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Behind The Scenes

A Guide to Alex Bell and Shira Entis's Favorite Flea Markets

It’d be downright cruel of us to feature Alex Bell and Shira Entis of Fleabags without asking them to put out on the flea-market front. After all, the two seasoned veterans started their bag line to satisfy a desire for well-designed, structurally sound totes to stow their finds. “We love the idea of discovering something that’s so valuable that it’s been passed over by several people and having it live on,” Alex explains. “And the negotiating part of it is pretty fun, too.” Check out this guide to the very best near-NYC markets that they’ve had the pleasure of digging through. —monica derevjanik Shira’s Brimfield haul. + Best Place to Satisfy a Food-Obsessed New Yorker: Brimfield Antiques Show in Brimfield, MA “The last time we were there, we had a lobster roll, amazing cinnamon-apple donuts, and a Del’s frozen lemonade, which is a Rhode Island specialty. This is New England’s largest antique market, so you will have to fight the crowds. Since the vendors located near the streets are usually the most expensive, we like to wind our way away from the street to find the better deals.” —Shira + Best for a Weekend Getaway: Golden Nugget Antique Market in Lambertville, NJ “This is perhaps our favorite market. It starts very early in the morning and is best on Sundays, so we love to drive down on Saturday and make it a full weekend trip because the town of Lambertville is adorable. Some of our favorite finds are a leather printer’s rolling pin that dates back to at least the 1920s, a wooden cash drawer from the 1890s that has a cool metal gargoyle drawer pull, and a diamond-shaped hole puncher that was originally used to punch tickets on the railroads.” —Shira + Best for Authentic Farmhouse Décor: Madison Bouckville Antiques Show in Bouckville, NY “This market is quite a hike from Brooklyn, but it is worth visiting, especially if you’re looking for a great upstate destination in the middle of August! I bought a 19th century wood farm table and a 1920s hot-dog holder there.” —Shira + Best for Real Scores: Shupp’s Grove Antique Market in Adamstown, PA  “Adamstown is an antiques destination, and you should try to coordinate your trip for one of the summer weekends when Shupp’s Grove is open. This is a real picker’s market: There is a lot of junk there, so you need to love to dig. Luckily we do! I bought these awesome vintage Czech rhinestones.” —Shira + Best Deals for Vintage Clothing: Chelsea Outdoor Market in New York, NY “We can’t travel every weekend, so we frequent the fleas in New York City as well. Our favorite is the Chelsea Outdoor Market, an old staple that has been there for decades. We go so often that we have become friends with several of the vendors. A lot of the clothing is heaped in piles on tables or on the floors. Shira found a Chanel jacket, and I bought vintage Gucci loafers—both for prices that would make you too jealous if we revealed them.” —Alex
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What Goes Into a Fleabag

To say that Alex Bell and Shira Entis have high standards for the materials they use would be a severe understatement. Not only are their hand-sewn, eco-minded Fleabags made from locally sourced organic and vintage materials, but so many of these fabrics and parts also come with a built-in narrative. “We love funky, off-the-beaten path, whimsical stuff,” Shira explains. “We’re just very interested in human folly.” Hey, us too! Let’s dive into these crazy tales. —monica derevjanik + The Civil War-Era Artillery Blanket in the upcoming F/W 2012 collection “My boyfriend’s stepfather is actually a reenactor. He got me thinking that there’s this whole industry of reenactors and related equipment for them out there. Where there is a market, there are people supplying it, right? Turns out that there’s a whole world of them. We found this one guy in Ohio who actually specializes in reenactment garb, and we ordered wool blankets from him to use in our next collection. This guy is not a weirdo! He’s very normal, intellectual, and social.” —Shira [Ed: Since the collection won’t be available ‘til August, there is no photo evidence yet. But the story was too cool not to share.] + The Frames of the Original Flea Tote “When we first started designing for Fleabags, we had this idea to use tubular frames because they’re lighter. They’re hard to source, but our factory recommended getting in touch with this couple, Mr. and Mrs. Wolf, out in Brooklyn. They were both Holocaust survivors and had been together for 67 years when we first met them. To get to their office, you had to walk down this long hallway, and with elderly Mr. Wolf, it’d be a slow little walk. Each time that we’d make that walk—which was often—he’d usually talk to us about how long they had been together or how they work side-by-side. They were just so in love. The best part is that the first time we placed an order, they wrote us an invoice on a post-it note.” —Alex + The Netting on the Seafarer ALICE Knapsack “Two years ago, I was on a road trip and was listening to an NPR story about people affected by the BP oil spill. They interviewed this guy named Bubba who was a net-maker, and he was saying how he was probably going to be the last person in his family to be one. So I was just like, ‘How can we use his netting? Can we contact this guy and repurpose this netting so he can still make a living?’ I actually found him by looking through the white pages. I contacted him and told him who I was, expecting him to hang up on me. But he was really into it! He made this hand-dyed netting, and we sewed them into what is now our Seafarer knapsack.” —Shira + The Leather on their First Of a Kind Edition “This natural, vegetable-tanned leather has become very special to Fleabags, as we’ve used it for the handles on our first style, the Original Flea, and we’ve continued using it in our other items, like on the straps of the Chesapeake ALICE Knapsack and the Arcade Ballet Tote. The untreated, blush color is intended to absorb sunlight and your body’s natural oils to gain a patina and brown over time. As it ages, it becomes more unique and personal to the owner.” —Alex
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