Marseille, tenth arrondissement, Boulevard Fifi Turin, n° 20. It is there, behind the main gate, that there is a magical place: les puces de fifi . Essential in Marseille, all second-hand and vintage enthusiasts swear by fifi chips. Watch out, there are more and more of them! We are talking about a real cave of Ali Baba. The place is “inhabited” by eight enthusiasts who dedicate themselves body and soul to this unique passion: the flea market. For them, the “decoration adventure” is lived every day for their greatest happiness. Interview with several voices.
The "Fifi team" (Roger, Elodie, Emanuelle, Frédéric and Laurent - missing Anabelle, Jacques and Fabrice)
Who hides behind fifi's chips
There are eight of us in total: Laurent, Frédéric, Emmanuelle, Roger, Elodie, Jacques, Fabrice and Anabelle. We met at the flea market in Marseille. Initially, the flea market had a place there that had been shrinking for a long time. We were getting nibbled away little by little by fruits and vegetables, by clothes and other odds and ends.
It was a need for change that motivated us to create fifi chips. We wanted to renew the model. We said to ourselves that we needed a space of our own, truly dedicated to flea markets.
There was this village of antique dealers which had existed for about thirty years and which consisted of nothing more than storage workshops. The owners welcomed us and we started renting this place four years ago.
The name les puces de fifi was inspired by the name of the street which celebrates a militant and resistant worker, Josephine Cavallini Turin, known as Fifi, who was shot after her arrest by the Gestapo.
And Fifi's Fleas were born.
What attracted you to this world of flea markets?
It's visceral! It's a passion, a way of life, too. The watchword is going to be “bargain hunting”! That's the engine. When you go antiquing, you go on an adventure, without an idea in mind, you never know what you will find. We don't have a precise idea, we will let ourselves be carried away, be receptive and chance will do things. It is above all, a profession of chance, but above all, of pleasure, of happiness. In short, a passion. We don't have that feeling of working and that's what makes it a real privilege. We can say it, it's only happiness!
How do you source fifi chips
It comes from everywhere, really! We fill fifi's chips with the professionals; from dealer to dealer, buying from individuals, at Emmaus, at garage sales, unpacking. We can also have customers who bring us objects, pick them up when they no longer want them. There are really many ways to get supplies. Our business is in constant motion, we sell, we buy, we search, we discover...
It is therefore impossible to say that the second-hand trade is limited to a simple trade?
No, of course. Trading is only a small part of the “job”. We are always on the alert. When we see an object that we like we must act quickly. It is impossible to dither in this sector. We buy otherwise we can miss out . That's our life at fifi's fleas.
We often also need to renovate, to make improvements. We do it to the extent of what we know how to do, sometimes we get it done… Fred is our “renovator”, a former restorer, he helps us as best we can when we are out of know-how.
You may also be required to modify or complete an object. Thus, Annabelle transforms a green marble top from Guatemala into a table by having the legs made by an ironworker or Roger creates an incredible frame with wires transformed into barbed wire for a watercolor that has been sleeping quietly in a cardboard box for ten years.
As you have understood, it is a job that really delights us even if there are sometimes real moments of doubt, of questioning. Moments when it's difficult, heavy from all points of view… When you have to carry furniture or move it too!
Have you noticed a renewed interest in fifi chips for decoration and flea markets?
There has been a real revival since the confinement of last March ( note: March 2020 ). For a year and without doubt the obligation to stay at home, people have really felt the need to furnish themselves and to furnish or decorate differently. Hence the choice of the second hand. People sensitive to vintage furniture come to us suddenly.
How do you introduce yourself?
There are of course our former customers who knew us from the flea market and who followed us. Fifi's chips are above all a family story. Then there is "word of mouth" which works extremely well. And then we were lucky to have many influencers who spoke about us like Ines de la Fressange in her newsletter, the TV show "La Maison France 5", the series "Plus belle la Vie" which turned an episode last year and will return elsewhere. Result, more than five thousand subscribers follow us on Instagram. Every day we welcome new subscribers, and it is a real pleasure to see how well we are followed.
What are customers looking for at les puces de fifi?
Authenticity above all! Vintage, unique, unusual! We don't sell fakes here. Each object, more often than not, is unique! And that is priceless ! Even if they also come looking for “price” because we really try to offer the objects at reasonable prices. It's important to us. And this is not always the case from individual to individual with interlocutors who get a little inflamed and can offer objects above their value.
Afterwards, their tastes often go towards the Scandinavian style and the fifties and sixties. Even if we note, however, that the “Classic” still has a hard life and leaves very well as soon as we get back. The interest is that we mix styles, we can afford everything, there is no limit.
Fifi's chips are made up of several spaces. How do you stage such disparate objects and make people want to buy them?
We have 550m2, divided into eight and each of us has his space and his objects for sale. Some spaces, depending on the personality of the designer, are very busy and effectively resemble Ali Baba's cave, others are more refined and feature far fewer objects. It is very variable.
In addition, these spaces are constantly changing as objects come and go. Some are bought, others leave for filming needs and then come back. If a table is sold, the objects placed on it must be moved and this is how our staging constantly evolves according to events.
What legendary design object would you keep if you could only choose one?
All ! Impossible to answer this question. We all buy with our own sensitivity and it's different. Élodie, she will buy only what she likes and that she would put in her home, in particular chairs, chests of drawers and stools, when Emmanuelle, on the contrary, would buy more improbable objects. It can be an incredible stove like Roger's, a glass plate that we will never find...
Sometimes we also buy because the price is attractive. Afterwards we are not going to say that the names of Jean Prouvé or Charlotte Perriand would not motivate us, we would be lying!
The decoration is currently in full development. What are the issues in your opinion, its usefulness?
Of course people consume less and better, objects that have a soul, that we won't find at the neighbors, incidentally.
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Interview by Edith Sellier Pascal