Even though influencer Matilda Djerf lives in Sweden, when she wants vintage Chanel flats, she calls L.A.-based Julia Rabinowitsch. When the team behind Mirror Palais needs shoes for its fashion shows, they call her, too. On Instagram, she goes by @TheMillennialDecorator (75,000 followers). She started the account in 2020 “in the dark ages of the pandemic,” while living on unemployment. It’s followed by major influencers and stylists including Negin Mirsalehi, Marianna Hewitt, Mimi Cutrell and Allison Bornstein. Today, through the account, she sells vintage shoes averaging $500 a pair via 10-12 drops per year.
Rabinowitsch spoke to Glossy about how she found her niche, how she approaches brand partnerships and how she sources designer vintage shoes.
How did you come to start your account?
“It started as a decor account, hence the name. And it started as a place where I wanted millennials and people in my demographic to be able to come and gain inspiration. It was never supposed to be a business. At first, it was very much a space where I could just share how I was curating my life and decorating my life, in a millennial way, on an affordable budget, and mainly with vintage. I switched to fashion, mainly shoes, in 2022.”
How did it become a business?
“The story is that I had a few pairs of vintage Chanel heels that I wasn’t wearing. I posted them on Instagram — I had maybe 10,000-15,000 followers at this point. [I posted asking], ‘Should I do a vintage clothing drop one of these days?’ Maybe 5-10 people said yes, and that was enough for me. I decided to only do shoes because clothing, to me, wasn’t really inclusive enough. I’d be finding one-of-ones that fit one person, but shoes [can] fit everybody. So I decided to put together about seven vintage pairs of shoes, and I shot them in my living room with my friends. And it just blew up.”
Where did the shoes come from?
“Two of the Chanel shoes were mine that I was no longer wearing. The rest I scoured everywhere for, which I pretty much still do today. I bought them all online. At this point, vintage shoes were maybe a sixth of the price they are today; prices have gone up massively. Everything sold out on the day of the first drop, which I wasn’t expecting. Nobody on the secondhand market was solely doing vintage shoes. And I think it started this niche within the market. It’s [since] blown up. Some of my first supporters definitely helped me. Matilda [Djerf] was an earlier follower. I sent her [a picture] of shoes [I was selling] that reminded me of her. There was a pair of butterfly Moschino mules … and a pair of Chanel bow heels, which she still wears today. She bought both pairs.”
How did your business grow from there?
“[Djerf] posted about her shoes and everyone who bought from that drop posted about them, and word spread. And then, the more people who got shoes, the more they wanted to share them. My following rapidly increased after [the] first shoe drop. I think I was filling a niche for people that [they] didn’t know they wanted, and they were really interested in it. Everyone’s pretty much sharing new things that they’re buying, but I think people are a lot more interested to see vintage that people are buying or investing in. Even the brands are taking note. In my next drop, I have a lot of Tom Ford Gucci, and simultaneously, Gucci is [re-issuing] all of those Tom Ford Gucci pieces. I’m finding their archival ones, and then there are the new ones for four times the price.”
Now that this is your full-time gig, where do you source the shoes from?
“I say it’s like herding cats. I work with a variety of individuals who either bring shoes to me and are sourcing for me or they’re vintage dealers that I get to work with. Then it’s also me searching. Also, I’m lucky because a lot of people who follow me will sell me their shoes, too. They’ll be like, ‘My grandma is getting rid of her shoe collection,” or ‘My mom is getting rid of her shoe collection. Do you want to take a look and let me know if you want to buy anything?’ And oftentimes, I will.”
You started working with brands quickly, too. How did that happen?
“Early supporters who took note of me and wanted to work with me really helped me. That included stylists, influencers, creators and brands. I started working with Mirror Palais very quickly. I launched the first shoe drop in May, and then, by September, I had sourced the shoes for Mirror Palais’s runway show. So the account grew enormously in that time.”
How else do you make a living, between drops?
“I have stylists who support me by putting me on their photoshoots or campaigns, and other stylists buy personally from me for their clients. And I source individually for people, too. In September, I also sourced all the shoes for Djerf Avenue’s first runway show at the Guggenheim, and I’ve worked on in-store showcases with LoveShackFancy.”
And I heard you’re partnering with beauty brands. In what way?
“I’ve partnered with brands like Saie, Rhode, Crown Affair, J.Crew and StockX. They work with me to tap into my original series, like my bag series and my sink series, which merge new and vintage products.” [Editor’s Note: In the case of Rhode, Saie and Crown Affair, for example, the brands tapped Rabinowitsch to create content featuring their products and using her distinct aesthetic. Each posted the imagery on their brand account.]