Meet Jenna Fletcher, the Instagram furniture dealer breaking down barriers in the world of antiques
Take a quick scroll through Instagram and you’ll likely come across one of the following: a shaker-style kitchen, a scattering of cabbageware crockery or an uncomfortable objet woven from rattan. And hey, who are we to judge? We adore our Bordallo Pinheiro side plates.
But Jenna Fletcher, founder of Oswalde, thinks it’s time we zhuzh things up a bit. Born during lockdown, her store offers up a carefully curated selection of extraordinarily rare, exceptionally vibrant Sixties and Seventies furniture by the likes of Rodolfo Bonetto, Joe Colombo and Olaf Von Bohr that somehow feels as modern as it must have 50 years ago. ‘What I wanted Oswalde to do is be disruptive to that Instagram look,’ Fletcher tells me from her beach house in East Sussex, where she, her partner and a good friend are waiting out the pandemic .
An ex Dover Street Market employee, Fletcher takes a great deal of inspiration from her former workplace. ‘I see DSM as being one of the most pioneering and disruptive retail brands in the world. They’ve got this, “We’re going to do things our way, screw what everyone else is doing”, attitude, which has kind of lived on in how we do Oswalde.’
Fletcher can’t remember a time when furniture didn’t fascinate her. ‘Being able to understand the thought behind an object has always been important to me. I don’t think there have been any specific designers that have influenced me, it has been more about the feeling of a piece or what that
The idea for Oswalde cropped up when Fletcher inadvertently found herself dealing pieces from her personal collection. ‘I may have a slight hoarding problem,’ she confesses. ‘About five years ago I kept finding Wassily chairs for really reasonable amounts of money so I kept buying them.’
Fletcher’s friends would swoon over the chairs and so she would offer them her spares. Soon she became the fashion crowd’s go-to for sourcing rare design pieces. Hunting for style gems requires a huge network and a lot of hours, says Fletcher. ‘There are a million different places and people I get things from... House clearances, Gumtree, eBay, anywhere and everywhere. My mum texts me sometimes about things she or her friends have seen on local notice boards.’
Offering a wide range of vintage finds, from £25 ashtrays to £2,000 shelving units, Fletcher is keen to use Oswalde as a platform to destigmatise antique furniture. ‘I think there is a misconception that it is quite inaccessible and therefore really expensive. I’m trying to break that down. [Accessible] is a word that gets thrown around a lot but there really is something for everyone.’
While some of the pieces Fletcher sources can be purchased new, she much prefers to deal in pre-loved items. ‘I try to be as conscious as I can with the way I run my business and the way that I live. I don’t know if anything is sustainable but I do wonder: do we need more things on this planet? There is such an abundance of furniture out there.’
Besides, well-lived items have more charm, she says. ‘When something is a bit older it becomes a storied object. A lot of these pieces were designed for schools and libraries and interesting municipal settings. I quite like the idea of a chair or a Boby cart being from a dentist in the Eighties rather than being fresh out of the factory.’
If you’re not speedy enough to snap up the pieces going on the Oswalde Insta, don’t panic — Fletcher has an exciting retail collaboration on the horizon. And in the meantime, if you’re wondering what the dealer’s advice would be for anyone looking to amass their own collection, apparently it’s important to channel one’s inner Marie Kondo: ‘Buy stuff that makes you feel happy, makes you feel a connection to it.’