We live in an age of convenience. Ran out of toothpaste? Amazon’s next-day shipping will get you a fresh tube in a flash. Feeling hungry? A dasher will deliver food within the hour right to your apartment. Now, the same concept applies to those who shop for clothes and accessories online. Consumers want the process of building their wardrobes to be as seamless as possible, and are willing to pay someone to help — enter, the world of fashion sourcers.
For those unfamiliar with the term, these individuals or groups are taking on the daunting tasks of finding specific fashion items for clients who may not have time to search for said pieces themselves. By working with an expert shopper, one removes the friction and onerous legwork of trying to dig for and purchase the product themselves — like, say, trying to track down the sold-out Alaïa mesh ballet flats. Sourcing has become a growing industry, according to a 2022 Vogue article, and leading the pack of new-age style sleuths is Gab Waller. Her services are most commonly used amongst celebrities and influencers, like Khloe Kardashian and Matilda Djerf, who are on the hunt for a highly-coveted designer bag or sold-out coat.
Sensing a shift in customer habits, Erica Wright founded tech company Sourcewhere in January of 2022. It’s the first sourcing app that’s powered by a network of personal shoppers, sales advisors, and private collectors (like Waller) who have access to in-demand and timeless pieces — and who can share their findings with consumers on the hunt through the platform. In the mix, niche sellers like Kat McCoy, CEO and founder of gifting concierge service Best Kept, focus on securing high-jewelry and timepieces fit for her client’s special occasions.
The fashion sourcer community is vast and intricate, and only becoming more so. Ahead, TZR dives into this world further, speaking with experts in the field about their work and how you can utilize their services.
Not to be confused with the more familiar, outbound process of personal shopping (think Stitch Fix or Trunk Club), where consumers are presented with product suggestions they might like to buy, fashion sourcing is an inbound service, catering to consumers who know exactly what they want. “We work by request only whereas with personal shopping, you have a client and are making suggestions based on what you already know about them,” Waller tells TZR, citing that the two services are often conflated.
There are several routes one can take to find the piece they’re looking for. There are tech-based platforms like Sourcewear or Threads Styling, which combines the community-based aspect of social media with online shopping by pairing users with an individual stylist to help them find exactly what they’re looking for. For those who prefer a more personalized experience, you may turn to individuals like Waller and Sourced by Anna on Instagram, who will work with you to find your desired goods.
How It Works
Every journey starts with a client inquiry.
When Aimee Rose, a personal stylist and fashion sourcer at Threads Styling, receives a message from a potential customer, she’ll log their request into her spreadsheet, then start doing research on the item in order to track it down. She says clients often send in photo requests not knowing the product’s style name or which runway collection it’s from. One of her jobs is to have a thorough understanding of the item in question, from the general history and its origins to the demographic that it serves, in order to track it down.
“I dive deep to discover as much intel as I can about the product before sourcing in the hopes that it will point me in the direction of finding it,” Rose says. “Even though the internet can help with this search, sometimes [it’s] extremely difficult [to find what you’re looking for] because the item is mis-listed or [has] poor SEO.” When this happens, she’ll tap into her network of domestic and international contacts, including brands, department stores, and boutiques for leads. “Knowing people in a lot of different places is a huge help,” she says, adding that when she travels, she’ll often check out different shops to build relationships for the future.
Once an item is located, clients must act fast in confirming their purchase. Waller’s services come with 24-hour holds and a final sale policy that doesn’t allow for refunds or exchanges. In other words? Be sure you love it before buying it. “When you’re dealing with rare, high-demand pieces you really have to be on at all times because you can blink and the item is sold out,” she says. “The sourcing world is a very fast-paced industry.” Should you need the extra time to make a decision, Rose suggests asking your sourcer about their return policy. Threads Styling purchases are typically final sale only but depending on what retailer the item is from, there may be a grace period from the time that they receive their purchase, giving them leeway to try it on and test it out.
Lastly, for those interested in working with experts like Waller, there’s an established finder’s fee to calculate into your budget. Waller’s flat fee is capped at $350 per item (the exact fee is depending on the value of the item, whether it's under or over $5k), plus shipping costs, which will vary based on where the item is coming from and where it’s going to. Sourced by Elyse, who has 270,000 Instagram followers, offers a $100 flat fee on purchases under $1,000 and anything over that is 10% of the final cost.
The Players To Know
Looking for a fashion sourcer yourself? Do a quick search online and you’ll see Waller’s name pop up every time. She initially started her business on Instagram in 2018, with the goal of bringing internationally sourced fashion items back home to Australia because this market tends to receive certain products late or in limited quantities, compared to the U.S. or Paris. “Gab Waller Dot Com” has since evolved into a household name with a reputation of sourcing everything from trendy in-season items to pieces from archival collections.
Waller’s worked with the likes of Lori Harvey, Hailey Bieber, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Most recently, the fashion guru completed what she says is one of her best projects to date with everyone’s current muse Sofia Richie Grainge. Waller found her client a 2017 Celine dress as well as a leather Theory jacket, both of which she described as miracle finds.
“When I saw the request come through, I was like, ‘I’m not sleeping tonight because I have to find this jacket’,” she recalls. “I asked around, I did some digging and multiple people said, ‘Don’t bother, it’s super old’ or ‘It’s not going to be out there.’ But I couldn’t give up. When I’m told no, it just motivates me even more.”
Rose shares that thrill of the hunt. “I’ve always been known as someone who can find you pretty much anything, so I did this for my friends for a few years before turning it into my official career,” she says, explaining that her path to the industry was quite organic. “There is something special about sourcing the pieces that grow or complete someone’s personal [archive]. It’s a very meaningful and personal process.”
The intimate connection between client and sourcer is something McCoy knows well, as her team initially got their start by finding gifts like engagement rings and anniversary presents. “These are inherently personal milestones in a client’s life and can have much higher stakes than an item you're buying for yourself,” she says. “More so than other categories, jewelry can be one of the most meaningful gifts to give, but it can also be really challenging to find. Now [people] are turning towards the inbound service to ensure they find that perfect item.”
Where Sourcing Is Heading
The recent influx of people wanting to work with fashion sourcers can be partially attributed to social media. “There’s a direct correlation between the growth of Instagram and sourcing at large,” McCoy says, citing that her business has grown because of the visibility that the platform has provided. Her customers can just slide into her DMs to submit a request. It’s the same with Waller, who fields the messages through her Instagram account, @gabwallerdotcom, as well.
Five years in and Waller’s still surprised at how many DM requests she gets from people all over the world who are intrigued and want to know how the process works. “It’s the quickest way to shop these days,” she adds. “No one has time to scour websites or flip through pages [in a catalogue]. If they see it and want it, all they have to do is DM me and I can get it for them — they don’t even have to leave the couch.”
And, her work isn’t limited to just finding the latest Chanel bag or Bottega Veneta earrings for you. “Now I get requests for adidas, Nike, and UGG shoes,” she says. Waller predicts this expansion into sourcers procuring more affordable brands for clients may potentially open the door for more people to use the service, not just celebrities and influencers.
McCoy also believes that there is still so much to be explored in the world of sourcing and that as AI advances, these services will become more in demand. “What I do right now is based on intuition, connections, and soft skills. However, I do think there will be a logical way to introduce smart intelligence into the process, to help source recommendations quicker and bring this bespoke, high-touch [experience] to more shoppers,” she explains. When it comes to fine jewelry and watches specifically though, McCoy doesn’t advise replacing that human component entirely with technology. “It [can be] such an emotional and subjective purchase, which I wouldn’t want the algorithm taking the lead on,” she adds. “[I’d rather] use these advancements as a way to serve more people in a faster manner.”