LUXList Antique Edition | The Antiques Diva

We are excited to highlight a special LUXList – LUXList Antique Edition. The world of antiques is place where the beauty and the history of the past is discovered. We want to highlight those special individuals who are uncovering and sharing that beauty, which is part of our core mission at RubyLUX. It’s our honor to highlight a woman who needs no introduction: the Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines, Chief Executive Diva of The Antiques Diva® & Co Tours – Europe and Asia’s largest antiques touring and sourcing company.  She is truly a global tastemaker and one to watch for in the ever evolving design world. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with her to hear what she had to say about the bold future of antiques. She is all about Diva- style, see what this diva loves on RubyLUX!

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Italian  Murano Glass Wall Lights

Antique carved and gilt wood chandelier

Hermes Kelly 35 Black Crocodile

Ruby and Diamond Estate Cocktail Ring

French Writing Desk

Tell me, how did The Antiques Diva & Co becomeEurope and Asia’s largest touring company? How did you become, The Antiques Diva?

I’ve always had a passion for the past combined with a desire to travel to far-away places. At the turn of the new millennium an opportunity to move overseas presented itself and I found myself – a girl originally from Oklahoma – living in Paris – a dream come true!  The Paris Years were my finishing school. I was 25 and the world was my oyster.  For 5 years I lived in the city of lights – I took cooking lessons at the Ritz Escoffier and Le Cordon Bleu, Studied Art History at the Louvre, Took Cartonnage and Endcadrement lessons and became a certified picture framer, studied Interior Design through London City Guilds, and in the meantime… I did what any red-blooded American girl living in Paris would do. I shopped.  My passion was antiques and weekends were spent perusing the Paris Flea Market. I started out buying for myself, and then friends, and finally friends of friends, as word of my prowess spread.  It was a combination of the Diva Lifestyle and Antiquing Abroad.  When I began working on a book about antiquing in Europe – I started a blog to promote the upcoming book and named the blog The Antiques Diva, a nomenclature which started as a tongue in cheek joke initially – I had a shopping sack in one hand, and a champagne glass in the other.  When 2008 struck my book deal was canceled but my blog – which was part of that first wave of interior design blogs – had become popular and readers began emailing me asking if I would take them on Europe antique buying tours.  At first I said No.  I didn’t lead tours! But then I realized… I’d been doing it for years with friends –  I just wasn’t getting paid for it!  No became yes, and a business accidentally was born.   Enter in a decade since when the accident became intentional – countless bottles of champagne were consumed – and I grew my company from being a one-woman firm to Europe and Asia’s largest antique sourcing company operating with a team of 21 locally based Diva Guides in 8 countries – France, Belgium, Holland, England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Italy.  And #HotOffThePress – The Antiques Diva is Going Global.  Now we offer tours in Southeast Asia – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

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Toma Clark Haines, Antiiques Diva Tour // Photo by Susan Ollmann

How do you make your connection with antique sources in Europe? How do you continue to cultivate current and new connections with vendors? 

One of the most typical questions I’m asked when being interviewed is what do I personally collect…. and my answer is always people.  Our strength at The Antiques Diva & Co is our network, our little black book of addresses from flea markets to wholesale antique warehouses to antique dealers who only sale by appointment out of their home to antique malls and antique fairs.  Wherever I travel – I travel through retail. I explore a culture by shopping the local antique culture which gives me a glimpse into the local culture.  When I go to a new city or country I only need 1 contact – that one contact will always give me a 2nd, and the 2nd gives a 3rd and so on.  I make contacts by being friendly and inquisitive and by building friendships.  The antiques scene in Europe is like a secret society – once you know the secret handshake doors open to you.  While I own the company I work with a team of locally-based Diva Guides in Each of our 8 European Countries.  I learned very early in my career that the most important asset I could have in this industry was an introduction – and so my first guide I hired to work with me, introduced to her contacts, and it steam rolled from there, with each of my 21 locally-based antique tour guides making introductions.  As a company – thats essentially what we do.  We are antique match makers. We take clients who want to buy antiques and pair them with vendors who want to sell antiques.

Times are changing, and the antiques market continues to grow and change with the times, How do you see the future for antiques buying and selling?

Clients want an experience and antique vendors need to find a way to give their clients that experience – whether virtually or in real life.  Snobbery is being stripped away from the antiques scene – it’s no longer about pretentiously sticking to one period or echelon, but rather about mixing and matching and finding value in merely that which delights your eye.  Antiques as a category is also being redefined. Vintage is as a relevant in todays market as Period Pieces. Heck items from my own childhood and teen years in the 80’s are now en vogue trending as the hottest  “vintiques” of the moment.  Hello Devo. And it’s not just about furniture – enter vintage scarves, belts, shoes, handbags, in addition to barware, art de la table, art for the walls, sculpture and statuary, and traditional furniture such as chest of drawers, settees, tables and chairs. I believe from a trend perspective antiques are on the upswing – young buyers value one thing more than anything else.  They want to be unique – to be perceived as an individual – and one-of-a-kind finds whether for your interior or simply for wearing as vintage fashion are hot right now.  No one wants their home to look like their neighbors anymore. It’s not about keeping up with the Jones anymore – we are celebrating our own unique life view – what makes us special – and one of a kind antique and vintage finds reflect that we are individuals.

Antiques Diva & Co provides direct access to sourcing antiques by traveling to destinations, while we provide antiques on a virtual platform. Do you see an opportunity for those two platforms to coincide?

Absolutely! Some of the vendors we visit on our European Antique Buying tours are the vendors selling on your platform RubyLUX!  There is a cross over in both clients as well as vendors.  We also have clients who buy antiques on our antique buying tours then sell them on Ruby Lane/RubyLUX.  We could easily offer a RubyLUX Tour that focused on promoting your dealers as part of our Antiques Diva tours! Our strength is in custom planning tours to meet our clients shopping needs – clients tell us what they want and we then create a detailed itinerary to get them to the most number of places in a single day to save them time as well as money.  Trade tours tend to take from 1-4 days depending upon the quantity of inventory the client is seeking to buy.

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Toma Clark  Haines Office // Photo by Susan Ollmann

Through RubyLUX, we are trying to reach new audiences including a younger generation of antiques and design dealers and lovers. What do you think is best approach for connecting with a younger, new audience as an antiques touring company?

Be Real. Be Authentic.  Be Honest. Be Fair.  Be Generous with information.  Young Buyers are savvy buyers.  They google to compare prices, they know how to look up authenticity, they know when they are being ripped off and they know when they’re being taken advantage of. They’re also NOT afraid to buy.  And key point here… They also don’t always care about the authenticity of a piece – if the price is right, and the look is what they’re going for age doesn’t matter.  Whereas 20 years ago buyers were obsessed with question “is this a period piece or an in the style of” piece” today young buyers are happy with finding something funky and fun that gives the look they’re after and could care less about museum quality pieces.  An “in the style” piece from the 1950’s attracts young buyers the same as that period piece it was styled after from 1850!  This is an advantage to the Antiques Vendor. In my opinion the job of the dealer is to choreograph a collection that represents their eye.  If the dealer establishes himself as having a particular look – and if he’s the best at that look – then buyers who want that look will flock to him.  While a flea market with a miss mash of assorted inventory in various price points and levels of quality will always be a fabulously fun place to shop – I would say – if I were an antiques dealer starting an antique shop today – I would focus on becoming a niche dealer. Strip off conventions of what niche means – this doesn’t mean sticking with one period or style – but rather thinking out of the box and creating your own style. I know a vendor who only sells things that are purple. It doesn’t matter the period or the provenance is all about the passion for purple. It creates a look, it’s memorable, and it appeals strongly to a certain buyer.  So the question I like to ask antique dealers is where’s your passion and how can you translate that into the inventory you sell?

In your opinion, what does the future for antiques industry look like?

The future is now.  Perhaps the greatest problem with our industry is antique dealers tend to cling to the past – they lament the good ole days when antiques sold like hot cakes.  Face it. Times have changed and we live in a different world.  Gone are the days of period rooms. But that does not mean antiques are dead. Quite the contrary!  Antique Dealers need to embrace the future. We still use antiques in our interiors just in different ways – with less reverence and in more accessible ways.  Different is GOOD! Accessibility is GOOD!  In my own office for years I mixed antiques with Ikea and they worked beautifully together.  Pick up any interior magazine – whether modern or traditional – and flip through it.  There will be at least one antique featured in every single spread. That’s the HOPE for the future of antiques. Antiques Are For Everyone!!!!   It’s no longer a small demographic of antique lovers who buy antiques – but the audience is wide open for all demographics, all ages, all income brackets!  The future of antiques is actually stronger than ever before because the audience is no longer limited to the wealthy, or the pretentious, or the old.

Early Louis XV Period Painted and Carved Giltwood Mirror
Early Louis XV Period Painted and Carved Giltwood Mirror

On your antiques tours, what have you noticed people are collecting in various parts of the world? Are you noticing new buying trends or similar trends in different regions?

Globalization sometimes feels like the death of international design.  It’s what I was saying in an earlier question about young buyers reacting against it.  Young buyers are wanting to find ways to express themselves in unique and new ways and with globalization it becomes increasing more difficult to find anything truly unique.  And that’s why when you find a dealer who has fabulous inventory it’s all the more special! You get that tingle of excitement… WOW! This is something new!!!!  That’s the job of the antique dealer – whether a vendor on Ruby Lane/RubyLUX or an Antiques Diva Buying Tour Guide  – their job is to be a Style Hunter to choreograph a collection of truly unique one of a kind, chic finds you couldn’t find any place else.  One of my favorite quotes is  “the only thing we learn about history, is that history repeats itself.”  Such is true with antiques – everything old is new again.  At this moment 18th and 19th C plaster and marble statuary has become incredibly en vogue. French confit pots had gone by the wayside in the last decade but are experiencing a renaissance showing up in all the stylish shops at the moment.  Kitchenalia is HUGE.  18th C period furniture is selling well.  I keep thinking Mid-Century modern will bid adieu but it holds on as a top request for clients on buying tours.  Tables and Chairs always sell – utilitarian antiques always do well.  Buyers like pieces with purpose.

On RubyLUX we have curated pieces ranging from 20th Century Antiques, to modern art and fashion. After perusing through our site have you found a piece you can’t live without?

Anything vintage Chanel or Hermes has me at Hello! I think vintage and estate jewelry and handbags are particularly good for buying online! Give me cocktail rings for every day of the week! And for my home? I LOVE Italian Sconces and Italian lighting in general!


ABOUT THE ANTIQUES DIVA

Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva® – Chief Executive Diva of The Antiques Diva® & Co Tours –Europe and Asia’s largest antiques touring and sourcing company.  As an American who has lived abroad over 15 years, it has been said Clark Haines is conquering countries faster than Napoleon.  Working with a team of 18+ locally-based agents, The Antiques Diva® & Co offers customized antique buying tours in 8 countries (and counting) working with both the public as well as the trade.  Her favorite part of her job is stocking clients antique stores and creating new trends in home fashions.

When this Global Tastemaker is not taking some of the top names in the design industry on buying tours, Clark Haines is also a freelance travel and design writer, an international public speaker and a social media guru.   She is a champagne connoisseur, a vintage Chanel addict and her hobbies include driving fast cars and gourmet cooking.  Traveling extensively for work, she divides her time between her home in Berlin, Germany and each of her companies tour countries as well as quarterly visits to the USA.   Her greatest challenge in life is remembering when she wakes each day whether to greet the day with a Buogiorno, Bonjour, Guten Tag or simply Good Day.

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. frenchgardenhouse says:

    Thank you for this fabulous interview with Toma. Even though I am well versed in the European antique scene, taking a tour with the Diva herself opened many more doors, and brought me into contact with just the right kind of antique dealers to source the pieces needed to fulfill my client’s wish lists! {Not to mention that it was a whole lot of FUN!} It would have taken me years on the ground in Europe to find some of the sources The Antiques Diva introduced me to! Now that global shipping is part of The Antiques Diva’s offering, this is a complete win-win for any serious antique dealer or designer! Lidy@FrenchGardenHouse Antiques

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