Insider Tips From The Vintage Store Rihanna Swears By

Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
When Rihanna took the stage at the Saturday Night Live season finale to perform her hit "Bitch Better Have My Money," it wasn't the explicit lyrics that got people talking. It was her look — particularly the vintage Napier necklace she rocked that she found at a boutique-meets-gallery tucked away in Soho, NYC.

EraLuxe Gallery is an appointment-only shop run by 32-year-old Julie Heller, who has been propelled into the spotlight and become a go-to not just for @badgalriri, but also women in search of unrivaled, one-of-a-kind treasures. On the racks, you'll find drop-dead numbers from the likes of Alaïa, Chanel, and Versace — pieces (or rather, clothing as art) from yesteryear that are just as coveted (and stylish) as they were when they hit stores decades ago.

Stumbling upon these items is no easy feat. It takes lots of travel, time, and let's be honest, trips to thrift stores. It also takes serious knowledge of cuts, colors, and labels — beware of fakes! — and some major self control. (How can you score 40-year-old Chanel and not keep it for yourself?)

To get the down-low on all things thrifted, Heller opened the doors to her Tribeca closet fashion paradise, where we got the inside scoop on some of the best vintage items she's ever scored — and how we can find our own. (Hint: It might involve leaving New York City.)
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
When did you fall in love with vintage clothing?

"I always loved playing dress-up in my mother’s closet, but about fifteen years ago, I wore one of her vintage Giorgio di Sant'Angelo dresses (seen here) to a wedding. I was a little young at the time to realize quite how special it was, but I remember thinking how amazing the dress was and how cool it was to be wearing something so unique. I still have the dress, and I wear it all the time. It’s pretty classic."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"This Giorgio di Sant'Angelo dress has extremely long straps that you can wrap and wear however you want — one shoulder, both shoulders, strapless. I love the color and how versatile the piece is. It's what made me realize how timeless vintage clothing can be."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
Tell me about opening EraLuxe.

"I started collecting vintage for myself and my friends, and I would have little sales in my backyard in Los Angeles. When I started spending more time in New York City a few years ago, I took an office space in Soho and launched an online store. Once I realized everyone wanted to come in and try the pieces on, I turned my office into an appointment-only showroom, EraLuxe Gallery."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
You have some incredible clients, like Rihanna. How did you get involved with her?

"It was sort of fate. Her stylist was hunting for vintage scarves for her then-forthcoming SNL performance and came by EraLuxe to see what I had available. It just so happened that a lot of what I had in the gallery that day was right up Rihanna’s alley. They pulled a ton of pieces (outside of the originally intended scarves) they felt she would be really into for her own closet. Turns out they were right — she purchased almost everything. My favorite piece that she bought was this incredible pair of early-90s Gianni Versace sunglasses; they're red with Medusa on the temples."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"I've had this bronze, Alaïa minidress forever. I don’t remember where I found it, but it’s just so classic and easy to wear. The '90s Chanel jumpsuit I'm holding is one I found while working at the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. I became friendly with the owner of the booth across from mine and ended up buying a bunch from him. I had to have it — because who doesn’t need a cotton, Chanel jumpsuit?"
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"This [bolero] is one of my all-time favorite finds, because you just don’t find pieces like this very often. It’s Oscar de la Renta from the '70s, and it's covered in long, black, fringe beads. I got it on one of my sourcing trips to Palm Springs, and it’s still in perfect condition."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
How would you describe the difference between "vintage shopping" and "thrifting?"

"To me, the biggest difference would be the time period you’re shopping for. Thrifting doesn’t necessarily suggest whether the pieces you’re looking for are old or new, while vintage shopping implies that you’re looking for items from past decades."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
What has been the most challenging part of owning a store in New York City?

"The most difficult part is finding incredible pieces and getting so excited about them...only to see how poor the condition is. It’s so disappointing, but it's also rewarding to discover where pieces come from and knowing where they’re going. My favorite story is when a girl came into the gallery and found a Halston dress that her mom used to have. She left with it, of course."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"My husband gave me this cool, Lanvin necklace set from the '70s. It comes with a gold, snake chain and three different-colored medallions that you can interchange. You just have to unscrew the back, and then you can swap them. It’s such a good idea. It's so signature Lanvin from that time period, and it comes in an amazing red box."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
Are there any particular brands, styles, or eras you look for when shopping?

"My favorite decades are the '70s and the '90s, so I'm always hunting for good pieces by Halston, YSL, and Thierry Mugler. I love Chanel and Alaïa, too, but I don’t find much of that thrifting."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
Have you ever kept anything you originally bought to sell?

"I find most pieces while traveling. I always research local thrift and consignment stores and spend at least one day sourcing. I am pretty good about putting pieces directly into the EraLuxe showroom, but there was one time I kept a fur coat that I just couldn’t let go of. It’s not designer, but it is amazing."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
Do you have go-to spots in New York where you find pieces?

"I like to look at the thrift stores in the East Village and the Upper East Side, but I don’t go sourcing in New York City often. When I do, I stick to charity-related thrift stores. That’s where I find better items, and the money goes to a good cause. Honestly, I think the best places to look are Palm Springs and Palm Beach."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"I found this really rad, Gucci gown while thrifting in the East Village. The Alaïa leather jacket was found in Palm Beach. Alaïa is one of my favorite designers, and any time I get my hands on his pieces, I snatch them up!"
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
What is the most surprising piece you've ever discovered?

"A black, cut-out bustier top gown by Sophie Sitbon. The style is so current, and I bought it for close to nothing. It’s worth about $1,000."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
What are the most important things to know when vintage shopping or thrifting?

"There are a lot of fakes out there — so be careful. Condition is extremely important. If it’s in bad shape, it’s pretty hard to bring it back to life. Also, a lot of people have this misconception that vintage is grungy. They should realize that a lot of these pieces come from really fabulous people and their incredible closets."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"I'm wearing my mother’s Dolce & Gabbana minidress, which I love. My mom was always very into the fashion. It was the '90s, so she wore a lot of Richard Tyler, Dolce & Gabbana, and Alaia. I suppose that's why I like form-fitting silhouettes and minidresses. I'm also wearing an Yves Saint Laurent crystal necklace, which was a gift from my in-laws. It’s a great statement piece that is still very neutral and works with pretty much everything."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
"Vintage clothing is so easy to integrate into your everyday wardrobe. You just have to wear one piece at a time. If you wear too many things from one decade at the same time, it starts to look a bit costume-y. Pieces like a Saint Laurent smoking jacket or a Chanel bouclé jacket are so simple to throw on with jeans and a T-shirt."
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson.
What is your top tip for women who are looking to get into vintage shopping and thrifting?

"You need to be patient. It can take a while to find the great pieces, but they’re there."
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