Like many recovering private-school kids, Conrad, founder of the beloved ConRags vintage outpost at the Flea, discovered his love of fashion by experimenting with the outer limits of a strict dress code. Not that he shuns the traditional. He calls his collection “preppy with a twist.” It’s where Benetton-meets-boho-meets-that is an awesome cat sweater. And the best part of yesterday’s prep threads is that they still look good at the country club—in Bushwick or Larchmont.
How did you come to work in the vintage world?
Sometime in the late ’90s I began trading Fred Perry tennis shirts on eBay, the type made in England, as they were not available outside of finding them in thrift stores. At that time I would easily find two to three in a week, but cannot tell you when was the last time I discovered one by those means—easily over five years ago. A little like music, when you get intensely into a band it leads you to other like-minded or aesthetically linked artists. Fred Perry led me to buy, sell, trade and collect other brands such as Bjorn Borg-era Fila and McEnroe-era Sergio Tacchini. I even went as far as traveling to Argentina (2004-2006) to search out gear from that era knowing that they had a large affluent middle class at that time.
The best part about shopping second-hand is finding that one-of-a-kind match. What’s your favorite matchmaking story? And are you conscious of Brooklyn fashion when you’re acquiring items for your collection?
Once, I was wearing this ’90s Iceberg T-shirt with an odd panda bear print, only to be told by a customer that she had the matching skirt. I don’t think about my customers much when I shop. It’s more about piquing my interest in design, or finding a piece I haven’t seen in a while. Only recently have I been putting together a collection of things which I find have an interesting design sense but are without a label of obvious value.
If you could use the ConRags vintage collection to outfit a famed artistic movement of today or yesteryear, who would be the lucky ones you’d dress up?
I cannot say that I could dress any cultural or artistic movement. All movements of any importance created their own influential style which now are over-referenced and often bastardized. Since the Internet killed the possibility of any new youth-culture movement emerging, the last perhaps being hip-hop or rave culture, I see a dearth of ideas in fashion. On a side note, I feel that the movie Igby Goes Down (right) did a very good job of representing prep-school style in the Northeast in the ’90s. Igby’s style was more realistic than it is usually portrayed in movies and such—untucked shirt and all.
More reflections on Conrad’s unconventional style can be found on Instagram @northeasternpromises.