The rise of the fashion sourcer: the women uniting shoppers with the industry's most elusive treasures

·5-min read
Photo credit: Noemi Trazzi
Photo credit: Noemi Trazzi

What used to be reserved for the wealthy, is now trickling down to a wider audience. A new wave of personal shoppers – or self-titled ‘sourcers’ - are making archival designer pieces and sold-out treasures available to anyone who inquires. Depending on the desired item, their help can be hired for various amounts, usually around ten per cent of the original retail price. Pioneer of the democratised style sleuths is Australian Gabriel Waller, who tracked down a 2017 Céline coat by Phoebe Philo for model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in early 2019. The fashion ‘sourcer’ has since risen to stardom herself, after her client shared a message of gratitude on Instagram, and she has attracted new business from Hailey Bieber, Lily Aldridge and Chiara Ferragni.

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A quick Google search for these new private ‘sourcers’ proves just how popular they have become. Thousands of more or less successful private shoppers are listed on Depop, a re-sale website and app familiar to those born after the turn of the millennium. As consumers shop more mindfully than ever before, demand is high for pre-loved designerwear that simultaneously saves the planet and some coins. Other online second-hand marketplaces are quickly following suit - European site Vinted and the French luxury platform Vestiaire Collective are achieving record highs in net worth. Even e-commerce destination Farfetch has jumped on the wagon and launched s pre-owned selection back in 2019, including a pair of ’93 Chanel earrings and a ’98 Louis Vuitton World Cup soccer ball.

Fashion hungry consumers are increasingly quenching their clothing cravings by flicking through the endless listings of second-hand steals. For those strapped for time, personal ‘sourcers’ can finesse their way through the online labyrinth of re-sale sites to unearth fashion’s needle in the haystack on request. In other words, they are the fashionable middleman between brand and customer.

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London-based Angelina Pietrafesa wanted to test the waters after Waller’s sourcery hit the social networks, opening her own Depop shop in autumn 2020 on a whim. “I managed to find a pair of the sold-out [Prada] loafers for myself through a special contact in Italy and I asked her if she could find more. When she said she could, I knew it was something I could pursue.”

Now, Pietrafesa has gathered almost 5,000 followers and a partnership with Prada. Integral to her work is the inaccessibility of the products to others. “If someone can walk into a shop and buy the item, they won’t pay more for you to find it.” By sourcing designer steals preferably from her client’s country of origin, Pietrafesa strives for “best price, fast shipping and [the] quickest returns”. To make sure whoever inquires is united with the item of their dreams as fast as possible (Pietrafesa usually finds the piece within a week), she adopts a dogged approach: “I think there has to be at least one of these somewhere in the world and I’m going to find it!”

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What sets Elisetta Battani apart from the masses is her charming vintage shop Armada Archive in Verona, founded in October of last year, at a time when many bricks-and-mortar shops were struggling. But Battani beat the odds and is now gaining recognition across Italy and on social media, partly as the woman “wearing weird stuff... I don’t remember the last time I bought something new.”

A former product developer for streetwear brand Alyx and Italian retail website Slam Jam, she now specialises in vintage sourcing from luxury to nameless pieces. Battani says the key is having a personal relationship with her customers and an open mind towards garments without designer prestige: “I know some of my clients really well, so I know what they like."

Instead of specific item requests, Battani sources according to taste and occasion. “Customers will say, 'I need something for a wedding.' [Others] ask me what I have from Miu Miu, for example.” When it comes to vintage sourcing, a trained eye and sense for aesthetics proves essential. Her shop stocks everything from a £25 non-branded Chinese bag to a £2,500 original Chanel suit.

Anastasia Slunkova’s clients on the other hand simply “would [not] consider vintage”. The Ukrainian personal shopper, who is based in both London and Abu Dhabi, started her online business PSL X in 2013, a year after sourcing Burberry stickers for her British friends. Her business started to gain traction after she unearthed a rare Céline piece, and now she and her team focus on “things that are not present online”, accessed through brand partnerships that remain undisclosed.

Although she herself is “not involved in operations anymore”, the physical expertise still pays off. “You have to know which collection it's from and which market you're dealing with because every market has its own unique products,” she explains. The job of a ‘sourcer’ entails somewhat of a photographic memory teamed with a geographical and analytical awareness – in other words, it means being fashion’s equivalent Sherlock Holmes. Knowing exactly where to look is integral to finding it and avoiding high costs of customs for her clients, much like Pietrafesa does.

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Whether you're a Prada princess or a vintage veteran, the options are bountiful for anyone spying on a specific piece of rare fashion history. With their patience and passion for the seemingly unattainable, personal ‘sourcers’ are the essential style resource you didn't know you needed.

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