Sofia Wallis, 18, Runs Two Vintage Businesses

Sofia Wallis, 18, Runs Two Vintage Businesses

Sofia Wallis is only 18 years old, and selling at valued vintage events like The Vintage Show and Hampton Flea. How does she do it?

  • Liisa Jokinen

  • Dec 26, 2023

“Prior to my vintage business, I had a multitude of jobs from a young age. I was always known as a ’hustler’, and held the entrepreneurial spirit in whatever venture I chose. When I was 12, I was making bookmarks and selling them on Etsy. At 14, I was shooting portraits of horses, at 15, scooping ice cream and working at restaurants.

I launched my vintage business very casually. I have thrifted since the day I was born, but Depop was what set off the idea of centering a business around it. One trip to the Goodwill bins two years ago led me to list a couple pieces that didn’t fit me, and they sold immediately. I never thought of it as a business until it really was. I spent that whole summer growing my account and thrifting almost every day. It only snowballed from there; as I found more sources and increased my production quality, my sales just went up.

While vintage does take up most of my working life, I take whatever comes my way, whether that be photography, nannying, working on film sets, or riding horses. I have many passions and don’t believe in dedicating my time solely to one path.

I have two separate vintage businesses: Jaded Vintage can be described as mostly made up of 60s-2000s. There’s something for everyone, but a large percentage of inventory is more colorful, statement, designer. Farmer’s Daughter has an emphasis on antique silks, Edwardian cotton and lace, frills, dainty, and ethereal.

I resonate more with the stock from Farmer’s Daughter but I know that not everyone feels the same way, which is why I divided my inventory into two separate stores. With the division between the two, a customer can shop their aesthetic without having to sort through pieces that don’t speak to them.

Gem Story image
Gem Story image
Sofia Wallis wearing a blue motorbike suit

I appreciate the Y2K style and wear pieces from the 2000s often, but my true affinity is antique.

It’s just hard to compare the two! When I inspect a garment that’s over a hundred years old, there’s a level of craftsmanship and humanity that is ingrained into every aspect, which I feel is a trait most modern clothing lacks. Oftentimes I have to do a lot of research to answer questions about the item, so I end up learning so much more about the climate of that particular era. It’s also incredibly gratifying to know that I’m doing what I can to preserve or restore a piece of history that otherwise might have been forgotten.

Gem Story image
Gem Story image
Gem Story image

My family is heavily involved in the business. My parents actually met at a thrift store, and early on they taught me an appreciation for secondhand and vintage. Our house is filled with vintage – trinkets, clothes, furniture… They were the blueprint. They inspire me with their own curation and unique styles. Not once in my entire process have they questioned me or pushed me to follow a more traditional path, and I’m grateful to them beyond words for their everlasting support. My parents business revolves around mid-century modern furniture, so we help each other out when sourcing and selling. Aside from that, my sister is a very patient model, and my mom is a master stain-remover. I couldn’t do it without them!

A lesson I’ve learned recently is balancing work and pleasure. What’s amazing about what I do is that I enjoy it to the point where it doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t often take time off. Even if I love it, it’s still work. My biggest mistakes in the beginning stemmed out of self-doubt.

Being young is an attractive quality as a dealer, but it can also bite you.

I’ve had many situations where people try to take advantage of me, but I’ve learned to stand my ground and do business with confidence.

My biggest recent accomplishment was selling at The Manhattan Vintage show and ending up in a NY Times article emphasizing the fact that I was the youngest seller there. Oftentimes I do forget that I’m somewhat young to be doing what I am, but taking a moment to stop and reflect on what I was able to create at 16 gives me immense gratitude that I’m able to have my ‘work’ be something that I’m so deeply passionate about.

I split my sourcing 50/50 between online and in person. Oftentimes once I buy from one source, they contact me time and time again when they know they have stock that I would resonate with. It’s like building a relationship – once you get to know a source, they understand your taste more deeply as time goes on. Having these contacts is gold, but I do use apps like Gem almost every day when I’m hunting for something specific.

When I’m sourcing in person, there are a couple of different routes I’ll take. Sometimes I go somewhere with the purpose of buying in bulk / by weight, but my favorite is when I get to select pieces from someone’s personal collection. It’s wonderful to be able to hear about the life the piece has lived before it comes into my hands, so that I can pass on its history to the next owner. I sell mainly online, but the summer leads me to East, participating in the Hampton Flea on the weekends. I have more plans to sell at physical events across the country in the 2024 season.

Sofia Willis thrifting in Thailand with a friend
Thrifting in Thailand
Gem Story image
Thrifting in Thailand

I’ve spent the last three months backpacking Asia. I had sourcing in mind when going about my travels, however it wasn’t a prominent thought when deciding to take the trip.

When I source online, a large percentage of my inventory comes internationally. Being able to be physically present in these countries while I source has definitely been a change of perspective. Now that I have more experience with the process of buying whilst traveling, I have a more developed understanding of how I’d like to proceed in the future.

An exciting prospect is traveling for sourcing, satisfying both my treasure hunter heart and my desire to adventure.

Sometimes an established seller will share the love and give you recommendations for sources, but it’s really important to also do it for yourself. The best way I’ve found contacts for vintage is just getting out there and exploring – oftentimes it’s the hidden gems that prove most fruitful. This is how you can create your unique angle as a dealer.

There are thousands of sellers, so it’s important to ask yourself what kind of buyer you intend to attract.

Have your selling process be as true to yourself and your vision as possible.

The hardest part about owning a vintage business is running a one-man show (this struggle is personal to me, not all sellers). I feel that the stores I have created have such an underlying sense of my own identity that it’s difficult to bring anyone else in. It makes it harder to grow the business or leave for periods of time, because I physically need to be there in order to run it.

My favorite perk about selling vintage is that I get access to an ever-rotating closet!

However what gives me the deepest satisfaction is that this business is only doing good for the world.

When I sell vintage, I feel that I connect with people through my value of quality and curation – once you wear vintage, you don’t turn back! When I sell in person, there’s nothing like being surrounded by creatives who hold vintage in the same regard.

I’m now 18 and have an explorer’s heart, so I don’t have any idea what the future will hold! I like to stay fluid and take the opportunities that come to me. I know that whatever I do, I’ll be finding vintage along the way – it somehow seems to find me in every path.”

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