The year started on a sour note for stylist and personal shopper Michelle Lovelace, who goes by Meech. In early January, Instagram shut down her account, @stylebymeech, which had over 100K followers, claiming IP infringement. Following that, a bunch of fake pages popped up in her name and started scamming people out of money.
“I wasn’t even gonna make a new page. But I was like, let me start over just to show people that I’m not gonna give up,” says Lovelace, who started a new account, @meechthestylist, and has since been in touch with the FBI about the fake pages. “Part of this kind of tarnished my name,” said Lovelace on an IG Live.
Lovelace still doesn’t have her page back, but in late January someone from Kanye West’s team, who she sold a pair of shoes to before, reached out with an opportunity that would more than restore her credibility over IG. The team said he needed some Birkin bags. Initially, the number he requested almost made Lovelace pass out, but she immediately got to work and started sourcing different options and sending pictures to the team.
West only liked one of the bags she sent, a rare Birkin 25 with rose gold hardware made of ostrich leather, which would be for Julia Fox. Lovelace thought that would be it. But the next day she heard back from his team requesting her to find four more Birkin 25 bags that either came in Togo or Epsom leather, which are less expensive than Fox’s ostrich leather style.
“All of a sudden I was in a group chat with different people and they were saying how big this is for him and we need to get this done no matter what it takes. I was sweating,” says Lovelace.
Hermès introduced the Birkin bag, which is named after British actress Jane Birkin, in 1981. Caitlin Donovan, head of sales, handbags, and accessories at Christie’s, told Complex it was an immediate collectors’ item. But over the years, as its popularity has increased, so has its demand. Getting Birkin bags is a process that doesn’t typically involve simply walking into a store and purchasing one. The company produces a limited number of bags that it releases each year and makes them available for customers who have a purchase history with the brand. The Birkin style comes in different sizes and materials and can retail from $9,000 for the most basic version and up to $400,000 for rare and exotic versions. Lovelace expedites the process and sells them brand new from the aftermarket and charges a service fee.
West is no stranger to gifting his love interests Birkin bags. In 2013, he gave his ex-wife Kim Kardashian a Birkin 40 bag customized with a painting by artist George Condo. The Birkin 25 bag West gifted Fox and her friends starts at $9,000 when purchased directly from Hermès. But when purchased brand new in the aftermarket, which is what Lovelace specializes in, the prices start around $25,000.
It usually takes Lovelace one to two weeks to source brand-new Hermès bags. She has to have her team vet the source to make sure she’s not buying a fake, travel to get them, or wait for a seller to sell her the exact piece she’s looking for. But she now had four days to find the bags. She utilized her network, working with her business partner, and flew to different states to retrieve the bags. Then Lovelace, who is based in Los Angeles, had to fly to New York to hand deliver them to West’s hotel room.
“I lined them up and he was basically like, ‘Cool. Thanks.’ But then, later, we were in the lobby with Julia and his assistant was like, ‘This is who got the bags,’ and Julia was like, ‘Oh my God, how did you make this happen? I know these bags are so hard to get.’ And then Kanye looks at me and is like, ‘Wait. These are hard to get and I just dismissed you like that?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he just gave me a big bear hug. I was freaking out. I was like ‘Oh my God. Kanye just hugged me,’” says Lovelace.
The five bags Lovelace sourced turned Fox’s birthday dinner at Lucien in downtown New York, where she and her friends posed with the bags, into another interesting moment in the Fox and West relationship timeline. But for Lovelace, it was a new accomplishment and a reminder of how much she’s achieved in such a short amount of time.
“Getting those bags literally just unlocked a new goal for me that I didn’t even know that I could do,” says Lovelace. “This is a huge peak in my career and I started not even a year ago.”
Lovelace grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and spent some of her adolescence in Atlanta. She always had an interest in fashion—she won best dressed in middle school and high school—but she envisioned herself as a lawyer. So she attended Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, to study criminal justice, then transferred to Nassau Community College on Long Island. While going to school, she worked in retail. Her first job was at Lord & Taylor in Manhasset, New York, and then she moved over to Saks Off Fifth in Garden City, New York, and Neiman Marcus at Roosevelt Field mall. She would utilize her employee discount to buy bags and shoes, post them to her IG, and flip them. She became known for selling designer pieces at a discount. She eventually moved to Australia to study abroad at Macquarie University, but because she couldn’t afford tuition costs, she dropped out. After quitting school, she worked as a seasonal, part-time employee at the Louis Vuitton store in Garden City, where Lovelace learned the inventory quickly.
“When I started, they told me the standard person takes four to five months to learn everything,” says Lovelace. “But I went home and would go on the Louis Vuitton website and study all of the bags, the names, and the prices. I would study for days until I fell asleep. And within two weeks, I was ready to sell.”
Needing a full-time job, she joined CME Agency, an influencer agency started by Sean Cummings, as a social media coordinator, and he asked her to come out to Los Angeles to help out. After doing that for a few months, she got a part-time job at the Louis Vuitton store in the Beverly Center, started posting Louis Vuitton bags to her IG account, and built up a celebrity clientele that included Roddy Rich, NFL players Frank Clark and Emmanuel Sanders, and his wife Gabriella Sanders, who has a large following on IG. She was a relatable and friendly sales associate within a very stuffy environment and made clients feel comfortable during their luxury shopping experience.
Eventually, because she couldn’t survive in LA on a part-time salary, Lovelace started working at The Webster in the Beverly Center. She says at The Webster she learned about even more fashion brands and started to understand styling. She transitioned her IG page to feature inventory from the store, but sometimes items would sell out, but clients would ask if Lovelace could still find the product at another retailer.
“I started sourcing items for people and then I realized that business has a big market. So I started posting, posting, posting, and my clientele started to grow.”
JT of The City girls was her first celebrity client who gave her a credit on IG. She wanted a pair of Amina Muaddi heels, and Lovelace found them but offered to gift them to JT in exchange for mentioning her IG handle, which brought her more followers. She’s since shopped for celebrities including Cardi B, DJ Mustard, 42 Dugg, Big Latto, and more. Lovelace says people frequently ask why her famous clients can’t get these pieces on their own.
“Sometimes people just don’t know where to get them. Other times, they don’t have the time to shop or find what they want,” says Lovelace. “I have a lot of intel and connections with these stores because I work with them so much. I have a different level of access.”
Lovelace’s access, coupled with her strong client relationships, is what helped her sell well while working at The Webster during a pandemic. When things first started shutting down, she would reach out to clients and check in on them, and send them pictures of inventory and outfit collages to help them style the pieces. Because of the relationships she cultivated, many of her clients would come directly to her to purchase things instead of buying the items on an e-commerce site. And because of her relationships with clients, she was able to do around $30,000 to $40,000 a month in sales when the store was closed.
It was during this time at The Webster that Lovelace also learned about rare sourcing, which changed everything for her. From that she became aware of Hermès Birkin market. “I didn’t know that you couldn’t just walk into an Hermès store and get a Birkin,” says Lovelace. “But I made a goal to sell just one.”
She started researching them extensively and posting them to her IG page, and eventually a client in New York who was a hairdresser DM’ed her and said she was interested in buying one. The transaction wasn’t immediate, but Lovelace took her time explaining the different options and educating the client about price and different details. She ended up selling her a Birkin 30 in rose azalee for around $20,000.
“The company was like, ‘How did you sell a Birkin during Covid?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know?’”
Lovelace was juggling her full-time job with personal shopping on the side, which also transitioned to styling—she’s styled Coi Leray, and currently works with Moneybagg Yo and Ari Fletcher. She told herself once she saved up a year’s worth of rent she would quit her job and focus on her side business full time, which she did in April 2021. Since then, she’s differentiated herself by learning how to navigate the Hermès Birkin space that doesn’t include a lot of people who look like her. “I don’t think I know any other Black women who work in the Hermès aftermarket,” says Lovelace. But Lovelace says she’s always showing her face when she shops so people become familiar with her and traveling to different states and countries to purchase special items. She once flew to Hawaii to purchase a pair of gold Louis Vuitton Edge sunglasses that were sold out at every other store.
“People always ask why people pay me to get things, and it’s because some people can’t find it, but I’m going to make sure I find it. Even if I have to fly to go pick it up,” says Lovelace.
Following the Kanye West acquisitions, Lovelace says her IG inbox is flooded with Birkin requests, which she will continue to buy, but she also wants to grow out her business and offer more education on how to succeed in personal shopping and styling. She says the demand for Birkins always increases around holidays, but right now she’s receiving a lot of requests for Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton Air Force 1s.
“I’m waiting myself to see how Louis Vuitton is going to distribute them, but people are willing to pay so much money for them. Some people want every pair he made,” says Lovelace, who only sells luxury sneakers from brands like Chanel and Balenciaga but is considering venturing into the sneaker market as a whole. But for now, she’s sticking with her styling, personal shopping, leaning heavy into Birkin bags.
“It was overwhelming, but it was such a cool experience getting those bags for Kanye,” says Lovelace. “I feel like every step, every trial and tribulation, and every hurdle that I had to go through was worth it. The sleepless nights, the crying and trying to figure out the next step. Everything was worth it because of this situation right now.”