For International Women's Day 2022, we interviewed our first female Chairman of BADA: Louise Phillips. Louise is a second-generation dealer, carrying on the business founded by her mother, Elaine Phillips Antiques.
How did you first discover a love for fine art and antiques?
My parents were collectors. As a baby I was taken to sales at the weekend in my carry cot and it went from there. As I grew up, I loved sourcing items of stock and still do.
Had you always wanted to work in the industry, or did you have a career change?
My mother started Elaine Phillips Antiques in the early 1970s, opening a shop in Harrogate in 1975. When I left school, I was desperate to join the business, but she felt that I should work in another sphere. She said there was no future in the Antiques Trade. That was 35 years ago. I started in fashion PR and then worked for Pringle of Scotland in Savile Row.
How did you first become involved in the industry?
I came home to Yorkshire from London in 1985 and was sent out by my mother with a cheque book and told to go buying. Even though I had grown up surrounded by antiques and dealers and auctions I was absolutely terrified - I made all sorts of mistakes - luckily there are fewer now but still the odd one!
Do you consider the industry to be a male dominated environment?
Less so now. When I came into the business, there were very few women furniture dealers, particularly in the field of early Oak, and there were even fewer when my mother started Elaine Phillips Antiques.
In your experience, has being a woman in a male dominated industry caused you difficulties?
When I was starting out in my early twenties, yes. There were a few dealers who gave me a hard time, but once I had 'served my apprenticeship' and they realised I was serious about the business and spending a lot of time on the road buying, it changed. It was a bit of a trial by fire. It sounds trite, but I have always remembered the dealers who helped me and were generous with their time and knowledge when I was starting out.
Have you noticed an increase in the number of women becoming involved in the industry?
Yes - and thankfully quite a few of the younger generation.
What would you say has been the biggest personal achievement of your career in fine art and antiques?
To have survived as a dealer through recent times. To be a second-generation dealer. I’m proud to be continuing the business founded by my mother. And now to be Chairman of the BADA – something I never imagined could happen – I’m so incredibly proud and I will try to do everything possible to help and support my colleagues throughout the whole of the trade.
What advice would you have for young women coming into the industry today?
I can only speak for myself: don't do it for the money! Love what you do. Do your homework. Go out and chase the goods. It is a fantastic business when it is good and sometimes even when it is bad. You will have great friends in fellow dealers to chew the fat and moan with. And you will hopefully become good friends with customers along the way.