This story is part of Image issue 13, “Image Makers,” a celebration of the L.A. luminaries redefining the narrative possibilities of fashion. Read the whole issue here.
A brand name, when it’s really good, matches the energy of its designs. The words Mom n Dad Vintage make us think back to a time when life was better and clothes hit harder. Throwback Rocawear to Jean Paul Gaultier, BAPE to Gap. Vintage clothing transports you. Mom n Dad knows this, and specializes in showing you the way back.
It goes beyond the closet. Mom n Dad is thoughtful, creative in the way it showcases clothes from its meticulously curated collection. The brand photographs models wearing different pieces and turns the shots into posters that call to mind popular ads from the ‘90s. Mom n Dad promotional videos look like they were taken on your actual mom’s camcorder, along with fully produced shoots that capture what it felt like to be fresh in 2003. Mom n Dad collaborates with local DJs on monthly mixes and more. It’s all in support of the pieces, true vintage that goes from high to low.
The style signature of Mom n Dad stands out in L.A.’s vintage scene, which in the last few years has only gotten more and more competitive. Co-founder Nick Flanagan calls it an answer to the “Depop-ification” of L.A. vintage. (Think photos of T-shirts against a white wall backdrop, or laid down, wrinkles and all, on the floor of a studio space.) The thing with vintage clothes, say the brand’s founders, is that they are special. They deserve their own little universe to exist in with care and creative shelter. But it can be difficult for most shoppers to imagine the clothes at their full potential when they’re seeing them unstyled. That’s what Mom n Dad provides. “The average person doesn’t know what to wear,” says Lex Muro, the brand’s other co-founder. “When we help showcase it, it makes it easier to be like, ‘Oh, I love that. I can wear that. I want to put that together just like that.’ It just shows you can wear this vintage piece and embody this look on you.”
As you might have guessed from the brand’s name, Muro and Flanagan are a couple. They’re also both Scorpios. Despite their matching sun signs, the pair is extremely different. Originally from Whittier, Muro is observant, detail oriented and granular, and Flanagan, who grew up in La Mirada, is a more gregarious, big-picture thinker. (This is probably a product of their upbringings, they say. Muro is one of two children and Flanagan is one of 10.) As they describe it, the underlying theme of their creative and romantic partnership is this: One has always had what the other lacks. When they met, each at around 22 years old through mutual friends, Flanagan was trying to get a clothing brand off the ground, while Muro was finishing school and getting into styling. The two bonded over a shared love of used clothing and sustainability; they hit flea markets and thrift stores for a rush on the weekends. In their free time, they’d also creative direct and style shoots for fun.
Eventually, when the piles of clothing were getting too high — serious thrifters are known to buy something because it’s rare or valuable, but might not actually get around to wearing it — Muro suggested they start selling at L.A. flea markets, like the Rose Bowl Flea and the Melrose Trading Post. This was 2017. She had a vision of what weekends spent loading and unloading clothes in the hot sun could turn into. Flanagan wasn’t on board at first (“I didn’t want to sell at flea markets, I wanted to be the flea market,” he says, laughing). But they stuck with it, doing it in between their day jobs until 2020 when the pandemic hit.
They had no real online presence at that point, maybe 40 followers on Instagram and no site. “It was literally just inventing ourselves [online],” says Flanagan. It started off slow. They used their production skills to creative direct and style their own shoots, make the videos and vintage-y posters and more — and bring the style they’d been cultivating IRL through their creative side projects and flea market presence to the internet. “I feel like we definitely have a contribution to the vintage community now, using models and using locations,” says Flanagan. “Basically, just producing shoots,” adds Muro.
In the last two years, Mom n Dad Vintage has not only built an online presence but secured a physical showroom in DTLA. It’s partnered with Ralph Lauren, produced, styled and photographed projects for the NFL, worked with Nike, Fred Segal, Mitchell & Ness and more. Muro and Flanagan no longer have those day jobs, focusing on their business full time. “Everything we have in our studio now is everything we wanted as kids,” says Flanagan. “Literally the clothes that we have now are what I wanted to wear when I was 10, 11, 12.” It’s this history that still serves as a driving force for Mom n Dad — their family, their culture, growing up in L.A.: “What really inspires us to do what we do is to show Latinos are not just khakis and lowriders and oldies. I know that stuff, I love that stuff. But it’s OK to not be just that. We are so much more,” Flanagan says.
Muro and Flanagan mostly source from flea markets or estate sales instead of thrift stores. In the last few years, as the popularization of reselling clothes has grown — and as Flanagan puts it, everyone’s become an entrepreneur — the thrift well has begun running dry. Not to mention the energy at the bins — secondhand outlet stores — becoming increasingly aggro. “There will literally be guys in the back of the store just waiting for new racks to come out,” says Muro. “I can’t fight with them for T-shirts. I’m going to leave.” But as saturated as the vintage community in L.A. has become, Mom n Dad stands out with every new promotional shoot they post, every move it makes.
Many pieces Mom n Dad sells in their high-ceilinged, brick-walled showroom are from a kind of golden era in music, culture and fashion in L.A. — the ‘90s and the early 2000s. But even within that, the pieces you’ll find at Mom n Dad are specific. Where many vintage sellers of the resurgent Y2K aesthetic might carry a piece just because it’s from the ‘90s, Muro and Flanagan are more interested in pieces that can tell stories. Take one of their dream finds, a Snoop Dogg court case tee made somewhere between 1993 and 1994 that says “MURDER WAS THE CASE” on the back, with Snoop’s face on the front. That it recalls a major moment in L.A. cultural history is only one side of the coin. The shirt doesn’t just bring us back to the drama of that time; it signals the energy around that drama.
There’s another thread connecting them: authenticity. There is no piece carried by Mom n Dad that either Muro or Flanagan wouldn’t wear themselves. There are times it hurt to sell a piece, they say, because it felt like one of their babies. “We never had to switch up,” Flanagan says.
Each has his or her own respective expertise: Muro is more focused on designer wear like Marni or Moschino while Flanagan’s taste is geared toward old-school urban brands like Sean Jean or sportswear. Together, they also have a knack for predicting trends. The miniskirts that reigned in the early aughts and came back with a vengeance in 2022? Mom n Dad saw it coming last year, sourcing and posting about them in summer 2021. “We definitely try to guess the trend or what people would like,” says Flanagan. “That’s our big thing. We love to sell something that someone comes in two months later and is like, ‘Yo, this is crazy. You guys had that?’ And we’re like, ‘We knew it. I told you.’” From motorcycle jackets, Baby Phat crop tops, pristine vintage tour tees and high fashion gems: At Mom n Dad, you may find a piece for $50, you may find one for $500.
The vintage game is all about education. Take a long-sleeve mesh Jean Paul Gaultier shirt, a piece the duo recently photographed on model Natalia Lemper. The casual onlooker, not understanding its rarity, may wonder why it’s so expensive when you can get a trendy mesh shirt that basically looks the same (it doesn’t) at a contemporary fast-fashion brand for $20. True heads know that the only reason those shirts are a trend in the first place is because of pieces like this one, the JPG. “One thing that’s important is knowledge,” says Muro. “If you don’t understand the market, you’re not going to understand the value of what we have in our showroom.”
When it was time to take the leap to get a showroom in 2021, it took an act of faith. Mom n Dad as a business was growing out of its flea market booth. The duo wanted a space where stylists could come pull clothes and clients could stretch out and relax, sheltered from the beating hot sun at the flea. Muro and Flanagan weren’t even sure they could afford rent at first — they were trying to do it with partners, which didn’t work out. But when they found a good deal in DTLA, they knew they had to try it on their own. Flanagan’s brother built out the racks and Muro started making it feel like a home. The space felt like a physical manifestation of how far they’d come. Customers have included singer and influencer Madison Beer and singer Khalid.
If you make an appointment to shop the Mom n Dad showroom, the AC greets you followed by an assortment of snacks. Flanagan encourages — insists — customers grab a mini glass bottle of Perrier or a Corona, if that’s the vibe. “I take it very personally when they don’t take a drink when I offer,” Flanagan jokes. “I’m washed!” The couple practices some version of gentle parenting to customers: They give them the space to browse freely, comfortably, with no pressure to purchase anything, but if someone needs guidance they step in immediately. (Once, a customer even used their appointment time to do homework in the space.)
People have an emotional response to the words “mom” and “dad.” Muro and Flanagan know this. They also know that when they sign their emails with it, or put it on a tote bag, it elicits memories and bleary-eyed nostalgia. (They joke that all the couples captioning their IG posts “Mom n Dad” owe them some form of compensation.) Like parents, Flanagan and Muro sometimes argue about what’s best for their customers. Should they have styled those pieces together in that shoot? Will people connect with it? Should they have sourced that one top instead of these shorts? They do this because they care and ultimately have the same goal: To keep the people in their family (us) fitted. In a lot of ways, the couple thinks of their supporters as their pseudo-children — or what they imagine having children to feel like.
But there’s nothing quite like parenting. Soon, Flanagan and Muro won’t have to wonder. At the end of our conversation, Mom n Dad revealed that they’re about to be mom and dad, for real. Muro is five months pregnant. “We have to juggle all of this and a baby next year,” says Muro. “We’ll actually be a mom and a dad.” Flanagan adds: “People are like, ‘Oh, I bet you guys are going to have the most amazing baby.’ Like, dude, my kid’s going to wear a potato sack until he’s 5.”
Lettering design by Vivi Naranjo/For The Times; typeface: Goliagolia
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This story originally appeared on LATimes