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OUT of Style

Posted: Dec 8, 2008 | by Allan | Comments (0)

The business of vintage and antique shops is to excavate historical pieces from the past and present them to consumers as valuable additions to their home (or commercial) décor.  Most often, this entails finding pieces with some sort of notable provenance.

In the case of vintage furniture the provenance is ideally identified by the designer: Charlotte Perriand, Hans Wegner, George Nakashima.  When the actual designer isn’t known, the name of a highly reputable manufacturer can go a long way – Maison Jansen, Artifort, Jieldé.  In many instances, the grand designers of the day worked with these highly-reputable manufacturers providing an almost double validation: Edward Wormley for Dunbar.

In the case of antiques, the designer is often unknown, so the provenance is based more on the period in which it was made, how well the piece reflects that period, and the overall condition and craftsmanship of the piece.  The authentication of a piece from a certain era is ideally confirmed by noted experts, who are usually dealers themselves, which creates a tangible conflict, but that’s neither here nor there for where I’m laboriously going with this.

What I want to do on a recurring basis, is to examine cases in which something or someone is out of style.  We spend so much time considering what is in style, that exploring the flip side of the coin might be not just fun, but interesting.  I’d like to identify things that are out of style and then determine why it is so.  If, as they say, everything’s been done before, then bringing back styles which are in hibernation is inevitable anyway.  The great dealers know this very well and they benefit from this “cycle” buying for cheap when things are out of style and then selling expensively when the demand returns.  The really great dealers also serve as tastemakers subtly ushering in the old style and preparing just the right atmosphere for the old to feel new again.

We all know about how this works in fashion, but what makes furniture different is the nature of the commodity.  Sure, vintage apparel is highly collectible and hip to wear, but the cloth oftentimes doesn’t hold up well and the lack of availability when it comes to the right sizes precludes a robust market.  Furniture however, is more or less, one size fits all, and the craftsmanship (an essential component of determining whether a piece is valuable) is further enhanced by its’ age.  It’s proven.

Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to return any outré styles into the mainstream.  I’m not that cunning.  Instead I’m hoping to generate some discussion and analysis as we examine what is out of style.  So first, I’m hoping for suggestions – just post comments or send me an email by clicking on the tip link to the right.  At least once a week, I will offer up a style, a designer, a fabric or something for discussion.

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