Joe Chaffer - Vagabond

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Your mum had a passion for antiques, and you were surrounded by antiques growing up. What kind of ‘things’ would you have around the house?
Oh God, where do I start? We had Boris, who was a Victorian taxidermy mount of a warthog on the landing and an 18th century eight-foot portrait of Cyclops in the dining room – bearing in mind this was a small three-bedroom terrace house! I also probably had 20 different chests of drawers in my teens, I’d get home from school and mum would say she’d sold it and then replace it, we had dealers coming to the house quite a lot and everything was for sale.

Did you appreciate antiques yourself as a kid, or did that come later?
No. Absolutely not! We were actually quite embarrassed as kids due to our parents somewhat eccentric taste and although a warthog’s head on the landing sounds quite cool now, it really wasn’t in the late 80s – so I remember just wanting to be normal! Seems funny now, but you care so much when you’re young about just ‘fitting in’.

Did your mum realise how embarrassed you were as a kid and what does she think about your career as an antiques dealer now?
She definitely knew as we consistently told her but she always said it’s good to be different and not to follow the crowd. She absolutely loves what I do now, she helps in the shop and has a fantastic knowledge about antiques so is always there for guidance when I need it.

The term ‘Vagabond’ means different things to different people – why did the Bernard Shaw poem on your website stick out to you?
I guess the name Vagabond for me ultimately means freedom. When I decided to leave my career in menswear, I left London with my last pay cheque, and within a week I got my dog Buster and a transit van, I still have both! I also left my house, with everyone thinking I was crazy as things were progressing well with my career; someone said: “You’re going to be a vagabond.” I had no idea what that meant at the time and when I randomly looked it up, I found it has many meanings, a lot of which made sense to how I wanted to live my life from then on – not being tied down to a particular job or property and being able to move and adapt as the business needed. So ultimately if you had to sum it up, then freedom is the word I’d use, but it also has a good ring to it I guess. I think Bernard Shaw’s poem The Vagabond sums up what it means to me.


Woo Gilchrist