The Travelling Tee Dealer | Patrick Matamoros’ Story
The man behind ChapelNYC supplies the rarest tees to everyone from Rihanna to Kanye and Pharrell
Photo: Samira Larouci
Patrick Matamoros’ vintage t-shirt store ChapelNYC doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a phone number passed on by word-of-mouth. Patrick spends his time travelling around the world, vintage tees in hand, setting up shop in hotel suites, like a travelling salesman, but infinitely cooler.
If you want that that perfectly worn-in threadbare Billie Holiday tee or a beyond-rare Air Jordan top, Patrick is your man. His ‘store’s’ prices reflect the hand-selection process, varying from $200-$2000 per tee – they’re like the Ferrari of vintage tees.
When we catch up, he’s posted up in a suite at London’s Ace Hotel with a crate of funk records to hand, having just djayed a vinyl-only set at Scotch until sunrise with his good friend and music producer, Acyde.
Why did move into the rare vintage t-shirt world?
Why does any man do anything? A girl. In seventh grade my crush, who had never paid me a lick of attention came up to me when I borrowed my much older punk rock cousins tee and said “nice tee” and walked away. I was done.
When did you start Chapel NYC?
Ten years ago when I moved to NYC. I always sold vintage clothing and records but it was one afternoon, whilst walking down Broome and Elizabeth streets that I came up with the name and focus to just sell perfect vintage tees. I accidentally walked into a dodgy gangster hangout with the name Chapel on the door. These two Italian guys were watching a black and white TV and there was a photo of Sicily the size of a post card on the wall and a giant statue of the Madonna. That’s it. And a folding card table. It was so weird. I walked out and thought about Chapel and how they take the Madonna seriously. It dawned on me then that I take vintage tees that seriously.
How do you describe your ‘store’?
I’m in lots of people’s cellphones as Patrick tee dealer. I get interesting late night phone calls and I always say ”wrong dealer.” Though more than once they then asked if I had tees with me that I could bring over. Right then… at 4am. It’s always a fun time at ChapelNYC.
Without a standalone store, how do you pick up clients?
Honestly I don’t know how I’ve done it. Every single client I have has called me or been brought to me from someone else. I used to sell them as a street merchant in SoHo, New York on Prince and Mercer. Everyone came to me on that street corner; big and small; super celebrity or bad-ass tattooed bartender.
What’s been your most prized find to date?
The Beatles magical mystery tour tee. It’s my number one dime. Money or favours don’t buy it. Money and favours don’t buy it.
Who have you dressed?
Uggggg… I don’t want to be that namedropper. I die a little when I do. If you win People Magazine’s Most Influential Person award and are on the cover of TIME, the only person you come to is me if you want to wear the most perfect real life worn-in-like-you-owned-it-for-25-years solid black tee. Everyone else is second best. Chapel don’t mess around with second best. Pharrell wears my tees on The Voice. Rihanna wears my stuff to Laker games and on her tours. She even based that BBHMM tee on an AC/DC tee she bought from me. My favourite clients though are the ones that go deep with music. Obscure. Frances Bean gets stuff like Diamanda Galas and Jesus and Mary Chain. That’s what I’m talking about.
Where do you source the tees?
You just asked a magician how he saws a girl in half! First rule of Chapel is…you don’t talk about chapel
How do you know you’ve found a really rare one?
If you gave me a pile of tees I could tell you within five minutes what year that tee is from with my eyes blindfolded.
Have you met some obsessive collectors over the years?
I don’t think those guys would like me sharing their names but I’ll say this…one time. One client spent over $60k in one month. He built a room in his insane giant loft just to put the tees.
Is the t-shirt’s background story important?
Oh man… that’s a long answer. It’s all about the stories. Each tee has its own story. I couldn’t care less if it’s a Stones tee or blank. A tee has to have a vibe. When you look at it you have to tell from across the street if its real. You can’t fake real age. You need to look at a tee and tell that someone wore it for 20 years every time they worked on their car or lived in it on some other way.
How many do you have in your personal collection?
Kinda small. I give my clients the opportunity to buy from my closet. You must pay the taxman but I’ll let you. No matter what it is – a blank tee starts at $1000 if it’s mine. Problem is I have seriously religious clients when it comes to tees. It’s never about money, it’s about having respect for having the best. My best clients have a lot of respect.