Diane Harby: Love and Antique Lace

Exquisite antique lace, period embroidery and linen, coats, veils, scarfs and stoles are all part of Diane Harby's internationally recognised collection...

Something Old...A Model in Antique Lace

Her busy store is visited by designers and couturiers, art and fashion students, collectors, traders and of course -brides to be!

Antique lace and linen is an incomparable material for luxury clothes and interiors that brings real history and craftsmanship to any design.
We went to her shop on the lower ground floor to find out more...

Diane please tell us how did you come into such a particular and specialised area in the antiques trade?

I have now been trading for as long as I can remember. But it didn’t start this way. Early on in my career, I was a buyer for a big London store. I worked in the corner of Woodstock Street, and I used to collect Art Deco pieces, clothing as well as ceramics. I managed to create a little corner in the shop where I exhibited my own findings and started selling. The shop was next door to Phillips Auction House. Lots of antiques people passed by, and I had antiques dealers customers. My boyfriend at the time gave me the idea to get a place and start selling as I had accumulated a large stock. So at first, I was trading from St. Christopher’s Place, but fairly quickly I moved into Grays.http://www.graysantiques.com/index.php

Given your background in fashion how did you move into lace and linen pieces?

I did certificates in fashion and worked in stores, but I also used to go around the markets. The same as everybody in this business. Of course, now I have done it for so long that I have my own suppliers and people come to me. As a very young person, I always wanted to have my own antique's shop. And somehow, one day I got given a large box of lace. I sold some pieces. Through handling it the whole thing really interested me, and I became more involved. I can now restore and treat pieces. But I only do it for my own stock as I am very busy.

Next to you I see a space with needles and bobbing for mending-do you do any embroidery yourself? 

I can repair really well. It is fragile stock and I have to do what is necessary to keep the pieces in good condition and wearable. It is very important that people can use the pieces they buy. And I can date pieces very well because I understand psychically how they are made. I understand their authenticity from my experience of handling lace for forty years. I know what is handmade, old or new, adapted or worn by people.

Please explain to us some of your magnificent pieces, what do they consist of, and do you have a aesthetic style or technique that is your personal favourite?

Normandy lace is very popular because it is very fine and because of the particular way it is put together. It is like a patchwork. It is very recognisable. On the other hand, Irish crochet is very wearable and it is known for being sturdy. And you can dress it up, or dress it down which makes it a practical choice. A lot of lace is extremely delicate. I have some divine Italian lace and some best quality Brussels lace that needs to be kept in a box at the back of the shop away from light.

Personally, I love Apenzell lace. It has so much character and individuality. But my absolute favourite is this Edwardian French coat. The lace is full of mystique and it can be worn in many diverse ways to create a different image, from almost casual to super formal.

Feast your eyes on a small selection of Diane's beautiful pieces, now available at Grays...

Black Net Scarf, c.1900-1920

Tape lace c.1900-1910

Embroidered net, c.1920-1930

Brussels lace, c.1900-1910

Irish crochet collar, c.1900-1920

Maltese silk scarf, c.1910-1920

Interviewed Friday 16 November 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou


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