Five Fits With: Vintage Expert and Intramural Founder Bijan Shahvali

New York City is a small place, and if you know a couple of cool people, they’ll introduce you to a couple of cool people and the cycle repeats itself infinitely if you let it, and you should. That’s how I met Bijan, who owns and runs Intramural Shop, a vintage store with an inspiring and eclectic mix of clothing, artwork, and tchotchkes (plus whatever else he finds) that you truly can’t find anywhere else. He sells his wares through his online shop, and co-founded Lower East Side vintage shop Leisure Centre. He’s also done a pop-up at Drake’s Open Studio, collaborated with film powerhouse A24, and most recently, worked with The Farmers Market Global, a “sport meets agriculture concept brand,” to source their shop-in-shop at Los Angeles-based tennis store The Racket Doctor.

While Bijan has done his share of public interviews, I wanted to highlight his personal style and some words of wisdom he has yet to share with the Internet. Below, he and I discuss his upbringing and how it led him to vintage clothing, why 4SDesigns and Supreme are among his favorite brands, working with A24 and how he handles the process of collaboration, the Beastie Boys, and plenty more.

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

Talk to me about your upbringing and where you grew up. Did that impact your love of vintage sourcing in any way, or was there a specific moment that led you to collecting?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles to parents who immigrated from Iran. They weren’t into thrifting or vintage, but there was a lot of emphasis on things that are passed down. I think that’s where my appreciation for the things of the past, and being able to recognize and value the history of an item, came from. My mom was into antiquing, which I think also instilled in me a standard for timeless quality and desire for seeking it out.

I’m the youngest kid with two older siblings, so I think I was definitely shaped by them. My brother and sister were the first to take me thrifting and that certainly planted the seed. Seeing the band tees and gear my brother wore when I was 10 and 11 years old influenced how I wanted to dress in my formative teens. There are T-shirts that he wore that I’m after for myself to this day.

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

When did you decide that collecting vintage garments and ephemera was more than just something for yourself?

Honestly, it was kind of decided for me. I saw an opening in the vintage market and had the idea for Intramural for a bit but had it on the backburner because I had a full-time job that took most of my focus and energy. I ended up losing that job and just decided that it was time to just go for it. I used the time (and severance) to put together the vision and plan. Getting fired was the best thing to happen!

People have asked you this before but I’m sure your answer always changes. Mine does. What are some of your favorite current brands and why?

Among newer brands, 4SDesigns is the brand to watch right now. Angelo Urrutia’s attention to detail and technical expertise are all next level. Supreme is my favorite brand and the one I find the most compelling season after season. No other brand weaves storytelling and references into the product better. Now being under the direction of another master storyteller, Tremaine Emory, I’m really excited to see what they cook up. Also, the team at Stüssy is super dialed in right now. The products are consistently excellent, with stellar campaigns to go with them.

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

What do you look for when you purchase a garment for yourself? What percentage of your closet is new versus vintage? Do you have a difficult time separating which pieces are allotted where, and which you’d like to take home for yourself?

My closet is probably 60/40, split vintage to new. The vintage section largely consists of graphic T-shirts, jeans, and chore coats. When shopping for myself, vintage or new, I am usually looking to fill a hole in the closet. What am I missing? For example, in the last year, I have been interested in adding more technical gear. I probably spend way too much time researching and trying to find the perfect piece, but that’s also a part that I love. I don’t think I have a difficult time deciding what to keep for myself, because I try to think about whether I need it. There’ are exceptions to the rule. If it’s something that is my size and has sentimental value to me or if I feel like I might never see it again, I will definitely be more inclined to keep it for myself.

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

Can you tell me about your collaborative shop at the Racket Doctor in Los Angeles? How did this collaboration come about?

I’ve been a fan of Adrianne and Jake and love what they are doing with their brand The Farmers Market Global. If you visit their pro shop-in-shop experience at the legendary Racket Doctor in Los Angeles, you’ll see their incredible attention to detail in the very special universe they created there. We wanted to create a moment that celebrated and honored the Open; the result was a hand-picked curation of vintage T-shirts from past US Opens from 1978 to 2002 and a special installation of ephemera and objects from the Open as well as tennis greats like Andre Agassi and Serena Williams.

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

bijan shahvali

Christopher Fenimore

You’ve done quite a few collaborations with big entities, like A24 for example. What do you look for in a collaborator? What is the process like for you in sourcing for these projects?

A24 is a great example of the ideal collaborator for many reasons, but one that sticks out is having a deep understanding of their audience. My sourcing process working with brands requires working pretty closely with them to make sure the curation resonates with their customers. The process has many revisions and presentations of vintage items, so it’s very important to be able to get feedback from the brand. When an entity really understands the customer, I know that when they are excited about a vintage piece I show them that the end consumer is going to be excited about it as well.

Any music and films you’re currently loving that you’d care to share (and why)?

I have been on a Beastie Boys kick lately. This was actually a result of the US Open vintage project because I learned that the band had their studio in the same building as The Racket Doctor during their L.A. years. I knew they had the studio in Atwater Village but had no idea it was above The Racket Doctor! This era of Beastie Boys—the Check Your Head, Ill Communication, The In Sound from Way Out! era—was the best! The most fun I had at movies this year was Bodies Bodies Bodies. Just the perfect movie to watch in the theater.

Christopher Fenimore is a writer and photographer living in New York. Working with clients ranging from clothiers to vineyards, he’s also covered street style for a number of outlets. Follow him on Instagram at @c.fenimore.

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