HOARDE VIEWPOINTS | LOUIS WALPOLE, TRADING AS LJW ANTIQUES
Louis Walpole of LFW Antiques trades primarily on the web, selling through his own site as well as through The Hoarde and Decorative Collective. He also has a small physical presence in a shared shop on the Portobello Road and is in the process of renovating a shop space in Margate, Kent, which will also become his home. Exciting things lay ahead for the young dealer!
Describe your style in no more than 25 words!
It spans vintage and antique; bold graphics, vibrant colours, beautiful wear, perfect fading, wonderfully tatty or nicely preserved with a bias towards industrial and advertising.
How long have you been in the antiques trade and what other jobs have you had?
I’ve grown up with the trade, spending my childhood on the Westbourne Grove and every Saturday from the age of 12/13 at Portobello Road Market… While I was in college I worked as a bicycle mechanic and after that I worked for Apple as a computer technician (in their world only, a genius) and worked my days off as a photographer’s assistant, but all throughout my Saturdays have been spent working at Portobello. Around six years ago ‘dabbling’ started to spiral into more serious trading and soon after I quit employed work and haven’t looked back since!
CHARACTERFUL VINTAGE RICARD TIN SIGN
What plans do you have for your business in 2021 post Covid?
I’m currently in the middle of renovating what will become my home and shop in Margate, Kent (@theoldconfectioners on instagram if you want to see the work in progress) - it’s become an infinitely more involved task than I could ever have imagined, but there’s a big push to get the shop element ready and open by the middle of the year. So a ‘bricks and mortar’ store is imminent and I’ve been stock-piling in anticipation. Hopefully with that I’ll be a bit more organised and have better access to my stock etc (i.e. not stacked away in stores) and so can increase the amount I have available online, exhibit at more fairs and generally focus on growing and developing LJW Antiques.
What have you learned / what new skills have you picked up? Has it made you look more at how you sell online and have you improved in certain areas?
The renovation work has taught me a myriad of skills I never thought I’d need, let alone become practiced in, but if you need a wall taking down or a lime mortar mix knocking up, I could be your man! In terms of business specifics and trading online I’ve really focused on improving the quality / consistency of my photography. I’ve invested in better equipment and software and taken a lot of time to work on getting images that aren’t just bright and eye catching but also give a very accurate reflection of the item in a time where customers are largely reliant on buying an item from the photographs / description and not in person. Next I’d like to expand into videography to further that and give an even more comprehensive view of a piece.
Marketplaces are a vital part of the trade but never more so than in 2020 - how does DC support your business model?
The Hoarde Vintage and the Decorative Collective have been a key part of my business model since I first started trading. I find both of the platforms are fantastic at exposing my stock to a wide audience, to customers that wouldn’t necessarily find me directly. Each site hosts some fantastic dealers and a huge array of wonderful stock; each highlights some of the latest listings through a weekly emailer, instagram accounts and a home page banner - this understandably attracts a lot of customers and The Hoarde / Decorative Collective allows me to get my stock seen by those people and to communicate with them directly.
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Virtual fairs are now taking place across all levels of the industry and dealer showroom 360 videos are now offered to dealers on DC – have you been surprised to see how quickly the trade and the buyers have adapted to this new tech?
I think that the more successful in the trade have always been good at adapting to new trends, tastes, interests and audiences. Although the items themselves are old, it’s key to keep on top of changing fashions and to move with them. The way the industry changes what it stocks is no different to how it changes the way it showcases it. Over the last couple of years there’s been a big uptake in the use of social media platforms like Instagram and so it’s not a big surprise that virtual fairs and 360 videos have seen a rapid rate of adoption, especially when government restrictions have seen the closure of shops, markets and fairs and forced changes to the ways dealers operate / customers shop.
We have all missed our favourite fairs this year. Are fairs part of your business and do you exhibit at a variety with different stock or prefer to stay with one style of fair to develop brand awareness?
Up until now fairs haven’t really been a part of my business, but I will be changing that in 2021. I’m very flattered to have been offered + have booked a stand at this year’s Bath Decorative Fair (17th-20th June), it’s been a firm favourite of mine to visit in previous years and it’s going to be a very exciting way to kick-off trading in person post-lockdowns! I stock pieces and a look that appeals to me and that won’t be changing, but I’ll be trying to pick a select few fairs, like the Bath Decorative, that I feel my look will fit in with.
I think Bath and the DC will be a fantastic collaboration and I’m very excited to be a part of it!
How relevant do you think bricks and mortar premises will be in 2021?
As I’m in the process of getting my shop ready for opening (eventually), I hope very soon! Personally I’m absolutely craving that ‘in real life’ shopping experience - picking through items, rather than scrolling past them. Talking with someone, rather than messaging them… I’m probably not the only one who feels that way so hopefully as the situation improves and restrictions ease, we can go back to trading from shops, markets and fairs and there’ll be a pent up demand from the buying public for simply walking into a shop, falling in love with something and taking it home!
Tell us what your fantasy freedom buying trip would look like in 2021
Well I’m already missing buying in Europe, so the ultimate buying trip would involve being on the continent in a big van, starting at a small Sunday fair, followed by a string of brocantes and a couple of big trade fairs on the consecutive days. Rich pickings, nice weather, great food and wine and even better company. Perhaps a flea market or two on the way home for good measure…
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Image in header background accredited to Brocante Furnishings