The old and the new in the importo and the bello

Portobello very much lives up to its literal translation, in this case from Italian, “Beautiful Port”. There certainly is a relationship between the appearance of the road and that of port, in this case a port formed on asphalt concrete. In comparison ‘beautiful’ can be worn differently, depending on the occasion and to do credit to the article I would like to link beautiful with inspirational diversity. Finally, I had a little fun with the title and dubbed Porto – Importo to sum up the varied international influences consumed in the market.

Are you noticing a pattern already? In a nutshell Portobello is a mix of things, beautiful things, different things, unique things, antique things, artistic things. “Things” is precisely the category they belong to- antiques that occupied spaces at ‘mine’ or ‘yours’ 50 years ago, 100 years ago. The stalls and ‘things’ are passed on from generation to generation and stories built around the ‘things’ and the owners of the things institute the market’s depth of character.

George Orwell resided on Portobello from 1927 and Paulo Coelho’s “The witch from Portobello” was inspired from the life on the road. The market is a spring for the careers of recent art, fashion and design graduates and a home to the food stalls, more antique than the antiques themselves, which in turn began to occupy a dominating presence after WWII.

The market is by all means organic, and by organic I refer to its natural evolution over time- from its birth, in the mid 19th century to today- supply follows demand, and demand follows supply, the market reflects exactly what are the trends are today. Unfortunately, for some of the small businesses and stall owners, the tide of today’s trend brings with it modern high-street chain stores, hip new restaurants and bars and thanks to the hit blockbusters such as Notting Hill a overly commercial, celebrity status.

So is this the end of the road for antiques in Portobello? Sadly for me the market has lost some of the edge since couple of years ago, when more artists and cool vintage vendors were present. Instead a new ‘art scene’ is taking place and it’s that of the uber trendy shops, restaurants and crowds. Is it good or bad? It’s evolution and art is just a mirror for those of us interested to receive feedback of its state.

What is your opinion on Portobello? I would love to hear about it here or @indigomemoirs

Portobello Stall Stories

Credit to JP Hion for photography featured in this article

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