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9 tips when sourcing vintage at fairs

tips for shopping flea markets

I've just got back from a sourcing trip to France. Often I travel to Europe for a specific sourcing project, to visit a dealer contact or attend a trade fair. Or sometimes I make a beeline for my favourite flea markets or 'brocantes' in France just to see what I can find to bring back for the Anemone showroom.

I have been sourcing vintage like this for years, first for myself and now for my Anemone clients and website, but I get that for a lot of people it is daunting! Especially in a foreign country and language. So, if you are heading to Europe this summer and you want some tips on what to look out for and how to find the treasures, here are my 9 top tips for sourcing vintage...

Be prepared to get there early

If you want to bag the best pieces, I suggest getting there when gates open. Yes it can mean a dawn wake-up, but it's worth it!

Take cash

You may think the word has gone cashless, but not at vintage fairs! All purchases will need to be in cash and markets are often located out of town, so no chance to pop to the ATM - so come prepared!

Check ahead that it is not trade only

As an interiors trade professional there are many fairs and shows that I attend that are not open to the public. Check the event listing that it is open to the public before you travel, even public fairs can have an early slot reserved for trade only - so check timings too!

Have a target list of what you're looking for

It's easier to stay on track and focussed if you have a list of what you are searching for. It can be super specific, such as a designer you collect, or a piece of furniture. Aim to source the pieces on your list first so then you can take the pressure off and have a mooch for 'fun things'.

Use your imagination... and be brave!

When sourcing vintage you have to have vision. Look at the design and silhouette of something and if you love it, don't be afraid to find professionals to help you get it reupholstered, rewired, repainted or reconditioned. Often this is a great way of securing pieces you couldn't otherwise afford if they were in perfect condition.

Don't forget your measuring tape

An obvious one but I've seen lots of people trying to guestimate whether something will fit when they get home!

Seize the moment

The excitement of buying vintage is in the chase. Don't um and ah else you could lose out - if it makes your heart sing, go for it.

Don't get carried away

That being said... It is all too tempting to snap something up because it's a bargain, or you love it but can you get everything home with you?! Also, once you do get it home will it fit with your current interiors style?


Be prepared for heavy lifting, getting dirty, walking miles... it's not glamorous but there's no adrenalin sport like it!