In the age of social media, sourcing “vintage” tees is as easy as clicking a button. Brian Procell – founder of cult vintage store Procell in New York – knows the pre-internet struggle of authenticating archival garments and thoroughly researching for context, which gives him a very unique and genuine point of view on vintage clothing and the culture that surrounds it.
For NYFW, Brian teamed up with Alexander Wang to curate a selection of vintage grails, which are designed to complement Wang’s AW17 collection in the Soho flagship store. This tee selection authentically reflects Wang’s influences and tastes as a contemporary designer who grew up in the 90s. The partnership between these two fashion veterans is raw and comes from a very honest place.
Procell filled us in on the theme of the selection, as well as dropping knowledge on why he thinks youths are reverting to vintage in 2017.
What’s the concept behind the pop-up?
Brian Procell: Alex has always been a real supporter and friend of the shop, and he frequents the store. One day, I happened to catch him there and we caught up, and a few days later he emailed saying he was interested in doing a project involving all the t-shirts that we have. I wanted him to see the entire scope of what we carry because I like to think we cover a lot of bases in terms of subcultures and genres. So what I did was take a couple of days to go through our archive and basically loaded an Uber XL Suburban full of the shirts… a sample of everything we had. Alex didn’t give me much information about his current collection but when we met with him he kind of selected and narrowed down a certain theme and it just so happened that the common denominator of all the t-shirts was that there was a hip-hop house party vibe – the shirts were the perfect compliment to that collection for NYFW represented in the store. Alex did all of the creative direction and he was able to personally hand-pick all of the shirts from our archive.
How do you think Alexander Wang and Procell make sense together? What are the commonalities?
Brian Procell: Procell, the store, likes to represent what is cool or at least be able to represent what’s going on on the streets and in youth culture, and Alex is very tapped into that. Of all of the blue chip fashion houses, Alex’s really represents what is youthful and I feel like there are a lot of parallels between us. We are the perfect compliment. We are also close in age so a lot of what we like comes from an authentic place. We were living through it, especially 90s culture. Alex definitely references 90s culture from an authentic place.
I feel both are very New York-centric…
Brian Procell: For sure, there’s definitely that New York sensibility there.
How do you feel about designers embracing vintage and archives? It’s an interesting concept to be selling “old” t-shirts in a high-end designer store…
Brian Procell: I think what they’re doing is really paying homage. It’s a very new thing but it’ll be the standard for years to come now. I feel like it provides an amazing context for the rest of the collections – usually, it’s been done with interior design and props in stores but this is more fun because it’s something you can wear. It’s really rad. When you walk into certain flagships you see their vibe and taste level and vibe from what’s hanging on the wall and now you get to see it as clothing, side by side with what they create.
“I want people to know if it comes from us, it’s the fucking real thing! It’s got our seal of approval, we only sell true classics” – Brian Procell
Why do you think your selection is so special?
Brian Procell: I like to say that I dedicated my ten thousand plus hours to perfecting my craft and knowing everything about the shirts that I carry and just being super authentic. What I want people to know is that if they buy from Procell, in no way is it a reproduction. It’s not mechanical, it’s authentic article of clothing. Just recently on my Instagram, I’ve been showing the t-shirt variations that are really interesting. I want to show that this is real vintage. In the world we live in, we are desensitised with fast fashion brands that are buying into the licenses and reproducing… so, I want people to know if it comes from us, it’s the fucking real thing! It’s got our seal of approval, we only sell true classics and are only about the innovators not necessarily irony or trends.
Why do you think people are gravitating towards vintage now more than ever?
Brian Procell: A lot of it has to do with influence, but I also feel like the knowledge and the references are easier to understand now in the age of social media. We understand that you can learn everything you need to know about certain pieces with just a hashtag, which is interesting. People are discovering how great this all is because now they can understand the context. Before, this was something that would take more time and research, and was a gradual education based on your circle of friends and interests, but now in a matter of minutes, you can really understand and figure out how awesome these vintage pieces are, and you can source them easily with your phone in a matter of minutes. We are also living on a time where a lot of vintage dealers are looked at as modern day curators and that has had an interesting impact and because of the mobile/internet age, you have the ability to create a business with your phone and now, a lot of people are interested in dealing. It’s crazy to me because I started doing this before you could do this on your phone and have been able to see the expansion, and how it’s hit an insane critical mass. Now, it’s is represented in every major city in the US, if not the world.
Alexander Wang x Procell is available exclusively at the Alexander Wang NYC flagship store until September 13