Micah Russell has always had a knack for parsing through trash: 'I am a rat, first and foremost,' she told Insider.
Her vintage business involves vending personalized "bundles" of clothes at a great value.
Since launching on TikTok, she's hired two full-time employees and has a backlog of 400 orders, she said.
Micah Russell has built a successful vintage business and cult following on TikTok, where she's taken a different business tact than many of her peers: selling custom clothing bundles at great value in the name of sustainability.
For 28-year-old Russell, vintage dealing and personal styling have been near-lifelong pursuits, she told Insider.
Growing up in Oklahoma City, she was tasked with styling the neighborhood kids for their makeshift band, culling inspiration from Raven Symone and Lizzie Maguire, as they recorded their performances on their parents' camcorders.
During summers when she got older, Russell volunteered at the nonprofit thrift store her grandmother owned, trading labor for clothes to build her "collection."
She's always had a preternatural knack for parsing through trash ("I am a rat, first and foremost," Russell joked), and today, those instincts have spawned a promising career — and on TikTok of all places. Russell operates a vintage business on the platform under the name Happy Spell, which was inspired by spell jars she used to create as a side hustle.
Viewers are in awe of Russell's "bundles" of vintage clothing that she tailors to shoppers' sizes and styles at a reasonable value. Prices on the Happy Spell website range from an $80 bundle (for three to six pieces) to $500 (25 to 35 pieces).
Happy Spell has been in operation for five years. Over the years, she's provided styling for personal friends, sold wares at local antique markets and vintage boutiques, and offered similar bundles on Instagram. When she joined TikTok a year ago, though, everything changed, she said.
@happyspell Replying to @Hope.Joy.Life! ♬ vlog, chill out, calm daily life(1370843) - SUNNY HOOD STUDIO
"I was real hesitant to hop on TikTok," Russell said, adding she prefers to spend time outside and was afraid of becoming addicted. "Then I hopped on and it was life changing."
TikTok has boosted her business tremendously. Today, Happy Spell has two full-time employees and a backlog of 400 orders that Russell anticipates could take her a year to fulfill. She has also rented a brick-and-mortar storefront in Oklahoma City, where she plans to offer in-person styling consultations that she plans to charge more for "because it's a bigger energy exchange," she said.
'This is how I offer a solution to one of the most corrupt industries in the world'
While vintage dealing on TikTok can foster explosive virality — especially in the case of finds that turn out to be exponentially valuable — it has also sparked a fierce debate.
Fans of the genre, like Russell, cheer the sustainability benefits and argue that shopping secondhand can help combat the human exploitation and mass pollution associated with fast fashion. However, some detractors argue that a slew of vintage dealers are gutting thrift stores for low-income shoppers, and call resellers "greedy" for hiking prices.
Russell, for her part, says she strives to keep prices low to deter shoppers from being tempted by fast-fashion retailers. That said, she added that she certainly doesn't begrudge other resellers who mark up their finds to reflect the value of the work.
"I keep it cheap because this is how I be the bridge," she said. "This is how I offer a solution to one of the most corrupt industries in a world — an industry that I'm a part of, an industry that I love."
Russell tries to be transparent with her pricing. In her TikTok videos, Russell typically shares "bundle breakdowns," showcasing the questionnaires and photos shoppers submit with their orders and the thoughtful way she seeks to fulfill them.
She thinks of herself as a stylist more than a salesperson, but she nevertheless has big ambitions for the Happy Spell business.
Her dream, one day, is to train people globally ("at least a few people per continent," she told Insider) to vend bundles under the Happy Spell moniker, noting that she's made countless new business contacts on TikTok.
"My goal here is to take down these fast fashion companies," she said. "I wanna have enough people worldwide to where we can be styling the whole world."
"I am delusional, but in the most beautiful way."
Read the original article on Insider