CHALLENGE: As a designer, I find many of my clients are interested in a particular look and window treatment style that calls for something very custom. As a collector of vintage fabrics, I constantly research my sources for supplies of vintage fabrics to fill these special needs. Many retail fabric outlets do not offer vintage fabrics, and the reproductions they do offer may not meet my need at the time.
As I search my sources, I sometimes run into snags when purchasing so-called
authentic vintage fabrics through different online auctions. Can you offer any
advice or tips on purchasing vintage fabrics online that will assist me in weeding
out the reproductions I canít use from the authentic?
SOLUTION: Purchasing online can be a challenging and sometimes time-consuming
situation. Many personal sellers who set up stores through online auction sites
can be trusted. Some cannot!
The first requirement before you buy is to become familiar with the policies
that protect you in cases where an item is not authentic. There may be steps
you can take to report any type of violation that may occur when you are the
buyer through an online auction.
Purchasing vintage fabrics can be a challenge all its own. You may need to do
additional homework to insure the description the seller is displaying online
is correct. There is a wonderful textile museum in Washington, DC, that offers
an in-depth history of fabrics. Encyclopedias on the Web and reference materials
from the library also offer invaluable information as to the authenticity of
period fabrics and the dates they are attached to. This information will help
in the initial stages of the weeding process.
When searching online for sources and sellers that are credible, I have found
that descriptions can be very deceptive when you are looking for a particular
item. Words such as like brand, designer look and authentic can be intermingled
with words such as look alike, antique and vintage using the word reproduction
or like original.
It sometimes takes a word detective to figure out what the seller is trying to
describe. Good communication with the seller is of the utmost importance. When
I purchase online, Iím always sure to ask questions about the fabric that
may not be listed in its description, such as size, color, exact age, history
of origination and additional questions of this nature. The questions you ask
the seller are crucial to determining the true originality of a fabric. If the
seller does not know that much about a particular item, I would doubt the itemís
I recently ordered an item that was listed as nearly new. I communicated with
the seller many times before purchasing it. When the item arrived, the registration
card was dated 1996óthe item was more than seven years old. It also arrived
in a condition that had not been described. I then contacted the seller and we
communicated several times through e-mail. The problem was resolved. Sellers
have an obligation to the buyer, but they do not always abide by the rules.
There are many advantages and disadvantages for online purchasing. When a company
is reputable, it will stand behind its product no matter how it is soldóthrough
in-person sales or online. This is good business, and I know that a businessís
reputation is at stake whenever procedures go wrong!
There are two types of businesses online: the true retail establishment and the
personal seller. Each can be either a pleasant or a disastrous experience. The
way an individual or business handles a problem is the key. It seems to be the
same set of rules that are applied to businesses across the board: Customer service
is the heart of a business!
I will always return to a business that has treated me the best. If a business
or individual has misrepresented itself, this is the business or individual that
will not likely be successful in the long run. Overall, online shopping can be
pleasant and positive. As with all purchasing, we need to do our homework!
Editorís note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon
L. Anderson that will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window
Coverings as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
If you have a question you would like Anderson to address, please send it to:
c/o Draperies & Window Coverings
1724 E. Grand Ave.
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
Fax: (847) 356-9013
L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience in the residential
and commercial areas of interior design. She is currently a faculty
member at two Southern California colleges. Anderson has been featured
in numerous books and publications.