Repurposed antiques are nothing new – Etsy is flooded with them. A niche for high-quality, innovative vintage pieces is emerging in Hong Kong and beyond. Chandelier pendants are becoming wall hooks, Louis Vuitton monogrammed trunks are becoming portable vanity boudoirs, and a new generation of Chinese is becoming familiar with a level of craftsmanship that belongs to yesteryear.
The leader of this movement is retailer and fashion e-tailer Adrienne Ma, who has opened the Bernardini Luxury Vintage in Hong Kong. “The fun part of this new venture is that we are taking an early stake in a new industry that is just warming up…Yes, there are vintage watches and antiques around but this format of modern or luxury vintage is not done yet…This is an alternative to the vintage and antique markets we see around the world,” she said.
Ma described this concept as “rare elegance, re-imagined” in an interview with Time Out Hong Kong.
There is a difference between antiques – which are over 100 years old and have limited functionality – and the re-purposed vintage pieces hitting the market. Instead of being decorative, the vintage creations aspire to integrate into modern life, but in ways that could not be imagined when they first hit the scene. Fine bags have become dog carriers. Nice cases have become iPod docks.
Pieces need to have the sparkle of the brand new – musty doesn’t cut it in China. “It’s not that we just brush them up or completely remake them into mint condition. Asian customers, like myself, while they appreciate history, don’t like things too beat up,” Ma said. All cases and trunks are treated for bugs and wood worm to EU specifications. Watches are serviced in Europe before being shipped to Hong Kong.
The increasing sophistication of the Asian market, which now demands one-of-a-kind pieces of high-quality craftsmanship, means the trend in ultra-luxury vintage is bound to catch on. Record-breaking auction results and sales of international art in Asia also point to a culture that is ready to embrace all the best parts of the past. And having a collector’s cash flow certainly helps, too. “Our things are not in the millions. I would not say they are cheap, either, and I am particularly conscious of our price range,” Ma said.