They don't make things like they used to

Updated: 2013-11-11 00:35

By Kitty Go (China Daily)

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They don't make things like they used to

The 1950s LV monogram trunk customized as a vanity boudoir by Bernardini Luxury Vintage.

As any vintage aficionado knows, there are many trunks and cases with great histories and stories to tell but most of them are in appalling condition with damaged exteriors and wood worm-infested interiors. Bernardini's goods are all treated for bugs and wood worm to EU standards. All watches are professionally serviced in European workshops before being shipped to Hong Kong.

There is clearly utmost respect for the original goods not just in the design and execution but in marrying older and modern materials and their finishings.

Bernardini has chosen to work with artisans who specialize in making and repairing classical musical instruments because they have the experience of crafting and handling delicate things that combine wood, leather and metal in one item.

Ma chose to ally herself with Bernardini because she has been Max's customer for many years. Bernardini is a family business started by Max's father. They have proven to be a good resource with excellent global connections, a wide range of customization and incomparable skill.

Not everyone will be a Bernardini customer because of its product type but there really is something for everyone starting at unbelievably reasonable price points. Ma is hoping to capture an avid customer base who will be "once a customer, always a customer".

The business is poised to capitalize on the increasing sophistication of the Asian market. Witness the record-breaking auction results and sales of the most important pieces of international art in the region. Ma sees her boutique as an extension or a reflection of this trend.

"Our things are not in the millions. I would not say they are cheap, either, and I am particularly conscious of our price range," Ma says.

The crystal bag hook "which I know Asians love to use", to quote Ma, goes for HK$2,800 ($361) while hidden away is the most expensive item with a price only upon application. It is a timepiece which is collaboration between two very famous European watch makers. Van Cleef and Rolex Submariner watches from the 1950s retail for about HK$65-70,000, not unlike new ones from most luxury brands. A Hermes dog carrier with bed is HK$63,000 but if you want to spend more and get more for a smaller dog, there is a Louis Vuitton dog carrier with iPod dock and speakers for HK$93,000. Of course, each dog carrier comes with a glamorous leash and collar, a picnic set and blanket.

Purists who do not appreciate customization will find original pieces and an inventory of rare furnishings and accessories that can satisfy any connoisseur from a set of 1920s Asprey gold-lined silver champagne flutes (Ma's favorite squirreled away in her office) to the Cartier watch (the very one) which Coco Chanel wore in a portrait by Horst. Or a set of silver Hermes cocktail stirrers.

Otherwise, there is a roulette set in a Louis Vuitton train case or one equipped with Bose speakers. Ma believes, "We are in fact, increasing the value of these things. Even the poor chandelier which would just have been sitting there now has a new life!"

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