I met Hideya Sagawa (right) when he visited the Lulu Frost studio about a month ago. He came to seek out our unisex line, George Frost. The 1960's inspired collection reflects revolutionary sentiments and fits cleverly among the assortment of men's and women's vintage you'll find in Hide (and his partners) newest contribution to the streets of Brooklyn: Front General Store.Hide's story begins in Tokyo and his admiration for American vintage started in 7th grade with a pair of 505 Levi's purchased by his mom. He remembers his fascination with American film - movies like Footloose and Warriors influenced his style from a young age. At 19, Hide settled on moving to the United States to learn English. "The language was so cool," Hide remembers thinking."I moved to Oklahoma and enrolled in English courses. As soon as I started schooling I decided I wanted to continue living in the states and asked myself, how can I do it? I told myself I would get a job and if I worked hard for somebody they would love me because of my work ethic."So Hide transferred to Chicago after his second year of schooling and found a job at a vintage store. The owner paid him $2 in cash and $2 in store credit per hour, but the biggest pay off came with Hide's green card a year later. Throughout this time Hide was buying a lot of vintage. He explained the growing popularity of American vintage in Japanese culture."I was buying flannels for 40 cents each and boots for 75 cents. The more vintage I bought, the more extensive each collection of denim, military-wear, etc. This is how I started to learn about the difference in the quality and age materials. I knew I'd be able to eventually sell the vintage for much more than what I was buying it because the quality of clothing in the 1950's, for example, was much higher. I could buy twelve pairs of denim and sell it over seas. I even collected and sold McDonald's Happy Meal toys!"This buying and selling of vintage laid the framework for his next step in retail as a visual merchandiser and buyer. After about five years in Chicago, Hide desired to live in New York. He got a job at What Goes Around Comes Around (WGACA), a well established mecca for high end women's and men's clothing. Here he assisted in sales, but focused on window displays and buying. A total of thirteen years of experience at WGACA eventually led Hide to open his own store with partners."I met Iku and Hiro during my work in the NYC flea markets. They were customers of mine. When I left the flea to work full time at WGACA they ended up pursuing flea market sales themselves. Eventually they wanted to open a store specializing in American vintage. When they asked me to help I had to consider my family and mortgage but ultimately decided to do it."The Front General Store's doors finally opened about two months ago in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Dumbo is an up and coming area with more affordable options for retail space than an area such as Williamsburg. Not to mention, no one is doing vintage in Dumbo like Hide and his partners are.Front General Store has a unique concept and design. Much of the product has never been worn and is made in the U.S.A - which seems to be a primary focus. They buy from all over the states, including flea markets and vendors with whom they've created relationships.Hide led me through the store to show me some of his favorite vintage, including the shoes above. Made from horse hide, these shoes are close to $800 dollars new, but slightly worn they are reasonably priced and still in great condition. The leather is horse hide and comes from the butt of the horse, which is tougher and stronger and makes for better quality.He showed me other notable discoveries like their selection of Italian and French sunglasses from the 40's and 50's. My favorite place to explore was the selection of merchandise in the front of the store, including military garment pins which Hide explained, can be worn to dress up a black scarf, black hat, or black sweater (are you seeing a trend? New Yorkers do love black...)I spent a good hour and a half in Front General Store, observing customer reactions and interactions with the merchandise as well as with Hide and Hiro. I quickly got a sense of what I find this store to stand for. Sure, you can categorize it as another vintage hotspot the cool kids shop at, but there's more to it. It's a modern day example of living out the American Dream. Old objects speaking to American sentiment, like the statue of liberty, nod to the core values of this country. The notion that hard work leads to success is reiterated time and again within the store walls.Will Hide ever head back to Tokyo? It doesn't sounds like it. At the end of our interview he said, "90% of the population in Tokyo is Japanese. In New York, you get on the subway and see twenty different races sharing the train and speaking different languages - I think it's beautiful." As for his advice to future NYC transplants from Japan? "Learn English, learn the language and culture. And don't just change your style according to what's labeled as 'cool.'"
Get social! Follow The Front General Store on Instagramhere. Location: 143 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY.