One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
This rings especially true for French-born Mehdi Sanssar. Growing up on the outskirts of Paris, visiting the antique markets every weekend was a ritual not to be missed. Days were spent rifling through antiques for exotic curios or selling his own wares. “There are markets every weekend in almost every town in France,” says Mehdi. “I still remember taking my toys to a market as a child and setting up a stall trying to sell them.”
Collecting antique treasures is still in Mehdi’s blood, except these days he can be found in Te Awanga in Hastings, where he and his New Zealand-born wife, Korreen, run the So Vintage showroom. “As a New Zealander landing in France for the first time, I was mesmerised by the brocantes (markets),” says Korreen. “I wanted to bring that same experience of those markets to our store in Hawke’s Bay.”
Specialising in vintage and industrial European antiques, So Vintage began in 2013 when the duo left France to live in New Zealand. Visiting the French markets was a hobby they dearly missed. The couple now returns a few times a year, loading up a container to bring back. If there’s something their customers are after they hunt it down.
Sourcing the antiques in person means Mehdi and Korreen can learn the provenance and history of each item. “When we started our venture, our motto was clear – to bring to New Zealand unique, iconic and desirable pieces without dealing with replicas, reproductions or copies,” says Mehdi. “This is when our slogan ‘l’original or nothing’ was born and it is the essence of our passion.”
“Mehdi and I bring a different eye on the buying trips, which makes our inventory quite eclectic,” says Korreen. The shop’s stock list reads like a museum or the prop list for a foreign film. French 1930s tan leather cigar chairs, first edition Tolix tables and chairs, postal desks, salvaged metal signs from the streets of Lyon, Jielde industrial lamps, vintage wine crates from Bordeaux, Parisian street lamps and bistro tables.
“We restore and customise what needs to be worked on to preserve and give them a second life,” says Mehdi. “We managed to get a set of original skeleton keys from the Roosevelt College in Reims only to discover this building was General Eisenhower’s headquarters during WWII before becoming president. We also have original 1920s Gras lamps, which were Le Corbusier, Sonia Delaunay and George Braques’ favourite lamps. They became one of the first iconic pieces of industrial design.”
With customers travelling to their showroom from all over the country, the duo has decided to take So Vintage on the road. Starting with what was a very successful pop-up shop in Wellington in July, they intend to replicate the pop-up model in different locations around the country. So stay tuned – So Vintage could be coming to a town near you.
Visit: So Vintage website
Corner of Clifton Road and Pipi Street, Te Awanga, Hastings
Words by: Catherine Steel. Photography by: Sarah Horn.