Regent Antiques count The Savoy, Ralph Lauren and 20th Century Fox among their clients. Company founder Tino Quaradeghini reflects on change and opportunity in the antiques trade
“Understanding a constantly changing market is essential,” states Tino Quaradeghini, antiques dealer and founder of Regent Antiques. “Building a successful business is hard work and takes time. Great customer service, reputation, and relationships are essential in the online world.” And sticking to these values is why the North London company has built up an established client base all over the world.
Over the four decades since the company’s inception in 1980, Quaradeghini has drawn from his passion for art and beautiful objects to form a reputation which is highly respected throughout the antiques world, as well as being members of organisations such as LAPADA and CINOA.
Evolving and adapting as the market has changed drastically has ensured the success of Regent Antiques, which has gone from its position as a leading wholesaler to established dealers across Europe, to an online marketplace of antiques which supplies both individual and corporate clients. “For us, this transformation started gradually about 15 years ago,” Quaradeghini reveals. “Now, the vast majority of our sales are online to individual buyers and the world’s top interior designers.” It’s not just a change the company has seen individually – Quaradeghini feels the globalisation of the markets and the shift from brick-and-mortar establishments is the biggest move the whole industry has seen in the last 40 years.
The sourcing of items for Regent Antiques has also shifted largely to online formats, too. “We used to spend a lot of time sourcing our finest stock at regional fairs. Now, it is done almost exclusively online, through auctions and other venues,” he says.
Building a successful business is hard work and takes time. Great customer service, reputation, and relationships are essential in the online world.Regent Antiques founder Tino Quaradeghini
This is a far cry from the buying trips Quaradeghini used to undertake regularly during the early years of business in the 1980s. “I was flying to Ireland almost every month,” he says. “This was mainly to the Limerick area, where most of the Irish travellers lived as well as various locations in the North.” Recalling the times when he would buy 40-foot truckloads of items at a time, he says his main client base was Italian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese dealers in London, who would sell it onto some of the finest retail shops on the continent.
While the supply was abundant at the time, Quaradeghini says these trips came with their own set of challenges. “At that time, the IRA were controlling a lot of things across the country, and I had to tread very carefully,” he says. “Thankfully, since Ireland has joined the EU, things have changed and we now sell to the Irish rather than buy from them.”
Recalling one trip specifically, where he came across travellers in Londonderry, Quaradeghini continues to highlight the dangers at the time. “They wanted to show me their store, and after a forty-minute drive we ended up in a barn. I purchased a few items from them, and they had wanted to show me a final bureau but needed to go and get it while I waited. Leaving me alone for nearly two hours, as it was getting dark and cold into a winter’s evening, I finally saw them arrive back and unfortunately with a piece I didn’t like enough to buy. On my way to the airport with them, I asked why they had left me so long and also a barn full of antiques with no security measures. Reassuring me, they said I didn’t have to worry about anyone coming to the barn as it was actually an IRA barn! Needless to say, I am grateful that my business has changed since and now we can buy and sell most of our items online.”
Speaking of the current industry climate, Quaradeghini says buyers are more selective. “We are still facing strong post-Brexit, pandemic and general economic headwinds,” he says. “Shipping is more expensive than ever before, and this is impacting the industry all over the world.” One positive he has noticed is the rise in interest in antiques from younger generations. “Shows such as BBC’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, which we have appeared on a number of times, are helping to spark a wider interest in the sector,” he states.
Recalling his own move into the industry, Quaradeghini says: “My family had a chain of restaurants across London, and I was involved in the buying and general management of it. I didn’t like the long hours and especially working through the night.” With one of the venues located in Lancaster Gate, he says how they would entertain many Italian antique dealers who stayed in the area on buying trips to the capital. “I became friends with some of them and found their lifestyle much more appealing than the restaurant business,” he continues. “Especially the fact they would buy antiques by day and stay in nice hotels, eat at top restaurants and attend nightclubs and casinos at night!” After getting to know them, Quaradeghini first got involved by driving them around the city, translating for them and managing their shipping needs. “This allowed me to learn the business first-hand, all while getting paid,” he says. “This led to the opening of my first shop in Dawes Road in Fulham – much to the unhappiness of my father who took a while to accept I had quit the family business and chosen a career of my own.”
Quaradeghini’s dedication to the industry has been relentless ever since. Working hard to build up an established client base, he looks back on the last 40 years with pride. “Witnessing so much change, overcoming obstacles and adapting the business to suit different markets has been a huge undertaking,” he reveals. “But doing something I love has been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience I could ever ask for.” And, with the business still progressing and his fervour for antiques still evident in everything he undertakes, Quaradeghini is keen to convey his passion to future generations. And, in a world where interiors are embracing the stories and narratives behind such beautiful items, his knowledge, experience and love for the industry is critical in preserving the integrity of these treasures.
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