With the Downtown Flea only a few days away, making its debut on July 28, 2013 in the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles and reoccurring every 4th Sunday of the month, it is important to be skilled on the do’s and don’ts of flea market shopping. The Flea will be comprised of four parking-lots, containing hundreds of vendors and thousands of items to sift through, so attaining expert advice, tips, and techniques will assure that everyone is headed for success. Downtown Flea vendors will represent various fields of interest, including fine arts, collectables, antiques, home décor, and fashion. To cover these topics, professionals gave their insider perspective on how to prepare, navigate, bargain, and conquer the Downtown Flea like a vintage virtuoso.
Hilary Wootton is a Los Angeles based artist and art educator who seeks to convey the traditional values and beliefs of Native American cultures and aesthetics, the concept of interconnectedness, and the healing power and spiritual guidance of nature through her work. Hilary has formed an appreciation for buying second hand pieces from her grandfather, who grew up during the Great Depression; reusing, repurposing, and knowing that materials were precious and valuable. Her thoughtfulness for flea market shopping and nostalgia can be seen in the items and materials that she utilizes in her work. Hilary explains, “Flea market items are cultural anthropology, a visual study and display of the world’s cultures traditions and eras, all in one place! The various things I collect from flea markets, and often paint, are a fusion and juxtaposition of items from the natural world, and man-made objects, such as an antique spoon or fork, a compass, old eye glasses, a cigar box, a musical instrument, a horse shoe, or an old tea pot. They are artifacts (a popular word for me and my artwork and collections).”
Artist Tip #1: Embrace flaws: “The items at flea markets often have cracks and rust, which come with age and tell a story about the piece. While I strive for realism in my imagery, the surfaces I enjoy working on the most are rugged and worn. Many of my paintings are done on found/repurposed silk screens that have ghost-like images from the past that I then work on top of. These pentimenti can inspire the subject matter, and sometimes I find a connection between the old and new images/textures as or after the work is completed.”
Artist Tip #2: Go with an open mindset. “It is better to go for a new and unique shopping experience, to find inspiration and to explore the items and flea market “culture”, rather than having something really specific in mind that you are looking for. I like to walk around the entire area, without spending too much time in one spot, and jotting down the area/vendor/items that I’m interested in so I don’t forget. Taking an overview of the flea market also allows you to compare prices and even chose to do business with a vendor that is more knowledgeable than another or has an item more authentic than another.”
Artist Tip #3: Converse with interesting and eclectic vendors. “Flea market vendors often come from other countries and may import items from their native land. Chat with vendors, take an interest in their items, ask questions about where an item came from, the age of the item, etc. It’s a more personal shopping experience than going into a chain, retail store. Be warm and smile, this can pay off when you’re trying to score a deal!” Learn more about Hilary Wooton and view her work at http://www.hilarywootton.com/.
Leslie Westbrook, contributing writer to Traditional Home and California Homes magazines and former west coast editor of Antiques West says, “I’ve been enjoying what I refer to as ‘treasure hunting’ since childhood. My fascination began (and continues to this day) by attending auctions with my grandmother in Los Angeles, to searching for items that caught my eye and fit my pocketbook on Portobello Road and even early morning jaunts to Bermondsey Market in London. I still keep up with auctions, especially at Bonham’s in Los Angeles, but my true love is exploring flea markets. I have been very lucky with my finds by using helpful tips that I have learned over the years. As a former antique store owner and part time dealer, I have bought antiques in many flea markets in Latin America (Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo, Brazil) but somehow there’s nothing quite like flea marketing in my home state of California, where I can bargain in English!”
Antiques & Home Décor Tip #1: Feel Furniture. “Lightly run your fingertips across the top of the piece, a ridge or waviness will indicate that it is older and more valuable.”
Antiques & Home Décor Tip #2: Be technologically savvy. “Because of smart phones, you can look up the brands from labels or markings to gain a better knowledge of what the piece is worth. I also look up an artist’s name to see if he or she is listed.
Antiques & Home Décor Tip #3: Lateness and bargaining pays. “If you buy later in the day, you will have a chance of getting a better price. Also, be sure to have a lot of small bills on hand so you can bargain successfully. For example, you’ll want to be able to say “I don’t have that much on me” and give that exact amount. If they still don’t budge on the price, don’t be afraid to walk away- there are a lot of great finds in the flea.”
Antiques & Home Décor Tip #4: Think big picture. “Buy what you like and be sure you have the ability to transport it. Buy items that you’re personally fond of, even if you plan to resell the item, that way you won’t feel stuck with the item if you are unable to sell. If you buy a large object, it is important you have the means to get it home. Choose to drive the biggest car you own (or rent a moving van) and remember to measure!”
Antiques & Home Décor Tip #5: Buyers Beware. “Vendors don’t always know what they have, which can work in your favor or not. They may claim that an item is something that it’s not or be unaware of its value. But remember, all is fair in love and flea marketing.” Learn more about Leslie Westbrooke at http://www.lesliewestbrook.com/.
Naz Ramezani, fashion blogger and creator of The LA Native, has shown that vintage fashion doesn’t necessarily have to be an entire outfit, but that flea market pieces can be mixed into modern looks. Naz explains, “I have always been, and always will be, drawn to vintage accessories. Over the years, I have refined my knack for incorporating vintage accessories (jewelry, boots, hats, bags, etc.) into a modern outfit. I find that accessorizing in this way not only makes a plain outfit look extraordinary, but it adds a certain degree of uniqueness and originality that is unmatched to that of any look that you would encounter at your local shopping mall. The key for me however, is moderation. I add elements from different eras to modern pieces and reframe from wearing head-to-toe vintage; otherwise, I would look like I’m wearing a costume from a previous decade. My blog depicts my fashion sense, and the inspiration behind it. The LA Native is the perfect site for individuals seeking style inspiration or simply searching for some new ideas to transform an average everyday outfit into a unique ensemble.” She continues, “Growing up in L.A., I was fortunate enough to be able to feed my creative interest for vintage by attending flea markets around the LA area such as the Fairfax Flea Market and the Rose Bowl. Fleas are the ideal shopping destination to find special, individual pieces at bargain prices. It is important that you read this guide on bargains before making any purchases. Keeping in mind some vital tips, I always find myself being able to negotiate with the vendors and usually leaving with the items I want.”
Fashion Tip #1: Go Early. “I cannot stress the importance of this one. Flea markets function on a first come, first served basis. If you go early, you have access to everything before others and get first dibs.”
Fashion Tip #2: Do your research. “If you are interested in a particular type of item, like vintage leather boots, for instance, do some online research so you know the ballpark price range in advance. Otherwise you might end up spending a fortune on something that was not worth it.”
Fashion Tip #3: Ask for 20-25% less. “Even if the price is marked, ask what the seller would like for the item. After they give you their price, no matter what, ask them if they would take it for 20-25% less. Any more of a discount, and you might be running the risk of offending them. For instance, if there is a vintage bracelet and the seller wants $100, offering the seller $80 for the item wouldn’t hurt. Most of the time, the sellers are willing to negotiate a price.”
Fashion Tip #4: Know what’s hot. “My most desired finds at flea markets: Vintage boots, silver turquoise jewelry, ethnic pendants or bangles, fringe kimonos or jackets, frayed denim shorts, vintage leather bags, scarves, and brimmed or floppy hats.”
Fashion Tip #5: Buy things in a condition which you’d wear them: “Buy items that semi-fit or don’t need much repair or alteration. Yes, these items are used, but if they are falling apart and need more care than you have time for, it’s better to spend your money on an item that you can use immediately.”
Fashion Tip #6: If you want something, get it. “This isn’t a department store – if you don’t buy something you really love at a flea market, chances are you won’t find it elsewhere because it’s vintage. Also, if you do end up miraculously finding it online because you searched for hours, you will probably end up paying way more than you would have bought it for in person at the flea.” Learn more about Naz Ramezani and her style tips at http://thelanative.com/.
About Downtown Flea
The Downtown Flea will feature hundreds of vintage dealers, talented designers and creative crafts people, guest DJs, an exclusive Scavenger Hunt (with prizes), and a private VIP ‘chill zone’. The Flea will take place within four parking lots located between 2nd and 4th and Main to Broadway. Admission cost is $5, which allows you access all four lots. Tickets may be purchased on location at the ticket booth or online at www.dtflea.com. VIP tickets are extra and feature executive restrooms, complimentary beverages and lounge seating. The Downtown Flea opens at 10a.m. and ends at 4p.m. Ample parking is available at Joe’s six story structure located between 2nd and 3rd on Spring Street. Follow Downtown Flea on Twitter @DTFlea and Facebook at www.facebook.com/downtownflea. Downtown Flea in the Historic Core, 246 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015, telephone (323) 391-3378.