An assortment of goodies from Fox and Flyte.
Trawling through markets and auctions for that perfect something can be a lot of fun but it can also be a nightmare of pain and wasted hours. During this time of widespread festive fuelled consumer abandon in particular, the thought of physical shopping is not that enticing. Thankfully, the recent unveiling of Fox and Flyte, a new online purveyor of well chosen vintage collections, can help you unearth a hidden gem of an item from the comfort of your home.
Fox and Flyte began as an idea between three close friends with a shared aesthetic, a passion for beautifully made things and a longing for grandeur. Duncan Campbell, Haeni Kim and Luke Edward Hall do the hunting and the user gets the handpicked and lovingly restored treasure. The trio combine their vast knowledge in the careful selection of the finest, most charming objects they can find. Abiding by William Morris' belief that having beautiful things in your home can improve the quality of your life, and the love and skill put in by the maker can reside in the object, and contribute to the life of the person who ended up with i, the friends certainly have a respect for craftsmanship and stewardship. From butter knives to taxidermy to Church's loafers, the site is a wonderfully curation of surprises but however different the items first appear they are linked through their shared quality, craftsmanship, value and an enticing beauty that forces you to click. Shortly after the store opened, we caught up with the trio behind it to talk shop, antiques and collaboration...
SS: What were your inspirations, your dreams, and the driving catalyst behind Fox and Flyte?
Fox and Flyte: The three of us have been friends for a long time and it was our dream to work together on a project one day. It was really about spending time together at the beginning and creating something. We spent a lot of time going to markets and auctions before we started Fox and Flyte and have always had an interest in beautifully made things and interiors so right from the outset that was a driving force.
Of course when it comes to antiques, you can spend your whole life devoted to the study of one small area or period, so we were never claiming to be experts but we felt that antiques are generally perceived to be stuffy and expensive and thus inaccessible to many, which doesn’t have to be the case at all. It was very important to us that the Fox and Flyte website not only presented these beautiful objects in a user-friendly fashion but also made them available and attractive to a new audience. The internet is such a great medium for it because it opens this world up to everyone. The potential outreach is limitless but in our experience, we found lots of great antiques dealers but not many great antique websites so that's what got us thinking. Lastly, we started Fox and Flyte with very little budget, no investors and no premises to open a shop, so a website that was clear and easy to use felt like a good idea.
It was much more about an aesthetic we love, combined with a way of working that tries to be a tiny bit altruistic. We live in an era of outsourced production, landfills and everything made of plastic. While it would be naïve to think that we could change this on our own, it didn’t feel like we wanted to contribute further to this situation. One of the most amazing things about antiques is that they are already here! It is very exciting for us to think about a time when things were made with care, skill, and even love. William Morris believed that having beautiful things in your home could actually improve the quality of your life, and the love and skill put in by the maker would actually reside in the object, and contribute to the life of the person who ended up with it. This might be a bit over the top if you’re talking about a teapot or a butter knife as opposed to a tapestry or a sculpture, but it’s really about a respect for craftsmanship and trying not to fill the world with more rubbish unnecessarily. I think we wanted to see whether we could introduce a new audience to this way of thinking, who perhaps may have never known it existed before, or felt they couldn’t be a part of it, as well as to appeal to those who are already interested.
SS: What does Fox and Flyte mean to you?
Fox and Flyte: It’s about bringing beautiful things to a new audience, showing young people that these things don’t have to be stuffy or prohibitively expensive, and hopefully, as time progresses, the opportunity to work with and support smaller producers and artisans working in traditional ways and keeping their expertise alive.
SS: You seek out objects with a story that have been made with passion and in many cases lovingly restored? Could you talk us through your sourcing methods?
Fox and Flyte: As we found out very early, dealers will never reveal their sources! Every time we bought something for the site, we would innocently ask the dealer where they found their stock, only to be met with a disdainful look. As we fit our work on the website around our other jobs, much of the sourcing takes place at the weekends, in the evenings, or sometimes very early mornings. There are a few auctions we have got to know quite well, as well as markets and fairs but it very much depends on what you find on the day. An auction that had great stock one week could have nothing the next week but that’s the nature of the business and part of the fun! Now that people know we’re doing this, we’ve also started to receive offers both from friends and strangers if they have something curious they think we might be interested in.
SS: From butter knives to taxidermy to Church's loafers, the site is wonderfully curated. I appreciate that this might be difficult to answer but which are the items that you are most excited and/or proud to have on site?
Fox and Flyte: The taxidermy peacock naturally wins the first prize. He really is a beautiful specimen and we went on quite an adventure to get him. We had been looking for years to find one and when he came into our lives it felt like it was meant to be. When looking for items to stock on the website, we try to hunt out the most curious of objects, and strike a balance between things that are beautiful and purely decorative (and sometimes ridiculous) and pieces that are more useful. We also love the mother of pearl plates we had recently and anything made of interesting materials like shagreen. When we designed the site, we added an archive section so that people could see what we had sold and the kind of things we’re likely to have again.
We love the idea of stewardship, which is particularly relevant to older things, with the idea that they were here before us and will be here when we’re gone, so the time you spend with an item, you’re really only looking after it. Because we don’t have a warehouse space, everything sold on the site lives at home with us before it’s sold. People sometimes ask if we’re sad to see things go, but if we’ve had an adventure finding something, fun photographing, cleaning and restoring it, and then the pleasure of living with it for a few days or weeks, there is almost a feeling of pride when someone buys it because it is moving to a new home and onto the next stage of its life.
SS: The site is launched with antique pieces, but you have started to collaborate with small producers on special one-off projects. What can you tell us about these?
Fox and Flyte: As we mentioned above, when we started the site, we really wanted to let it take its natural course and just wait to see what happened. The response was better than we could have hoped, but for us it’s very important to continue to develop, to innovate and of course, grow. We love the idea of working with small producers, initially in the UK, and finding people who we could work with to create small runs of products especially for Fox and Flyte, In our minds, the best collaborations are when both parties come away happy, and you create something better than either one of you could have produced alone. So it’s not about putting a Fox and Flyte label on someone else’s product but sharing our expertise and ideas to create something new. We have a few of these projects in the works but nothing is signed yet, so we won’t say too much, but for us it was really about thinking what would we want to see that we can’t find. If we’re looking for the perfect martini glass, or the most charming pocket square and we couldn’t see it anywhere, then why not make one ourselves? It goes back to our thinking at the very beginning when we sat down and thought to ourselves that we can’t be the only people in the universe who like this stuff!
We’d love to collaborate with skilled craftspeople who work in a variety of different fields. We’re thinking about curious objects for the home and person, so eventually we’d like to begin stocking and creating accessories and clothing. One third of Fox and Flyte, Luke Edward Hall, is currently in his final year studying Menswear Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins. He has been producing a small number of shirts and ties in Liberty print fabrics for the website, and we hope to incorporate more of his work into Fox and Flyte when he produces his final collection next year. We have also created a limited run of screen-printed posters with our friend Nicole Thompson, who is an excellent designer and prints all of her work completely by hand. As well as this, we’ve been working quite closely with the architectural designer Ben Pentreath, who has a shop in Bloomsbury, which has been a brilliant experience. We had a pop-up shop there for a few weeks in the autumn, and we plan to work with him again next year. He’s been an excellent mentor for us so far.
For future collaborations it’s important for us to find the right people to work with because it’s about sharing ideas. We can offer a platform to sell, as well as a new audience, and the collaborator can offer a wealth of expertise.
SS: What can we expect from Fox and Flyte in 2012 and beyond?
Fox and Flyte: I think as we learn more about this business, hopefully the website will get better and better. One of the comments we get most often is great website, wish there was more stock! Because we fit it into our working lives, and the way we source, clean, style, photograph and describe everything ourselves, this process takes a little bit of time but going into 2012 we are looking at ways to streamline this a bit and to become more efficient. We are also going to start working on more coherent collections of products to launch together, so it could be picnic, or brunch, or the Fox at sea, but it will be twenty or so products all relevant to the theme, all uploaded together. Finally, we are very excited to be getting underway with a few of our first Fox and Flyte product collaborations, which we think people will love. Details to be announced early in the New Year so watch this space!
All imagery supplied by Fox and Flyte