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Charlie Franco Wants You to Buy Clothes on the Side of the Damn Road

The "Throwing Fits" podcast personality tells us where to buy vintage and custom clothes.

Kate Walz measuring Charlie Franco’s head (Charlie Franco)

Shopping for clothes in New York used to be fun, but now that a lot of the city's historic retail has been run out of town by e-commerce and rent, and most shopping districts are now expressly to divorce tourists from their Euros, it's gotten pretty dull. 

According to Charlie Franco, a personality on the men's fashion and culture podcast Throwing Fits, the places to go are pop-ups and street sales—New York’s hottest boutiques are now in parks, or on the side of the goddamn road. Franco said that this moment of pop-ups is fueled by all the usual suspects. "Rent is crazy expensive. A lot of these pop-ups are good enough that you might expect to find what they have at a curated vintage store," he explains. "But it also is a product of the pandemic, where people were linking up outside more often to offer up their items." 

Franco explains that the sellers he's most interested in specialize in unique but wearable pieces, respecting fashion’s history while also reveling in the joy of putting shit on. "As someone who consumes fashion through the lens of what I would wear," he says, "there’s a more organic element when it’s a person that owns something off a runway and not just sitting in the archive of some big fashion house where it’s never going to see the light of day."

For Franco, the party atmosphere—these events can sometimes feature food, music, and refreshment—complements the satisfaction of supporting independent enthusiasts as opposed to giant boutiques. "It’s also just a better shopping experience, getting to know the person and their connection to whatever they’re selling," he tells Hell Gate, adding that these sellers lean towards carefully curated vintage and custom offerings.

"I think that in this era of getting dressed, a lot of people see the value in finding a one-of-a-kind item that you can’t just walk into any store in SoHo, where you’d buy something that would have you end up looking like everyone else in the neighborhood," Franco tells me.

Don’t look like everyone else in the neighborhood. Here are Franco’s recommendations:

Weekends: Street Rack by Chad Senzel at the corner of Ludlow and Canal Streets, Manhattan.

"It's an every weekend thing. My first introduction to it was when Throwing Fits had our 'Friends and Family Bazaar', and I got to see his collection firsthand. In terms of variety, it's just insane how much exciting stuff he has, week after week. It seems like this guy just has a never-ending collection. He has a showroom, too, but there's an element of excitement of not knowing exactly what's going to be at Street Rack. This past week he just had stacks and stacks of t-shirts. Another week he's had specific types of Levi's."

Sporadically: U-Mall at McCarren Park, Brooklyn

"I had the best ice coffee elixir that I think I've ever had in my life, by Elliot Foos. That was honestly part of the draw for me in going out and seeing U-Mall. Then obviously, Kate Walz makes really cool clothes. I'm a big fan of her repurposed stuff, Columbia shorts made out of windbreakers. She has her own brand, but she's also selling one-of-a-kind stuff. Wesley Scott also was selling some furniture. It was such a nice day out. I'm not always super inclined to go to Williamsburg, but it was really nice to just go, have coffee and talk to everyone. It was just a really good time. That's one that I'll always keep an eye out for, and it seems like they'll have a rotating cast of people."

Every day, with pop-ups on some weekends: Leisure Centre at 48 Hester Street, Manhattan.

"One weekend at Leisure Centre, Jon Caramanica from the New York Times was selling stuff from out of his closet, and I knew he probably had some XLs and XXLs. I got this hoodie from him that said 'The School of the New York Times,' and he was telling me it's not something the Times ever sold. So only me, him and a bunch of high school kids have that. The homie Jayson Buford told me they were having a big and tall vintage curation, a ton of XXL Stone Island, CP Company. They also had big shoes. That's one thing that's always been tough, vintage-wise, and at pop-ups for me. I'm always like, alright, where's your biggest clothes? But that day I felt like a king. I really liked what they had."

Saturday, August 12: Eastern Western at Hester Street Art Fair, Pier 17 at 89 South Street, Manhattan.

"My friend Ryan has a brand called Eastern Western. He's a young kid, I think he goes to Pace. He's been doing pop-ups all year. The first one was at Washington Square Park, and it got shut down by the cops. Since then he's been just trying to pop up at actual markets. He was at Bushwick Market last week. He'll screen print on vintage clothes he's already found. It's a mix of that and producing his own shorts and hoodies and stuff. I try to get out to those whenever he does them."

Wednesdays to Sundays: Fantasy Explosion at 164A Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn.

"My favorite thing about Fantasy Explosion is that it's not $1,000 t-shirts. It's at a price point that I like to shop for vintage at, like $30 t-shirts, hats and stuff. A pop-up he did recently was with Bijan from Intramural Shop. He had a couple racks in the store that's more towards the archived, higher price point stuff. He had a cool Adobe watch and a Napster shirt that was really sick. As a celebration for that, they made this shirt with Garfield climbing the Empire State Building. I thought that was pretty cool."

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