STORY BY: Chrissy Mastro
PHOTOGRAPHY: Madeline Northway
MAKEUP, HAIR + STYLING: Lexi Kingery
The business of e-commerce has consistently changed the game in a way that has been impossible to ignore. Like with our media and entertainment consumption, shopping has gone digital—and in many cases, it has become more of a liability than not, to spend the money needed for a brick-and-mortar location if it isn’t getting the revenue needed to stay afloat or make a profit.
Simultaneously, somewhere along the lines—with the help of social media—we started living in a world where you can get a Fashion Nova knockoff of Kim Kardashian’s outfit almost immediately after she was photographed in it. Fast fashion has become faster than ever, and with so many affordable and successful Instagram boutiques, it has become easier—and more affordable—than ever to copy your favorite celebrity looks with the click of a button.
While the idea of more options and accessibility than ever may sound like great news to most, for fashion-minded individuals who feel stuck with little options to add unique or one-of-a-kind pieces to their own personal style, it can make things feel a lot more restricting.
As Millennials, we’re the in-between generation: old enough to remember a time before smartphones and social media, but young enough to feel lost without them. While Gen Z-ers were born and raised with the current level of technological advancements and constant change, Millennials grew up in a period where things felt, dare I say, stable. We’re among a generation who longs for familiarity in a time of such anxiety-inducing change, one of the reasons we hold on so tight to our nostalgia. We thrive on the fond memories of our childhood—late 90s/early 2000s movies, cartoons, music, and most importantly, fashion. And yet, we’re still arguably as dependent and active on our smartphones as Gen Z.
So what’s a Millennial to do? If we’re uninterested in the tired trends of fast fashion and want to incorporate one-of-a-kind items at an affordable price point, yet we’re too spoiled by the convenience of e-commerce to actually shop IRL, where do we shop?
They are the answer.
Incredibly talented and business-minded stylists and fashionistas like Lexi have been able to make a living off of their expertise in shopping secondhand and reselling through Etsy boutiques, Depop, and Instagram. In other words, utilizing their passion and skills to supply a huge demand in the niche market of those who are somewhere in between wanting to access the novelty that is vintage shopping, and not wanting to settle for anything less than the ease of an e-commerce experience...which is basically everyone.
Lexi started Shop Blue Dream in 2016 from her Pilsen apartment in Chicago, where she gained a huge following, and made a living by curating and selling (and wearing!) an eclectic mix of statement vintage pieces that she found while thrift shopping.
From there, she built her empire, turning Shop Blue Dream (and herself) into a legitimate business with a cult-like following. Then came the pop-up shops, collaborations, and experimentation with marketing and sales techniques.
“I’ve had a couple pop ups just by myself, I’ve done a couple that were joint pop ups, I’ve done markets and stuff like that. I had a lot of IRL clients that would come to me and try things on, and it was kind of like, if you come and try things on you can try on from drops that haven’t been released yet. So I had a lot of clients that would be strictly IRL, come and try things on, and clean me out essentially.
It’s Lexi’s incredibly inventive, impossible-to-replicate sense of personal style that has pulled in so many clients, followers, and major media publications (i.e. PAPER Magazine! Vogue!). She’s a walking billboard for her vintage business, and in her own words, “generally wearing head-to-toe thrift.”
“I don’t ever want to be too trendy,” she said. “I have rules of thumb for my personal style. I’m from the middle of nowhere, so I stay true to my country roots a lot, even like very subliminally where you’d have to be from there to know. I love cowgirl style, like rhinestone cowgirl Dolly Parton where it’s just like absolutely gaudy, jewelry and belts and shit like that. I really love sleeves, a humongous exaggerated sleeve, whether it’s a bishop sleeve, a mutton sleeve, a princess sleeve, any of those huge sleeves, I love. It really just creates this regalness to an outfit.”
If her image is what reels in followers and clients, it’s her unmatched dedication that has kept them loyal. The little touches mean everything, and the fact that Lexi stays so on top of her Instagram to the point where she deletes posts once the items are sold is the type of customer service, dedication and personal touch that fast fashion brands, major brands, and other small businesses often lack. It shows that she puts her clients above her social media presence, her image, her “likes”—something that is all too rare these days.
After three years with Shop Blue Dream (she just celebrated her third anniversary in January!), Lexi has taken her talents from Chicago to Los Angeles, where she has already collaborated with cult-favorite brands like I.AM.GIA., with a lot more to come. And while the transition hasn’t been easy, Lexi says the learning curve has been “disorienting, in a good way,”
“[Living in LA has] honestly been disorienting in a good way,” she said. “It kind of put me in a place where I was like, ok I have to learn everything over again in a whole different style of living. And I didn’t really embrace that at first, but now that i’m beginning to embrace it, I feel good. Change is good.”
“I feel like a lot of the brands I’ve been wanting to work with are LA central, less Chicago. Here, there’s a lot more opportunity. More businesses are based here, or have some type of branch here, so I definitely feel the ability to kind of spread my horizons a little bit more here when it comes to things like that,” Lexi said. “Like I.AM.GIA. for instance. They’re from Australia but they were visiting and they hit me and my friend up [to model], so it was kind of like, serendipitous, right place right time thing. It’s a lot easier to get gigs like that here than it is in Chicago. Sears isn’t as fun as I.AM.GIA.”
And while the heavy hitters of the fashion industry are certainly more accessible in LA and New York, there are some things that Chicago really does do best.
“Chicago’s thrift scene dominates every other place I’ve ever visited; I will say that,” Lexi admitted. “The Village Discount chain is like, the best thing that’s ever existed. I was just telling my friend, ‘Hug your Village Discount employees because they mean a lot to me, and I miss them.’ [Thrifting in LA] is a little different, and there are still of course plenty of gems to be found here. It’s just a whole different scene so I’m still getting used to it. I don’t have a car yet, so i haven’t been fully able to explore the thrift scene here, but as far as I can uber, I’ve created this massive chaotic list of like, every thrift store in the feasible LA area, and kind of slowly checking every one of them off.”
But like any other “dream job”, working for yourself is not always as glamorous it sounds, and it’s definitely not easy. As Lexi’s learned, the hustle required to stay afloat and hold yourself accountable is not for the weak-hearted. “In terms of being your own boss, I think I went into it in 2016 being like, oh, sick, I’m gonna be my own boss, I can do whatever I want,” she said. “But if you want to make money, that is not the case. It’s not as easy as like, oh I can take off any day I want. You still have to do something every day—there has to be something if you wanna make money.”
And the beauty and curse of being creative and business-minded is that even when you’ve reached a certain level of success, the hustle never stops.
“After three years, I feel like some things can kind of flatline,” Lexi said. “I want to keep things interesting. [In 2018] I was in Paper [Magazine], I was in Vogue, and now I’m like, okay, people expect a lot, so I want to give them that. I’m just trying to keep up with making it exciting and doing more things. I have some fun things in mind for this year.”
If whatever is next is anything like Lexi, it’ll be unexpected and game-changing—and we can’t wait to see.