Great Young Designers Flock to Brooklyn
What they lack in experience they make up for with raw talent and determination. The owners of Ferris (ferrisnewyork.com), Williamsburg’s funky new clothing shop, may be young, but A.J. Livingston, 20; Taylor Conlin, 21; and Taylor Spong, 22, are reinventing men’s fashion while most of their peers are still in college. Their cozy 600-foot space— previously a pet store before they gutted it, painted over a giant cat mural, and filled it with furniture built by Spong— boasts an eclectic mix of vintage garments and trademark Ferris apparel.
San Diego native Livingston designs most of the signature pieces, like “The Borough of Life” fleece ($50) bearing the motto “Made for Destruction,” or the beloved “Underdog” T-shirt ($37), featuring a prancing pup logo. Apart from providing a livelihood, handcrafted T-shirts brought Conlin and Livingston together (Spong and Livingston have been pals since high school), and they’re partially responsible for why the business exists today. “I was at a Parsons party last October when I noticed this guy wearing a sick shirt that I could tell he’d made,” says Conlin of Livingston. “We started talking and realized we both had clothing backgrounds.”
Much of their experience was garnered through apprenticeships. Conlin, a Massachusetts transplant, learned to sew and fit clients while interning in the Harvard Square shop of a family friend. “Cambridge has a long history of classic tweeds and preppy designs, so I familiarized myself with those styles,” he says. Livingston also worked retail back in California, and although Spong came to the business with no former apparel knowledge, all three read constantly about fashion while also taking parttime college courses. “We’re willing to try anything,” says Livingston. “Most of what we know about our craft, we learned because we had to.”
Their youthful energy is palpable—and contagious. Banks provided loans, Livingston’s dad, a former pro surfer, sold old boards on Craig’s List, and Conlin’s parents agreed to funnel his college fund into a new reserve, flushing the boys with enough cash to open shop in July. Since then, positive word of mouth has spread, in part because of their revolutionary custom service. Find a beloved old item in the back of your closet that’s horribly out of style yet impossible to part with, and the two Taylors—Conlin and Spong—will swap the lining, rework the collar, or in some way strip the garment to make it au courant again. “The process takes one to four weeks and, within reason, there’s no revamping we won’t do,” says Spong. Other vintage pieces sourced from secret spots around New York and Massachusetts are deconstructed and reassembled according to the artists’ own specifications. The “Hi Flyers” shirt ($165), for example, was Frankensteined from four different materials, including an original 1950s baseball jersey. It took over 12 hours to create.
This circular process of preserving the old and giving the new an antique patina lies at the core of Ferris’ philosophy. “Fashion can keep going around, unbroken, just like a Ferris wheel,” says Livingston. The name is also a tribute to Ferris Bueller, the ultimate free spirit. “We love that character’s youthful energy,” says Conlin. “He’s the embodiment of making each day count.”
243 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249