This interview whets my appetite for France, for old French houses, which are among the most beautiful things in the world, for exquisite vintage objects with a story, a life, a second life, a sense.
What Robert and Ina have created through Robertina gives me the satisfaction of knowing that we can still find and appreciate beauty in this not-so-beautiful world. We can still appreciate stillness, slow life, a sense of appreciation for being alive, just being healthy and alive, and owning quality items that are not made in China or cheap and overestimated products.
Your beautiful love story with life is something that my community and I will always be grateful to you for sharing, Robert and Ina.
Robertina next pop-up store will be open around December 13-24th. The date will be announced here and on my Instagram account. And, most importantly, you can order your favourite items via the Robertina Instagram account because Ina and Robert ship throughout Europe, including Romania.
Tell me more about Robertina. Who is behind this project, and what is the significance of the name?
Robert is a photographer who grew up surrounded by beautiful old objects that belonged to his great-grandparents, objects of a forgotten world that became a lifelong compass and helped him connect to his roots. Along the years, he has always been fascinated by pieces with an unusual design and would spend hours and hours searching for that special piece.
I worked in the fashion industry as a stylist and fashion editor for 15 years. I knew nothing about antiques, but I’ve always had an eye for beautiful objects that tell stories, especially vintage clothes, antique textiles, and ceramics.
The intention behind this project goes back 10 years, when Robert lived for a few months as a volunteer in a 19th-century castle in Val de Loire. That was the first interaction with the amazing treasures this magnificent country has to offer.
In 2019, in a time of confusion and introspection, the idea of an antique shop and a slower lifestyle started to take shape. First on paper, with loads of research on what such a bold move would mean. But the pandemic years made the research process even longer than we had anticipated, to the point where we started to question if we would truly be able to live this one day.
And then, in 2022, it happened: we moved to France, first Robert, again as a volunteer, this time in an antique shop, and two months later I joined him. We understood very fast that the only way we were going to sail through this sea of all things new was by trusting the Universe and letting things flow.
We knew no one here; we haven’t visited this part of France before; our language skills were not that great; our budget was fairly limited; yet we’ve allowed ourselves to take things slowly and trust the course of things.
And boy, we’ve been amazed at how things unravelled in only one year and how much we’ve learned about ourselves on this journey.
When I flew to France, my luggage (where I’ve put all my favourite outfits) got lost. I was literally left with what I was wearing that day, and I had this scary, yet funny, then liberating feeling (for someone who liked to dress up all the time) to realise that I could live with a wool jumper, a pair of 90’s Nike sneakers, and leggings for more than two months (when the luggage was finally found). That was one of the first profound lessons that would change me on this journey.
And this experience would also help me with my clothing attachments, so I can easily let go of all those divine 30’s silk dresses, embroidered poplin shirts, and sailor outfits that I would later collect for Robertina.
Why is the branding colour blue?
The story behind the choice of color is a very simple one; there is no marketing intention behind it, just an Aquarian’s (Robert) big crush for Klein Blue. I would like to mention our friend Ana Maria Dudu who helped us put that blue into a lovely logo that we are very fond of.
You both live in the south of France. How has this influenced your personal and professional life?
The funny fact is that before moving to France, Harper’s Bazaar, the magazine I had been working at for more than 11 years, had closed its gates, and although I’ve tried to figure out a way to extend its life, none of those plans worked.
So I guess it was a big sign that an important chapter full of lessons had closed in my life, making way for something I have never imagined possible.
Before changing scenery, I worked on a very special project. I did the styling for the visuals for a women’s health application named Kahla, which brought a lot of light to the kind of projects I wanted to work on from that moment on. Projects that are meaningful and fulfil me.
For Robert, the process was much easier, as he was not attached to any professional aspects, something that I greatly appreciate about him. We’ve worked together on various occasions for different clients and magazines, but he’s always had the courage and wonder of going out there, traveling, trying new things, and not getting stuck in situations that do not enrich his life.
I want to give him an endless and big thank you for showing me that there is more to live for and see, and for taking me on this great adventure called Robertina.
On a personal level, I will confess that it wasn’t easy for me to leave my friends and family behind and start everything from scratch. At the beginning, it was very confusing and challenging, but in this great unknown, so many wonderful things have happened.
Your bio mentions a curated selection of antique and vintage decorative objects, clothing, and other items. Please describe your selection process for Robertina.
Our selection process involves a lot of traveling, which we adore doing.
We are still amazed by how things that we love so much align in the best possible way; the longer the trip, the happier we are. France has so many idyllic villages and heavenly nature, so it truly is an enchantment every time we are on the road searching for beautiful pieces for Robertina.
We visit a lot of brocantes from all over the South of France and we’ve made friends with a few antique dealers. We also do rigorous online research on various platforms that sell antiques.
Every Sunday, we go to the biggest fairs in our department, neighbouring departments, or wherever we are on the road.
Even if Robertina only counts one year, we have a clear idea of what we would like to continue to share with people, and that is folk art, antique Provençal ceramics from all over Occitanie, chairs and stools with straw seats and beautiful carved details, vintage sailor clothing, early 20th century Provençal hemp and linen clothing, and 20's–30's silk dresses mixed with modern and postmodern items.
We like to collect items that speak to us in different ways. We never buy something that we wouldn’t like to have in our house; we just can’t.
We bring with us most of these beauties to our pop-up store in Bucharest.
What kind of people are your clients?
People who are fascinated by French antiques and objects that have lived a life.
From the Ambassador of Qatar in London to studios all over Europe that also sell antiques, owners of châteaux in France, friends and friends of friends, dear people that we know for quite some time who supported us right from the beginning like Floriana Baltagi and Sânziana Pop, architects, and lots of creative people.
Your Instagram feed appears to be a manifesto for slow, fine living. Am I right?
Yes indeed! Actually, since we’ve moved to France and transitioned from the city to the countryside, our whole life has taken a slower pace, so everything came naturally, like a dance.
We live in a beautiful maison de maître built in the late 18th century near the Canal du Midi with a huge garden, lots of horses (as the owners are former equestrian players), cats, dogs, and hens that we like to document from time to time.
Sometimes we pinch ourselves as we are still in owe of this fantastic place where we were guided to settle. A place that helped us set the tone for Robertina’s universe and tell the stories of our objects of charm.
Our days here flow easily. When we are not on the road, I cook a lot, especially hearty food during this time of year, and one of my favourites is gluten-free cakes, where I get to be very creative in decorating them.
In the villages nearby, there are some amazing farmers markets where you can find the best food ever. From all sorts of cheese to organic vegetables, legumes, fruits, spices, local olives, wine, charcuterie, and sourdough bread.
"Quality helps us live happier, calmer, and with more confidence in life and in ourselves. It's not a matter of means, but of choices. The ancients said they couldn't afford to buy poor-quality things; purchases had to have a long life." Dominique Loreau, "The Art of Refinement" What are your thoughts on this quote?
I think this quote applies easily to what we’ve always believed in and also to what we’ve tried to achieve through Robertina.
A universe where you surround yourself with objects that last in time and are pleasant to the eye. Being here made this possible with great ease, as this has been the French credo for centuries, which is why we’ve found so many 18th- and 19th-century objects, mostly in pristine condition.
In no other country have I seen such a love and care for old objects as here.
Do you ship to the rest of Europe as well?
Yes, we do!
When will the next pop-up store in Bucharest take place?
Our next pop-up store will be open around December 13-24th.
We haven’t decided yet on the date of the opening, as we will have a 3-day road trip ahead of us, but we will let people know on our Instagram page as soon as we arrive in Bucharest.
We treasure very much our pop-up events, where we have the joy to receive so many visits and meet so many wonderful people with whom we share the stories behind Robertina’s items.
We love this process in which we see how the objects we collect are traveling to new homes and are deeply cherished.
What does happiness mean to you?
Our idea of happiness has changed so much in the last few years.
- it’s in the smell of crisp, fresh air early in the morning;
- in the sunrise on our way to the fairs;
- sunset on the hills nearby, having dinner;
- it’s in the smell of a cake freshly taken out from the oven;
- in a heartfelt message of a client who adores its Robertina item;
- in our travels through beautiful villages searching for treasures;
- in the beauty of an old chair carved by skilled hands or an embroidered dress gracefully sewn;
- in friends’ visits;
- in making new friends;
- sharing food we cook and having long, meaningful conversations;
- in staying still and getting to know who we truly are;
- in being grateful to just be alive and having the chance to see so much beauty in the world.
photos: Robert & Ina