HomeNEWSAn eye for quality: Selling retro furniture at Mr Bigglesworthy

An eye for quality: Selling retro furniture at Mr Bigglesworthy

Directors Dan and Emma Eagle received their first container from the US three years ago. The pair seek to offer midcentury furniture which is high-quality and has character; lightness of form, and a sustainable means of production.

Their prominent American designs are teamed with equally adventurous pieces from the UK and Scandinavia. Highlights include a plush, 1970s upholstered chrome chair and ottoman from Swedish maker Dux and a 1960s executive desk in leather and exotic wengewood by Gordon Russell.

The store stocks as many New Zealand-made items as it can, Emma Eagle says, but Kiwi vintage furniture from the 1950s and 1960s tends to be copied from overseas designers, typically Danish ones.

“New Zealand is so tiny in terms of scale that there isn’t the mass and quality we need to fill up the store.”

New Zealanders have a reputation for conservatism when it comes to design, but Eagle says it’s the boldest pieces which tend to sell best at Mr Bigglesworthy. She thinks it’s because of the type of shoppers who buy vintage items: “Some want to wear the label on the front of their t-shirt a bit more.”

However, items which are “on the less functional end” of design typically take longer to sell. The Eagles still love them, but have learned to buy such pieces in smaller quantities than those which combine form with function.

“I guess we learned over time not to put too many eggs in a risky basket.”

Mr Bigglesworthy also lends out items for photoshoots, films and advertisements. One of its chairs recently appeared in the background of an ad featuring US A-lister Mila Kunis.

Eagle says she has begun to notice increased demand for pieces dating from the 1980s. This doesn’t indicate a blanket revival of that era’s trends – “I don’t expect a poofy, peach-coloured leather sofa to come back” – but designers such as Ettore Sottsass from the ‘Memphis’ movement are on the way up.

Designers such as Tom Dixon have brought about a real interest in copper and brass, and Eagle believes there’s still plenty of mileage in this trend.

Asked whether she and Dan are considering opening a second outlet anytime soon, Eagle says they had considered it, but the nature of the store required that both the storefront and the restoration workshop be duplicated. Also, the pair can only be in one place at a time: “We feel like it really needs us there.”

She feels customers connect with a retailer who has engaged in finding their furniture as well as selling it.

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