Longtime eBay seller Julie Yoo traces her lifelong love of vintage fashion to the time spent with her mother during her childhood days, going thrifting at second hand stores around Toronto. It was during those early years that her mother taught her a key lesson in fashion: Style isn’t determined by a price tag, but rather by creativity and an eye on how to put an outfit together.
That pearl of fashion wisdom carried with Julie – owner of I Miss You Vintage, one of Toronto’s most beloved and enduring luxury consignment stores — throughout her adolescent and university years. As a teenager, Julie pored over old copies of fashion magazines like Vogue and L’Officiel. She’d go on later to study fine art history at university, working side jobs at an antique mall, art galleries and museums, while spending her weekends searching thrift stores for potential treasures.
Thrifting wasn’t a hobby that was in vogue among her peers at the time, Julie recalls; “Now, it's cool to thrift and like antiques — but back then we were like the weirdos! If you told people you went thrifting, it was strange back then. But it was a real passion of mine,” she said.
Julie in 1998 at vintage clothing shows. “With style, regardless of the price tag on an item, style is something you don't need to buy,” Julie said. “You can get it just from having a good eye or having a personal style going thrifting.”
A few vintage art deco purses that Julie bought from eBay.
Ultimately, it was that thrill of a vintage find that led Julie to eBay and helped set her on a path to becoming a small business owner. While hunting for a 1920s art deco purse online, Julie said she discovered eBay. She began buying and selling through the global marketplace, keeping tabs on what certain baubles and trinkets were selling for while working at the antique mall as a way to learn about market value.
After graduating university and working at various institutional art galleries, Julie continued to sell vintage clothing and accessories she’d unearth as an avid collector. Eventually though, Julie longed to express her own creativity and blend her passion of art history with fashion. Taking the leap, she decided to make a full-time gig out of selling vintage goods and set up her brick-and-mortar store in 2005.
“eBay is a platform that changed my career path — it has helped me discover the entrepreneur inside that I didn't think I was,” Julie said. “eBay allowed me to go from a student hobby to building a million dollar plus business. Now, I'm someone who's proud to be a female entrepreneur.”
Inside I Miss You Vintage, which features pre-owned designer goods, such as vintage Chanel bags.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Julie’s store on Ossington Avenue in Toronto.
As any shop owner knows, maintaining the business to ensure it’s always up and running for customers requires endurance and motivation. Julie attributes her drive and work ethic to her father, who continues to work in his 80s, though he’s retired. “He likes to go wake up early and be part of something,” she said.
The biggest challenge Julie has encountered thus far in her career is balancing her work and home life as a working mother to an 11-year-old boy. When her son was younger, Julie would set up her alarm for 3:30 a.m., sneak a few hours of work in, sleep in a bit before waking up again to take her son to daycare. “Back then, it was just a way to do it,” she said. Women wear many different hats, and “sometimes it's hard to switch back and forth from mom mode to boss mode, to at home personal mode, but you just do it, and it's different now that he's a little bit older.”
Though her son is only a pre-teen, it appears ecommerce may continue to run in the family genes. Julie said her son already has displayed a knack for selling online. “When he's done with a certain set of toys, like Legos now that he’s older, he wants to sell them on eBay. I think he's learned quite a bit from me, and he has a real commerce streak in him that I never did as a child,” she said.
“It's always been the challenge of balancing home life with work life, especially when you're an entrepreneur and you don't have set hours,” Julie said on being a working mother.
Julie’s mother and father in the 1970s. Julie attributes her passion for vintage fashion to her mother, who would often take her thrifting during her childhood, and her hard work ethic to her father, who though retired, continues to work in his 80s.
Born and raised in the Toronto area, Julie is passionate about her local community and is focused on keeping the neighborhood feel to her store. “I know the big thing in business is to scale and become exponential, but I like the community feel of my store, and I always like to stay involved and hands-on,” Julie said.
The eBay platform has helped her store grow locally by providing another way to sell from her doorstep to reach other international markets. It’s also provided an outlet to support sustainability and “reach people interested in circular economy,” she said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Julie said her store is currently accepting only in-person appointments and continues to sell its inventory online through eBay.
Throughout the past two decades as an eBay seller, Julie said she’s enjoyed helping her customers find a one-of-a-kind pick for memorable occasions like anniversaries and in helping collectors find a rare item to add to their closet.
One of her favorite memories so far has been selling a vintage Chanel bag from the ‘80s to a woman who long sought the item, since working at the fashion house during that decade. “She wrote back saying she really was glad to have stumbled across this, because she used to work at Chanel, and she remembers this bag and didn’t buy it then,” Julie said. “We get a lot of those kinds of stories, like reuniting with things that people remember or nostalgia, especially when you're dealing with vintage goods from another era.”
As for what the next 25 years hold for Julie, she wants to put up more inventory for sale online as a way to continue growing her business. “Especially during COVID, more and more people are turning to online to get their goods. And it's important for businesses like myself to put more product up, because as we've seen, the more you put up, the more you sell,” she said. “In the next 25 years, I want to continue to put a lot more up and do well and grow that way.”
Fascinated by art and history, eBay has helped Julie propel her hobby and passion by setting her on a pathway to entrepreneurship. “It helped me make a living out of what I loved, which is historical clothing, and buying and selling and the thrill of the find,” Julie said. “It allowed me to do all of that and build that into a career.”
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