Shabby chic: You’re fired!

18 Apr

‘One man’s junk is another man’s treasure’: the ever-insightful words of Lord Sugar on last week’s episode of The Apprentice. And then the teams were let loose in south London to aggregate the overwhelming array of aforementioned trash on offer at a selection of heavenly-looking junk shops, auctions and car boot sales.

Lord Sugar, The Apprentice, BBC1

As with all tasks, what you saw was a snapshot of how a credible vintage shop would operate. The discerning judgment, skill and  taste that any decent bargain hunter would employ, however, was seriously lacking.

Buying under pressure is never a good idea. And it helps to have a clear vision before you begin to attempt to edit a mass of styles, designs and eras. Most of the candidates, by their own admission, could barely decide what to wear that morning, let alone what to sell to the unsuspecting Brick Lane buying public. What we ended up with was a mish-mash of badly reconstructed furniture, un-loveable objects and oddly assembled displays of retro rubbish. *Sigh*.

What was possibly the most mortifying aspect of the show was that the winning team turned in a decent profit, and even the ‘losers’ showed a respectable margin. Oh no, please don’t say everyone will now want to make a living out of Union Jack motifs badly slapped onto ‘off the back of a skip’ salvage! Overall, the trend for vintage was given a rather embarrassing bashing – exposed as a bit of a con in its worst form, and an easy ride at its best.

Apart from poor unsuspecting Jane though, the night’s biggest loser was the term ‘shabby chic’. From Lord Sugar’s admission that he didn’t know what it meant, to Gabrielle’s over-use and misinterpretation, by the closing credits there’s no doubt it had become a figure of fun.

Even Kelly Hoppen struggled to defend it on The Apprentice: You’re Fired. And I find myself agreeing. I’m not talking about the look, I’m talking about the language. The other day I picked up a flyer endearingly offering, ‘we can ‘shabby’ your furniture’. Seriously, is there any more awful prospect than that? Yes, we all know what it means, but let’s face it, the cliché of shabby chic desperately needs a new lexicon. It just makes me shudder. I’m starting the campaign right here – no more shabby chic from me, and in the meantime I’m consulting the dictionary to come up with my new definition.

And to finish today, here’s proof that truly glorious things are out there if you know what you’re looking for. I stumbled across these four lovely little Minton teacups and saucers on the way back from the butchers this morning. Not only are they exactly that adorable shade of aged green, but the scalloped detail and impeccably fine bone china are in first class condition. THIS is the kind of treasure I think you mean Lord Sugar.

Minton England shell green teacups and saucers c1940s

2 Responses to “Shabby chic: You’re fired!”

  1. Chris Baird-Clarke April 19, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    Hi Zoe,

    As a direct replacement for shabby I love the word hackneyed though directly it’s quite a derogatory term. The general public would be too ignorant and it could be played on – Hackneyed H’antiques!! especially given the location they were in – could have worked!!

    Personally I prefer the term fatigued. One could have ‘Fatigued Finds’, ‘Fatigued Treasures’ or my favourite ‘Fatigued Florilegium’.

    Another favourite is antiquated. However the French take it again with Passé. ‘Passé Secrets’ would be a good shop name IMO, but what do I know, I’m a beer drinking rugby lout!

    • createvintage April 19, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      A beer drinking rugby lout maybe, but I’m loving your suggestions! What the hell is Florilegium though – sounds like it comes from one of your medical textbooks. x

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