Fashion bounty hunters are the future of luxury shopping

Competition for quilted handbags with interlocking C’s, strappy sandals in the correct shade of green and butter soft vegan leather coats traditionally takes place on VIP waiting lists but for the right price it’s possible to jump the queue to retail gratification.

Far from the marble temples to luxury, the flagship stores for Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel and Dior, 20 Australians paid up to $4950 to travel to the Mornington Peninsula searching for leather holy grails from Saint Laurent and vintage Céline slides.

Fashion bounty hunter Gab Waller at the Jackalope Hotel in Victoria with a coveted Chanel handbag.Credit:Marcel Aucar

Fashion sourcer Gab Waller moved from Australia to Los Angeles in September to be closer to private clients, such as model influencers Hailey Bieber and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, but returned home to share her international treasures in a vineyard setting at the Jackalope Hotel.

Waller is not a stylist nor a personal shopper but has built a successful business tracking down the hard-to-get items that don’t make it to Australian stores or have become popular thanks to a paparazzi photo of a Kardashian or supermodel Bella Hadid.

Gab Waller in a dress from Khaite inspects the racks of coveted pieces at Jackalope Hotel.Credit:Marcel Aucer

“I know that online stores Net-a-porter and Matches come out from England and do trunk shows for different clients, but this is different and a first for Australia,” Waller, 28, says. “My whole business is usually run from Instagram, so this was an opportunity to bring pieces from Chanel, The Row and new labels for select clients to see and try in person.”

The four-figure fee for a private one-hour shopping session with Waller included an intimate dinner with the expert as well as poolside Pilates with model Brooke Hogan and two nights’ accommodation. All purchases from the edited treasure trove required further taps of the credit card.

“The response exceeded our expectations – from the interest in the experience to the feedback from the lucky few who were able to spend two nights in-residence with Gab,” says Josh Ogilvie, Jackalope brand manager.

Without the one-on-one treatment and room service, Waller charges clients on Instagram a flat rate sourcing fee of $220, whether it’s for a branded baseball cap or thigh-high Swarovski-crystal encrusted boots.

It’s a rapidly growing industry, with Waller also curating selections for the British sourcing app Sourcewear, which launched in January and has been described by Vogue as “the future of luxury shopping.”

“Shoppers have never had more to choose from, yet they still struggle to find what they’re looking for,” says Erica Wright, chief executive and founder of Sourcewear.

“Whether it’s a fashion-savvy customer who invests in several pieces, or a new client saving up for a timeless Chanel bag they’ll treasure forever, all customers are considered to be luxury clients who can and should be able to access a service that helps them source what they’re looking for. The future of luxury shopping is personal, and sourcing is proving to be the driving force behind it.”

In the Jackalope suite Waller’s selections from Chanel, stretching from shoes to swimwear, gained the most traction with visitors from Sydney and Adelaide.

“Chanel is always hot, especially with accessories rather than ready-to-wear, unless its bikinis,” Waller says. “I’m getting many requests for Loewe, especially one rainbow dress, and there’s always demand for Miu Miu and Prada.”

Requests for items from Bottega Veneta and Dior have subsided, but that might be because of direct access rather than the fickle nature of fashion. Dior’s Sydney flagship reopened this year with more accessories and clothing that are easier for Australian customers to purchase.

“My business is based around those pieces that don’t make it here,” Waller says. “The only time they’re going to come to me is if it’s sold out in store. With some pieces, it is like surfing, you have to get them while they’re hot, and before they become overexposed.”

For Waller, working as a fashion bounty hunter is about more than the money and trips to luxury hotels. It’s the thrill of the kill.

“There’s a brown Chanel 22 bag that a customer has requested, and I haven’t been able to get another … yet.”

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