy it. And if nobody else loves it that doesn’t matter either because you do!