Let’s chat! Flamingo Merchants

Instagram @Flamingomerchants 

Meet Elvira Riel from Flamingo Merchants.

How long have you been coming to Surry Hills Market?

Elvira: I’m been doing this market for years, Surry Hills was actually my first market 15 years ago. And over the years I’ve been drawn back to it because of the people here. They love my stuff.

Your stall is very unique – can you tell us about what you’re selling?

E: It’s all about ethnic textiles and natural fibers. I specialize in a lot of hill tribe textiles from Vietnam but over the years it’s evolved  – there’s a lot of Mexican embroidery as well. Lots of colour.

What drew you to those textiles?

E: Through travel – traveling through South East Asia. I was attracted to anything hand made by tribes and traditional practices – things you couldn’t get in shops, lot of the things you couldn’t get unless you went to the countries.

How did you get started?

E:  I think i went over seas when I was 21 and visited the Hill tribes up there and that’s when I discovered a lot of the textiles.

How did that turn into a market stall?

E:  I went to Sri Lanka and ended up buying a bunch of saris and Hill tribe skirts from Thailand and brought them to the market and sold them all. The women here loved it. So I went back again. 

Are there any special finds you remember?

E:  Lots of old Hill tribe skirts in colours they don’t even make any more. The colours are always changing so when you see something you haven’t seen before it is even more special because you know it’s quite rare.

Can you tell us some of the unusual situations you get in when you’re off collecting?

E: Sometimes you’ll be going through piles of old vintage Hill tribe skits and there’ll be lots of French people there – trying to see what’s in my pile. So I pretend to be local to avoid their attention. I’m lucky I can blend in. I get very protective over my Hill tribe sources.

Now a lot of the Hill tribes have gone to work in the cities so you don’t get nearly the quality you used to – they work a lot with polyester and on machines now.