Custom Couture For A Curvy Diva
I have a bit of a reputation… in addition to drinking entirely too much champagne, I’ve got a penchant for high heels and fabulous dresses. In fact one of my most frequently asked questions when I speak is and when I meet clients and brand followers in real life.… “Where do you get your dress?” And while I’m a fan of both high end and low end – from DVF to Laundry – I look for items that flatter the figure. I’m a curvy girl and what curvy girls everywhere know is you can look fat… or you can look curvy. I choose the latter.
I’m going to let you in on one of my biggest fashion secrets… This January we hosted our annual Paris Champagne Brunch at Paul Bert Serpette in the Paris Flea Market – I wore a sensational cape-sleeved knee-length red jacket with a simple strapless tube dress underneath. The design was a one-a-kind design by Cambodian Designer Romyda Keth.
I first visited Romyda’s shop this summer while laying the groundwork for our Phenom Penh Design Inspiration tours. One of the things I love about our Asian Antiques Diva Tours is #ItsNotJustAntiques – from helping you find a furniture factory to custom-make your designs, to art studio and gallery tours to giving you access our favorite local craftsmen whether that’s hardware for your furniture and doors or lantern and lighting makers or simply a fabulous tailor…. A stop in Romyda’s shop is fabulous for retail therapy for fashion hunters, but even if you’re not looking for clothing it is worthwhile for the design inspiration. (Plus she has a maison store next door).
For years – even before we started working together and were just friends – I’ve admired my colleague Angela Somwaiya’s wardrobe. Angela now heads up our Asia Antiques Diva Tours. She is statuesque, standing a good head above me. She’s gorgeous, very sultry and has a mysterious look and wears the most amazing dresses of anyone I know. Curvy, Vivacious and Va Va Va Voom.
I was thrilled when as we were heading to Phenom Penh as part of our groundwork for setting up our Antiques Diva Asia Tours Angela asked… “Toma, is it possible we can make time to shop at my favorite dress store?”
In South East Asia when you attend a social event the well-heeled who’s who will all be wearing Keth’s designs. But the amazing thing… not one of the women will be dressed the same. Keth only makes 1 dress in each size for every design. Created in her onsite factory, the designs are done in a gorgeous Khmer silk in a harmony of colors cut specifically to emphasize on women what differentiates them from men. From now on a trip to Asia is not complete without at least a 36-hour stopover to stock up on my fashion needs for the next season.
Romyda is Cambodian-born, was raised in Paris and studied at the Paris School of Fine Arts and at top fashion design school Esmod. She is one of the few Asian designers to have established a worldwide following; after the first Atelier Ambre opened in Cambodia in 1999, the brand has since expanded to Middle East, Africa, Australia and the rest of Asia. Her designs are all about COLOR and CURVES. Those are the key words that describe my fashion sense. Each item is custom tailored on site, fitted by Romyda. And for a luxury brand creating nearly one of a kind designs the prices are reasonable. I think my custom fitted dress and jacket combined were around $300. The dresses I purchased ran between $75 and 150 USD. For more information visit Romyda Keth.
Kheunh anak chab,
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Spring High Point Market
And it’s a wrap. Another High Point Market came and went in a flurry of silver fox fur, fantasy designer inspiration tours, champagne soirees and late night foot baths soaking my aching toes. Yes. I might be the only person at Market who does it in stilettos, but how else will I earn the right to call myself the CEO in Stilettos?
The Antiques & Design Center at High Point Market stole Market as the MAIN attraction – literally anyone who was anyone in the design community was seen sourcing there. I took a huge group on my annual Early Bird Champagne Tour and was delighted that Ruthie Staalsen of DecRenew did an Instagram Takeover for IDS National and Instagram LIVED my tour allowing viewers not at Market to experience this #NoPassportRequired Antiques Diva® tour in America. So many of our fabulous clients are now selling at shops in America… that it occurs to me, maybe I should be doing more than just PR antiquing tours stateside #WatchThisSpace
Behind every diva… there is a secret. All those fabulous jewels you see me wear? Yep… IF they are not part of my new TCH Collection that’s in development – #WatchThisSpace – then they are often on loan… I want to give special thanks to a fabulous dealer at Market. Donnie Grissom at the HPMKT ADC loans me gorgeous real jewels each day of Market so that I can not only call myself a Diva – but also give those gals on Dallas a run for their money. He knows my philosophy is that MORE is MORE. We start the morning with a blank canvas. Usually, a wrap dress and a fabulous pair of heels and then Donnie begins adding the accessories. Turquoise brings out my eyes, he informs me. That brooch strung on a necklace hits the perfect spot on the décolleté. Never wear a big bold ring on the same hand as your bracelet. And when it’s not my TCH COLLECTION or Donnie Grissom’s jewels bedazzling me… it’s often Nancy Price loaning me Aura. Having friends to help style me at Market makes all the difference in being camera ready!!!
All modesty aside… We knocked it out of the park on our Global Sourcing Panel at Aidan Gray Home at High Point Market. But don’t take my word for it… watch for yourself. I handed my colleague my phone so they could Facebook Live it and as luck would have it, about the time my data-roaming reached freak out mode, Nick May of the Chaise Lounge podcast came along and began his Facebook Live of the event. CEO of Aidan Gray Randal Weeks, Wendy Estes of Layla Grayce, Susan Jamison of Bridget Beari Designs, and Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill discussed their experiences in sourcing antiques overseas, manufacturing furniture in Asia, and doing design projects without borders. We highlighted what the problems were – red flags to watch out – dove headfirst into the topic of international antiques and furniture shipping – as well as discussed the simple fact that Global Sourcing could change your business… and change your life!
One of my favorite showrooms at Market is always Currey & Co – this market they launched Bunny Williams lighting line. Meeting Bunny was a dream come true… She’s a Design Icon and one of the women I most respect in this industry. As I shook her hand I had a PINCH ME MOMENT as I said, “I’m Toma Clark Haines,” and she said, “I know who you are. You’re The Antiques Diva. You’re Amazing. You’re the lady who is making antiques mainstream.”
More and more, Market is full of these Pinch Me Moments. When I was introduced as Brand Ambassador for Pandora de Balthazár last fall they launched a fragrance in my name “Toma”. To this day it is still one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. It was incredibly exciting when a former client on a tour recognized me hanging out in the booth and came to chat with me. When she saw that there was a fragrance in my name she said: “I must buy it!” While Pandora has sold cases and cases wholesale for retail stores across America this was my first time I was there when a purchase of my signature fragrance was made! It tickled me pink.
Speaking of la vie en rose… this Market was chocked full of exciting opportunities. Imagine my surprise when James Swan of Million Dollar Decorating Podcast impromptu interviewed me while I was touring market as did DesignerInc. Mark Cutler whipped out the camera and gave me their 10 questions on design. You’ll be surprised to learn what I wanted to be when I grew up… (okay… spoiler alert… a veterinarian) and, “What my least favorite thing is about working with designers?” For that, you’ll have to stay tuned. I will be providing links for both as soon as available. Style Spotters Gary Inman and Courtney Allison featured us at Pandora de Balthazár on both their whistle-stop tours of Market Square.
In the midst of this… meetings with new and long term clients are the real reason I go to High Point Market. What many people don’t understand is that we don’t just do antique buying tours, we do design inspiration tours. Many of our clients are furniture manufacturers seeking to source samples for developing their next line. I fear I might be running out of ink in my Tiffany Blue ink pen signing confidentiality and NDA agreements after this market.
Net net… This High Point Market was a whirlwind. Thanks for the memories.
Until next Market,
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
Antiquing in Parma at Italy’s Premier Antiques Fair
Fancy meeting up with a group of fabulous designers, delightful dealers, (antique dealers, of course), magazine creatives, gracious guides, and one Diva extraordinaire to #shopeatplay in Italy for five days. Well, that’s exactly what Laurent and I did last month during Mercanteinfiera, Italy’s largest antiques fair held in the historic and gastronomic city of Parma, Italy, famous for its Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and prosciutto, parmigiano cheese and Lambruscu.
Twice a year, Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, and her Diva Guides take a VIP group of mostly interior designers and antique dealers on a trip that can only be described as an “antiques lovefest” because not only did we fall in love with the beautiful Italian antiques we saw, but we also fell in love with the people and places of Italy as well as everyone in our group. (While The Antiques Diva & Co NORMALLY only does one on one customized antique buying tours, a few times a year they work with 3rd parties to put together special VIP Group Tours; Mercanteinfiera is one such occassion. We were lucky enough to be part of that group!) What we thought would be a “look see” turned into an outright buying trip filled with more food, fun and friends than we could have ever imagined!
buy directly off the trucks as dealers
were unloading and setting up
The nine-day shopping extravaganza, which attracted more than 50,000 purveyors of antiques and designer finds from around the world, opened to the public on February 25th, but as VIP guests of the AD&CO we were fortunate enough to have early access during the pre-trade and trade days. This allowed us the ability to buy directly off the trucks as dealers were unloading and setting up. It was a bit crazy with everyone heading in different directions, dodging doggies and dollies (the furniture moving kind), but it provided us first dibs on the crème de la crème of Italian antiques and wares of over 1000 dealers.
Dealers are set up in five different pavilions selling a mixture of styles and periods of antiques and vintage furniture, jewelry and fashions, lighting (lots of lighting), art and accessories. Because Toma was in full-on Diva mode and making history in London at the House of Lords with the first ever Facebook Live post at the Houses of Parliament while speaking at the 9th Annual LAPADA Conference, she wasn’t able to join us the first day. We were in very capable hands, though. Her amazing Diva Guides, Orseola Barozzi Rizzo and Chiara Zanella, took charge and managed to navigate our large group through the multitudes of shoppers. They made sure that we each found what we were looking for, whether it was an 18th century Baroque Italian painted cassapanca or the nearest ATM. They also made sure we could communicate properly. Everyone in our group was from the South, and we could all be heard asking “quanto costa?” in our best southern accents!
A Few Vendor Booths at Mercanteinfiera
Our Goal: A Large Monastery Table
Since Laurent and I had one goal in mind, to find a large monastery table, we were thrilled to find not one but two 18th century tables almost immediately – and decided we best take them before someone else did. One table was fourteen feet and the other was twelve feet – hard-to-find sizes, at reasonable prices and both in excellent condition. We had already arranged to have our “collector” there just in case, so we immediately called him and let him know we had made our first purchase of the day. He would be collecting any items we purchased and taking them to our warehouse in Nantes, France. When Laurent goes to France in April to make a container, he’ll add the pieces from Italy with what he buys in France to be shipped back to our shop in Birmingham, Alabama.
A few things you need to know about Laurent. He’s been importing antiques for 25 years and has his own sources and does his own containers, usually four to five a year. So he was really reluctant about buying anything during this trip. He thought everything would be way over priced, and many things were because it’s a very high-end trade show, but once we started shopping, we realized what a wonderful opportunity we had been given.
even established antique dealers, set in their ways,
can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours
In the two days that we attended Mercanteinfiera, we were able to purchase some incredible Italian antiques and were also able to find sources and make contacts that we will use in the future. Without the AD&CO, none of this would have been possible! We can’t thank them enough! It just goes to show even established antique dealers, set in their ways, can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours. We plan on taking another tour in either Belgium or Sweden as soon as we can. Time is precious. And the time saved having Diva Guides with us to make introductions, translate and negotiate when necessary, and take care of the small details (like reading a menu) made all the difference in the world. Our imaginations could not have dreamed up anything more perfect. The energy, creativity, ingenuity, experience and the professional and personal attentiveness shown to us by Toma and her Diva Guides made this buying trip a truly magical journey.
AD&CO Art Tours
The Antiques Diva™ & Co is proud to announce we are now offering art tours in select cities in Europe and Asia, launching with our Paris Art Gallery Tours. AD&CO CEO Toma Clark Haines explains:
Our philosophy at The Antiques Diva is ‘the design is in the mix.” In my own home, I display my global design viewpoint #MixAntiquesAndModern by integrating modern art with my Asian and European antiques, while in other rooms my antique art collection juxtaposes beautifully with my very modern furnishings and loft-style interior. Many of the interior designers and dealers we work with have long been requesting that we coordinate art gallery tours, both to add to their inventory and for design inspiration. I have waited until now to launch our very 1st curated art gallery tour in a city renown for its art, Paris!
Exclusive Galleries and Private Rooms
Our expert Guide meets you at your hotel and takes you to “behind-closed-doors” galleries. While some art galleries are open to the public or offer appointment-only access, our Guide has relationships that can gain you entry to exclusive galleries and in many cases, even to back rooms where works aren’t on display to the public. This tour specializes in modern and contemporary art galleries, mostly grouped in the Marais district and Belleville.
While each tour is customized for the client and based on what exhibitions are on at the time – often a mix of lesser known and established artists – there’s always the chance that the galleries can arrange private viewings of particular artists that they represent but don’t necessarily have on view. For the seasoned art buyer, our guide could arrange to take you to the suburbs where some galleries have larger spaces in which they show monumental works. To complement this tour, we can also finish the day with a museum tour.
Our Paris Art Gallery Tours are highly customizable based on the client’s interests but expect to see some of the biggest, museum-grade names in modern/contemporary art such as Rauschenberg, Kiefer, Cragg, Gormley, Cattelan, Murakami and JR as well as Picasso, Buffet, and more!
If you purchase artworks, The Antiques Diva offers our own in-house fine art and antiques shipping services, AD&CO Logistics.
Half Day or Full Day Tour, Available Saturdays
Our Paris Art Gallery Tours are available on Saturdays, for a full or half day, by appointment only. Custom curated art gallery tours will be launching soon in Venice, Bangkok and London.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
Where do you get your design inspiration?
Join us on a behind the scenes design inspiration tour of the Paris Flea Market Marché aux Puces with the teams from Currey & Co and Traditional Home Magazine.
What is a Design Inspiration Tour?
Interior designers, furniture manufacturers and showrooms, architects, landscapers, shelter magazines and design industry professionals stay ahead of trends in design, art, cuisine and fashion by traveling to locations that inspire and nurture their creativity and are an opportunity to see first-hand emerging trends in the design world.
Join our group of design industry professionals as we immerse ourselves in the past and present of the Paris Flea Market!
“Having been to the market more than 20 times on our own, they took us to the backside of the flea market where we’d never been before – and it was all NEW to us. We found lots of inspirations and a few concrete ideas on new furniture designs. The best part of the day (other than a superb lunch) was a tour of vintage clothing & fabric shops. We could have spent all day there! Toma and Danielle seemed to know just about every vendor at the flea market and were full of historical information on how Les Puce came to be.
All in all, it was a thoroughly entertaining day – oh, and did I mention champagne! Bubbly always makes an excursion more fun.”
Where do you get your design inspiration?
To book a design inspiration tour contact email@example.com