Bentleys London is back

London antique dealer and vintage luggage specialist Bentleys London is back at The Game Fair for the first time in more than 20 years. Owner Tim Bent tells us what it means to return, the importance of the LAPADA pavilion and why this summer will be so exciting.

TGF: With over 30 years’ experience, what have been your career highlights?

Tim Bent: Opening my first shop on Walton Street in Chelsea in 1996 was a big moment. Taking a Bentleys pop-up shop to Tokyo and Shanghai promoting vintage luggage and British craftsmanship with Alfred Dunhill was something that I never thought I’d have the chance to do.

I think in a way Bentleys has changed people’s perceptions of vintage luggage. When we first started to exhibit at The Game Fair – in the 1980s – people viewed leather luggage as heavy, unusable and almost worthless. They overlooked the craftsmanship, the quality of the materials and the beauty of the pieces; they just saw them as impractical. Now they are far more appreciated.

The most common question we were asked was, “Are these really for sale? I have lots at home that I’ll sell you!

The Game Fair was always a valuable buying opportunity. Now luggage is a recognised collecting field and values have risen significantly, with Louis Vuitton trunks regularly selling in excess of £10,000 and rare examples making much more.

So I feel we helped save a craft which Britain led the world in during the 19th and early 20th century, from the brink of extinction. It’s great to see a resurgence in interest in leather making with a new generation of people learning new skills and starting leather goods businesses.

TGF: How did you become interested in fieldsports?

TB: I was a keen fisherman when I was a kid and started shooting at school. That led me into fieldsports, eventually moving out of town into the wilds of the Fens.

I’m a keen trout fisherman and I use a Japanese technique called tenkara. I am a member of the Lark Preservation Society whose water is the River Lark – one of the few chalkstreams in the East of England.

At home, inspired by Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” book,  we’ve planted  a wildflower meadow and take a very light-touch to managing our woodland in a wildlife-first manner.

TGF: Have you attended The Game Fair historically as a guest?

TB: Yes, regularly. The last time was at Hatfield House – there’s nowhere else that you can see the range of goods, crafts and events that you can find at The Game Fair.

TGF: The last time you attended was back in 1998 – the 40th anniversary at Stratfield Saye, Berkshire. That was a very different time. What were the highlights of that weekend?

TB: Probably a good night’s sleep – we’d just had our first child who didn’t believe in sleeping at night – he stayed at home!

The Game Fair was certainly a smaller event in those days but the fundamentals of supporting and promoting the British countryside were the same.

TGF: With The Game Fair now in its 62nd year, why did you feel it was time to return?

TB: 2021 feels like an important time to celebrate the countryside. We are very lucky to live on a wildlife reserve and the freedom and space it offered was important during lockdown – the sense of attachment to the countryside and desire to travel has never been more important.

TGF: What does LAPADA mean to you, why do you feel attending with them is important?

TB: LAPADA does a great deal to support the antiques trade and independent shops and dealers in particular. It was a sector that came under a great deal of pressure during the pandemic. For these businesses, LAPADA lobbies government and offers advice and support. For consumers, it provides the comfort of guaranteeing authenticity and a Code of Practice that all members must adhere to. It’s a great community of dealers with an amazing knowledge base. We’re looking forward to being part of the first  LAPADA Pavilion at The Game Fair.

The Game Fair is a great opportunity to get out and meet old and new customers face to face. Our website is an increasingly important part of the business but as an independent, family business it’s good to put a face and a personality to the business.

TGF: What can The Game Fair audience expect to see on your stand?

TB: We’ve been saving up some interesting finds for the fair so if you’re looking to put the finishing touches to your gun room, hunting box or fishing lodge we’ll have something to suit you. Antique silver hip flasks, top quality gun cases, vintage luggage, croquet sets – classic British Country House fodder. Our motto is “The Best is Good Enough” and we’ll be sticking to that at The Game Fair!

TGF: To date, what do you think is your biggest success story?

TB: I do think that founding a business and retaining its independence for more than 30 years is something to be proud of and playing a small part in helping to revive the British leathergoods industry feels good too.

TGF: What are you most looking forward to at the show this year?

TB: The joy of The Game Fair is that you never know what you’re going to find and nowhere offers the opportunity to meet so many experts in their field. I’ll spend some time watching the casting demonstrations, I may well be tempted by a new gadget, perhaps learn a new skill.

I’m looking forward to being part of the LAPADA community at the Pavillion and meeting up with friends that I haven’t seen since the last Game Fair.

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