My top five vintage venues
By Darcy Shepherd
Perhaps it was inevitable that I was destined to be fascinated by furnishings, fabrics and interior design. It could hardly be otherwise being brought up, as I was, in a home where my Mum (Irene) rarely if ever was without some ‘project’ or other – usually the grander the better.
Not only was she full of original ideas but she had the practical skills to put them in to practise and an eagle-eye for style and value, honed in the Oldham Market in north Manchester. With this as the ever-present background to my childhood it was pretty much foretold that I would take to the world of vintage and flea markets like a duck to water!
But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s before I saw the full potential. I was working out in Los Angeles at the time when a colleague suggested we take a trip to one of the world’s most famous ‘flea-markets’ – and we ended up at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. This is the therefore the first of my top five vintage venues.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market, Pasadena, California (CA 91103)
It is one of my all-time favourite vintage haunts – the massive Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market – probably the biggest and most bizarre in the world, boosting 2,500 vendors/traders and 20,000 visitors for each of the events, which are on the second Sunday of each month.
The market is held in the car park of the world famous Rose Bowl Stadium just to the north of the city and, despite the numbers it attracts, there is plenty of free parking nearby. There are admission charges ranging between $8 and $20 per head depending on the time slot you go for. The earlier you arrive the more expensive it is; so if you want to get there for 05.00, it will cost you $20.
If you are going for the early shift, don’t forget to take your headlamp – I’m not joking, they are de riguer, to say nothing of their practicality when it comes to rummaging in boxes and car boots before the sun creeps over the horizon.
Don’t be put off by the huuuuge size of Pasadena, it’s part of the fun! The choice is mind boggling, the quality can vary but given the range of choice you can always find what you want, prices are OK too and generally lower than the UK. And there’s always the chance you will be rubbing shoulders with some celeb taking time out from filming down the road at Hollywood!
So, if you’ve got a trip to California planned, take an empty case with you for all you’re booty – it’s what I used to do!
Sunbury Antiques Market – Kempton Race Course
The huge outdoor market at Kempton Race Course was established in 1970, so definitely one of the longest-running in the country.
Not only that but it must be one of the best kept secrets of the vintage community – and wow, it’s just fantastic, with about 700 traders at each event, come rain or shine! The ‘antiques’ market is held on the second and last Tuesday every month, please do not get confused with the weekly Thursday markets at Kempton, which are for food and household goods.
This is strictly for early starters – doors open at 06.30 – and you certainly will not be on your own; wrap-up warm and take an umbrella, especially in the winter months. This is where very many professionals come to do their buying and the big attraction is the amazing variety of great quality stuff on offer.
‘Kempton’ also boasts scores of traders from all over Europe including of course many from France, which adds immensely to the excitement of shopping there. Whether you are looking for antiques, vintage, collectibles, jewellery, books, clothes or even industrial salvage, Kempton is without doubt your destination.
You can find details at www.kempton.co.uk/Markets
Brooklyn Flea – Fort Greene, New York (NY 11236)
A couple of young entrepreneurs started the Brooklyn Flea just as the recession began to bite in 2008 and in a few short years have turned it in to one of New York’s major tourist attractions. In fact they have scored such a success that the market is now spread over three sites (including in the Williamsburg and Smorgasburg districts of the city).
Smorgasburg plays host to an indoor artisan food market offering fashionable ethnic delicacies. My favourite memory of my first trip to Brooklyn was, on a freezing cold morning, huddling round the outdoor wood-burning pizza ovens and then munching in to an over-stuffed hot lobster roll. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. (See right pic of my friend Loz and me with our booty.)
Tempting though the lobster rolls are, they are not the main reason why I find Brooklyn Flea such a massive draw whenever I get the opportunity to shop in New York. Actually, it is quite simply the wonderful atmospheric buzz that surrounds the place. That, coupled with some of the most eclectic vintage collections you are ever likely to see make it a must.
Not for nothing did Travel & Leisure Magazine describe Brooklyn Flea as ‘one of the world’s coolest bazaars’; go there for jewellery designers, furniture makers and restorers, hand-tooled leather goods and original artworks, you won’t be disappointed. Details can be found at www.brooklynflea.com/markets . The Green Forte venue is the flagship and with about 150 traders it is on a sufficiently human scale to make it easily accessible.
Ardingly Antiques & Collectors Fair, W Sussex (RH17 6TL)
I guess most people in Sussex will know about the South of England Show held annually in early June at the Ardingly Showground, but how many know about the 2-day antiques fairs mounted there every other month? If you have been missing out on these fantastic events you have some catching up to do, but don’t worry the choice is vast ranging from bric-á-brac to high-end antiques, quality jewellery, fabrics and upholstery.
This is probably the biggest fair of its kind in the South and there is a very definite international feel to Ardingly which gives it that extra attraction. Not only are there regular high quality and friendly traders from the near continent, Ardingly also attracts more than its fair share of celebrities and TV crews – Tim Wannacott of the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip has been spotted more than once! As you might expect ‘the trade’ is also very well represented – they always arrive early hoping to scoop-up the best deals.
The scale of Ardingly with more than 1500 vendors spread right across the showground as well as in the permanent builds means it is not for the faint hearted, but intrepids will have a whale of a time – the next event is scheduled for 15th & 16th April. Find more details at www.iacf.co.uk/ardingly/ ; an entrance fee covering both days of £20 per person is charged on day one (parking is free), and its half price if you only attend on day two.
Annecy, Savoie, France (74000 Annecy)
Anncey is absolutely stunning – and definitely one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns in France. I got to know it first in my early skiing days as it serves as a gateway to arguably the world’s most spectacular downhill ski area. Situated on a picture postcard lake with massive snow-capped mountains in the background it has got to be the most inspiring setting for your vintage shopping ever.
The market itself is held on the last Saturday of every month so you will need to plan your visit carefully – but you will not be disappointed. This is a fairly big market with over 100 vendors and in the summer months often nearly twice that number; it starts around 8 in the morning and goes on for the whole day.
The market is located in the arcaded old part of town starting in rue de l’Isle and then twisting its way through the back streets, alleys and bridges that intersect the canal as it meanders through this charming quarter (photo opposite left by Emily Laxer).
You will find lots of pottery and ceramics decorated in the traditional Savoyard style with bright colours; there’s plenty of home and kitchenware on display too and loads of hand carved artisan items including wooden shoes/clogs, farm implements and other rustic items.
Annecy has a reputation for fair prices, good quality and friendly traders – and as it’s France they are mostly happy to bargain, so polish up your franglais – you are going to need it! Details can be found at http://en.lac-annecy.com/markets-70.htm
I hope you have found this review of some of my favourite vintage shopping locations useful and give some of the markets I enjoy a go – next time I’ll be offering tips on how to succeed as a vintage trader.
Notes: Darcy Shepherd is a director of Cloud Howe Events Ltd and the curator of a monthly vintage fair – Cuckfield Vintage Emporium. She has been organising small and large scale vintage fairs since 2008. Her next event is on 15t March at The Queen’s Hall, High Street, Cuckfield, W Sussex RH17 5EL. For further information call Darcy on 07773 360631 or email firstname.lastname@example.org