Take a tour and learn more about Front General Store, Brooklyn's best kept vintage secret making fashion history.
"I feel so tired of vintage sometimes," starts Hideya Sagawa, standing behind his wooden cashier counter, energetically gesturing with his jewelry-clad hands as he speaks. Formerly of What Goes Around Comes Around, Sagawa -- whom friends call Hide-san -- has over a decade of experience buying and selling vintage. Together with partners Hiro Yonekawa and Nishiyama Ikutaka -- who initially crossed paths at flea markets -- he recently opened Front General Store, a seemingly ordinary and quaint shop situated right under the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
A cursory glance at the shop's Instagram page shows just how popular it is. The likes of Brooklyn Circus' Ouigi Theodore, model Paolo Roldan and Italian menswear #influencer Alessandro Squarzi are frequent visitors. Self-proclaimed vintage prince Nigel Cabourn also called it "great" and "fantastic," before adding that he needs "at least two hours" to rummage through the space. But having just opened less than two years ago, Front General Store is still Brooklyn's best kept secret.
The trio's unified thoughts were that there is a market opportunity for affordable vintage. But to avoid pigeonholing themselves as a "vintage-only" destination, the co-founders decided to name it Front General to reflect the fact that not everything they sell is old (and the shop is located on Front Street). "We wanted to be different than just the Americana flag, bandana kind of vintage," says Hide. Upon entering the store, visitors are immediately greeted by ceramic and metal dishes, plant pots and mason jars filled with succulents, stacks of Pendleton blankets and aromatic candles. That is the merchandising strategy for FGS: to attract a wider range of customers who would otherwise be deterred to enter a vintage shop. Prices are not steep by any means, with the most expensive items being around $3,500 to $4,000 for outerwear from the 1920s and '30s.
Divided into three large sections, the first room also stocks womenswear alongside home accessories. The midsection houses jewelry, sunglasses, hats and stationery. There is a wall whose bottom half is dedicated to plain t-shirts, intentionally unpackaged and folded neatly in rows. Over the months, FGS found that people are more inclined to buy them when they are taken out of their original paper packaging, however taboo that may sound to most vintage aficionados.
Hide-san's love of vintage started with his love of American period films in the '70s and '80s. "The Warriors, The Outsiders, Micky Mouse... Films like Dirty Dancing were from the '80s but really set in the '50s. From there I always loved America, and when I saw the quality of vintage items it was interesting to see how it was better than new. And before, vintage clothing was cheaper -- honestly, I couldn't afford new clothes." At the tender age of 19, Hide moved to the states to pursue his dream of living in America. He would drive thousands of miles across the country, just looking for vintage, seeping himself in "that history and quality."
But while Front General Store's product offering is largely informed by Americana, it's also not without precious vintage finds from other parts of the world. "Right now, Europeans are in. Everyone's getting tired of American stuff. Italian and French [garments are] very popular right now, especially patchwork, workwear and draping," says Hide, who takes pride in his selection of '50s French military jackets in beautiful palettes of off-white and cobalt blue (one styled on a mannequin is paired with a colorful Hawaiian shirt). Hung in racks in the same section are also plenty of dirtied denim overalls and heavyweight cotton totes with customizable patches.
But as Hide-san mentioned in the very beginning, he's growing a bit tired of vintage. "I'd rather see something different. That's what I'm expecting to see from the younger generation. To just keep thinking is very important, not only for the business but also for fashion history."