Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has her on speed dial. So do Hailey Bieber, Ciara, Kourtney Kardashian, Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss, as well as hair mogul Jen Atkin — or at least, their stylists do. And if her list of celebrity connections doesn’t impress you, then perhaps her fervour and thirst for sourcing hard-to-find fashion items — as well as her high success rate — will.
Meet Gabriel Waller, a Sydney-based stylist turned fashion bounty hunter who locates the holy grail items of the luxury fashion sphere that are sold out or nearly impossible to find.
Well, for mere mortals, that is.
But Waller and her team of personal shoppers are no mere mortals. Part of her appeal is her killer ambition, connections, and her relentless determination in finding something that her client has requested — usually the sold-out items or pieces no longer in season due to their rarity or popularity.
The Thrill Of The Chase
While Waller first started her career in fashion working in Los Angeles as a stylist, she soon pivoted towards personal shopping due to its quick turnaround time and the high-pressure environment she thrives in.
“With styling, it’s more hands-on and you’re very involved. But with what I do now, I’m doing the fashion sourcing at a very fast-paced level and I get that adrenaline rush a lot more because it’s very quick, especially at the speed I work at,” she shares with A Magazine.
“I’m quite an impatient person, which is why my job is so great. I love what I do in particular because it’s all about that hunt. What really motivates me is that challenge and feeling of satisfaction when I do find the item. It’s a very demanding job and I deal with thousands of clients and so to make them all happy at once is really quite challenging.”
And because fashion doesn’t sleep, neither does Waller. Her team, which currently consists of her and two full-time assistants — one based in Sydney and another in London — are available globally 24/7 to cater to the demands of her fashion hungry clients. When Waller turns down for the night, one of her other assistants will sift through the tons of Instagram direct messages (DMs) and correspondence to ensure no messages go unread.
Harnessing The Power Of Celebrity And Instagram
Ensuring the DMs are properly attended to is vital, as most, if not almost all of Waller’s sourcing requests come from there. Not only has Instagram been crucial as a tool for her to reach clients from all over the globe, it was the key factor in helping her land her first major celebrity client that helped put her business on the map — Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
After helping the supermodel find an old Celine coat she had been lusting for, Huntington-Whiteley tagged Waller on Instagram with a shoutout for her amazing service. Soon after, her business skyrocketed overnight with hundreds of new client requests, including one from Maeve Reilly, Hailey Bieber’s stylist, requesting the exact same coat for Bieber.
Waller’s business model, while a thoroughly modern process, is one that can seemingly happen, and not to mention take-off, only in this day and age. “Especially [since I’m based in] Australia and so far away from the rest of the world, Instagram has been purely how I’ve been able to build the business. Through clients resharing images, that’s how we’ve been able to build the name,” she tells us. “I’ve never done PR or marketing, it’s all been through word-of-mouth through social media.”
The Secret Behind Waller’s Strategy And Appeal
Waller’s proclivity in finding these rare items begs the question on everyone’s lips — how does she do it? How is she so successful in what she does and by-passing sold-out taglines? It’s down to the personal relationships that she’s made over the years as well as an elaborate monitoring and tracking system to make sure trending items don’t slip through the cracks.
Waller’s connections ensure that she’s able to pre-order any item directly from the runway, whether it be Dior, Louis Vuitton or Chanel. In fact, pre-orders are a key service of her business. Although she is consistently sourcing current or previous season pieces, she tries to work a season ahead as it’s exciting for her clients to know directly from the buying showrooms what is new or coming soon. From there, her team can place pre-orders according to her client’s wishes and if necessary, put in custom orders as well as special requests.
“It’s pretty important for me to always be one step ahead of what’s out there and what’s about to explode in terms of demand,” she stresses. “For each new collection that comes out, we’ll monitor very closely what pieces are about to pick up to ensure we’re ready for the explosion. So before an item really peaks into demand, we’ll know exactly what countries received it, what boutiques received it globally so that we know exactly where to go to when that time comes.”
But what about the vintage, archival pieces that have long been taken off the market? Waller then moves on to her private clients and the vintage scene. “A few times I’ve received requests for items that have unfortunately been discontinued, which is always disappointing especially when they’re high-demand pieces. In those instances I move into the pre-loved market and hunt through the vintage scene,” she shares.
Go On, Then, Slide Into Her DMs
Efficiency aside, speed, ease and cost are the next factors that makes Waller’s services so tempting. The process is shockingly simple. You DM Waller’s official account, @gabwallerdotcom, a picture of what you’re looking for alongside your desired size, and either she or someone from her team will respond swiftly as to whether they will accept the request. Once it has, the hunt begins.
This casual and personal approach is something that Waller’s clients really appreciate. “I first engaged Gab via Instagram DM a couple of years ago to find out her fees in sourcing an item. I didn’t expect any immediate reply, as I understand her clients are mostly celebrities, hence I guessed she must be very busy,” says Kanya Cittasthira, an Indonesian client of Waller’s who’s been residing in Singapore as a permanent resident since 2015.
“To my surprise, I received an immediate response from Gab herself and she was super friendly. I felt so comfortable speaking with her and being able to ask all my questions about her service. I decided to try asking her to find the Chanel × Pharrell Williams sunglasses that had sold out quickly and were quite difficult to get in Singapore. Since that first purchase went so smoothly and quickly, Gab and her team have now become my go-to people.”
Despite the time and effort poured into locating any item, clients are under no obligation to purchase anything. And if you do, you only pay for a flat finder’s fee based on a tiered pricing system, the price of the item and the shipping costs.
Cittasthira also notes that the beauty of Waller’s service is that she “takes [items of] almost all price ranges, not only the high-end brands but also fast fashion brands as well. It doesn’t matter where the brand is from, she can source them.”
Finding A Needle In A Fashion Haystack
While trawling the likes of luxury e-commerce platforms and vintage resale sites might take you ages, just exactly how long does it take Waller and her team? “Every request is on a case-by-case basis. For current season pieces that have just been released, I would say they can be found within 24 to 48 hours. It’s quite a quick turnaround,” she shares. “But for older season or vintage pieces, they’re the ones that can take anywhere from a week to months to source for. Every request that comes through is logged into our database, and the case stays open until the item has been found.”
For Waller, the thrill of the hunt is exactly what keeps her going. But, it’s sourcing for the vintage pieces — and seeing her client’s gleeful reactions when she successfully finds it — that truly exhilarates her.
One particular item that Waller has been extremely proud to source for was an old Celine necklace from Spring 2013. “I spent many, many weeks hunting down that particular necklace and I finally found it,” she shares. “That was very rewarding for me. It was one of those ones that were well worth the wait. And even just to see the reaction from the client and how appreciative they were… that was amazing.”
But resourceful as she is, there are times where Waller has had to decline requests. In fact, if you own a pair of Celine Edge Sunglasses in pristine condition, you might want to hang on to them… or get in touch with Waller. The personal shopper has received so many requests for them last year that she’s had to start rejecting them.
“I don’t like saying no, but it just had to be done, because I knew it was not going to be possible!” she shares. “I could barely find one pair of these sunglasses, let alone 20! “
The Age Of The Digital Personal Shopper
Covid-19 might have affected the luxury sector as a whole, but Waller’s business has been mostly protected due to the fact that she was already working remotely before the pandemic hit. “With the virus, many turned to digital and online shopping and we already had all of that set up. So whilst everything was on lockdown, we were still able to deliver Chanel shoes to your door,” she says.
“If anything, to be able to really tune in to this new way of luxury shopping, I really feel is the future, essentially. Sending a quick message with an image to say ‘Hey, can you get me this?’, no matter what it is, and [snapping] your fingers and the next thing you know, it’s delivered to you.”
“When I started this out, I just had this goal of bringing pieces that were overseas to Australia. I never realised what it would blow up into. Now I know I really hit the market at the perfect time, because it really is an industry that picked up in the past one to two years. I strongly believe that this will become the new norm when it comes to luxury shopping in the future.”