The Brrrtual Flea wants you to bring your bangers to Houston's Sawyer Yards Saturday.
The vintage shopping event is the brainchild of OG vintage-lover Chris Fernandez and his partner Kirk Taboada, and will feature some of the most sought-after old school drip in an open-air market.
Fernandez started The Virtual Flea, an Instagram live auction for vintage tees, during the early days of the pandemic as a way to make up for the income from traditional trade and thrift events he could no longer attend.
“I had just had a baby, and I needed to pay my mortgage, and I was just thinking about how I was going to get through this with my family. I dropped a website and went live and the support instantly came from my peers and fellow sellers,” Fernandez said. “That Friday night, my wife Drina and I were really emotional and shed tears because we felt that we would probably get through the pandemic if we kept this up. I knew I wasn't the only one who felt this way.”
As the pandemic progressed, his following of more than 70,000 at the time kept demanding he host more IG lives. The more he hosted, the more vendors requested to join. Fernandez gave them time to sell their grails to his audience on the platform.
The lives feature about 40 to 60 vendors each month with an average of $5,000 in sales per vendor for their hour on the gram, Fernandez said.
“The response was overwhelming,” Fernandez said. “ We got about 500 vendors signing up on the website and we weren’t even doing auctions yet.”
During one auction, a vendor broke the record selling a vintage Aladdin Genie T-shirt for $6,000. Eventually, he began to charge for time on his Insta and would raffle the spots to join his stream. During a lucky draw, Taboada was chosen.
The two met during a Virtual Flea last May, and Fernandez fell in love with his curation.
“He brings a certain excitement to this vintage thing that I’m very passionate about. I’m always excited to see what new shirt he is going to post or show off on his Instagram,” Fernandez said. “He’s a cool dude to hang out with and during a pandemic, we just became friends virtually.”
Taboada started his own virtual lives during quarantine, including regular events such as Wiz Wednesdays and After Party Sundays. On Wiz Wednesdays, he raffles gear, does auctions, shows grails and “gives back the energy” he has been given, he said.
“I started with about 2,000 followers and here comes this guy showing me mad love and jumping on my lives,” Taboada said. “One day, I just told him we could mix my background in events and his vintage platform and that we should host a real vintage event. Chris was like ‘yeah right!’ He said, ‘where should we do it?’ I said Orlando, and we started putting our heads together.”
Last November, their virtual idea took root in real life at the Orlando Florida fairgrounds. The inaugural Brrrtual Flea saw about 1,700 attendees with over 80 vendors.
This weekend, they are expecting more than 2,000 people. They said Houston was their next stop because of the obvious love the city has for vintage. Fernandez also noted that Houston is a major hub where clothes are traded and moved for exports into other countries. H-town also has some of the biggest rag houses in the country and is home to some of Fernandez's most popular vendors. The duo recalls feeling right at home during their first visit.
“We saw how passionate everyone is about vintage in Houston. My fiance Mirna and I visited recently and there is no competition there,” Taboada recalls. "One shop owner took us to every single shop and they treated us like gold. They picked us up from the hotel, and the reception when we put out Houston was incredible.”
“The Southern hospitality has been crazy,” Fernandez added. “The community is so strong there. The crazy finds and collections. Every time I wanted to check out a vendor on IG, they were always from Texas.”
Location: Sawyer Yards - Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards St.
Hours: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. (early bird); 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets: $15 - $400
For more information visit http://brrrtualflea.com
Find Christian Portilla on Twitter @RoamFreeWrites