Thrifter Emma Rogue’s Love Of Vintage Went From Depop To Her Own IRL Store
Thrift and vintage never looked so ’90s.
In Elite Daily’s I Have The Job You Want series, we tell the stories of people working in the most ridiculous, unbelievable, and totally envy-inducing fields you never thought possible. In this piece, we talk to the woman behind the ’90s and Y2K vintage fashion finds from her Rogue store and Depop.
Emma Rogue’s daily routine revolves around vintage 24/7. “I’m so lucky and grateful I stumbled upon vintage and happened to love it,” says Rogue, the 25-year-old owner of New York’s vintage boutique also named Rogue. “I love, eat, breathe, and sleep it.” From her start browsing the thrift store racks of New York in 2015, Rogue’s passion took her from searching for unique finds to Depop expert all the way to opening her own brick-and-mortar vintage store in June. While her curated style suggests she’s always been in tune with the vintage world, Rogue says her New Jersey hometown isn’t where her love of fashion began.
“I got exposed to fashion later in the game, towards my junior and senior year of college,” Rogue recalls. As a high school student, she had different career plans. “I wanted to be a plastic surgeon, but then I had really bad bio and chem professors because [the classes were] dual-enrolled in community college. And I was totally turned off. I didn’t want to do anything medical,” explains Rogue. Applying to New York University (NYU), she considered studying business but was scared of getting rejected from Stern, the famously difficult business school. Instead, she turned to media and communications. “I was going through the majors on the website, and I was like, ‘Oh, this one sounds good,’” Rogue says. Eventually, she planned to switch her major to business — but never did.
Immersed in New York, a fashion capital of the world, Rogue found herself interested in ’90s and Y2K fashion trends. After NYU, she took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in 2017 and 2018, hoping to design her own line of clothes. “I took intro to pattern-making, intro to selling, some fashion business classes,” she says. “I wanted to start a brand, and I had created an upcycled denim collection at NYU my senior year for one of my classes.” Rogue began selling vintage and thrifted clothing on Depop in 2018, though, and realized it was much faster to flip clothing than to create it from scratch.
Then, in May 2020, she started a TikTok account at the behest of a friend. After trying dance videos, she switched to Depop content. “I saw a girl post a video showing how she packaged her Depop orders,” says Rogue. “Then I was like, ‘Oh, I could do that.’ So I made a video like that, and it blew up overnight.” The video, which was posted on May 5, 2020, has over 8 million views as of August 2021.
After the viral Depop video, Rogue’s inventory almost sold out. “I realized I tapped into this niche that wasn’t tapped into yet on TikTok. So I started making a lot of educational content around Depop,” she explains, eventually becoming an expert for the platform’s thrifting community with over 413,000 followers. By then, she’d cemented her intention to make her brand something bigger. “I realized how TikTok [could] be leveraged to making sales,” says Rogue.
Rogue’s eye for vintage pieces secured her place on TikTok and in Manhattan, where her Rogue shop consumes her time and energy. “I didn’t plan on opening a shop this soon. A shop was always in my timeline. I wanted to open a shop. I never knew when it was going to happen,” she says. When her friend Matt Choon — a TikToker and the owner of Manhattan’s Bowery Showroom — opened a vintage shop in March, she signed on to help. She consigned for Bowery Showroom’s opening day in late April and promoted its opening on TikTok. Then, she realized how much impact TikTok had on the turnout. “Witnessing that with my own eyes was like, ‘Why am I promoting other people when I could be promoting my own space?’” she recalls.
Not long after, she made a huge decision. “Matt told me the space next door to him was vacant, and if I didn’t take it, he [would] make it his office,” she says. So the Monday after his grand opening, she made an appointment to view the space and started negotiations the following day. “I signed the lease the second week in May,” she says, and opened Rogue in June.
I realized since opening how valuable my time is.
As you’d expect, opening her first storefront came with some growing pains. Although selling vintage professionally sounds easy, it isn’t. “My day-to-day changes all the time,” Rogue says. On any given day, she wakes up early, works out, and answers emails. She does inventory and tagging at the shop before alternating between tasks on her docket — business meetings, interviews, vintage buying appointments, or meet-ups with influencers to film TikToks. Due to the constant variety, she usually flits back and forth from her shop to other destinations. When she finally leaves her store for the day, it’s late — well past Rogue’s closing time of 7 p.m. ET.
While the shop is her professional focus, she also makes sure it can run without her — because she can’t be there in person every day. “I have employees. Thank god, because I still have sourcing to do, I still have content to make — so it is a full-time thing,” she explains. About three days a week, she heads to New Jersey, where she thrifts for hours at a time at spots like Goodwill and Salvation Army, plus street fairs and smaller charity shops, sourcing vintage pieces in line with Rogue’s aesthetic. Then, after a full day, she launders the pieces.
“I realized since opening how valuable my time is because now I literally don’t have time to do anything,” she says, adding that she struggles to film TikToks now that she’s so focused on her store. “[It’s] a problem because that’s how I get everyone in my doors.”
While many people love the idea of getting into vintage retail, Rogue says there’s a big learning curve for beginners. “When I first started, I didn’t know anything about tags. I didn’t know how to date items. I didn’t know how to price check items,” she explains. Mispricing is a pretty common mistake, for example. “[People new to selling vintage will] be pricing a reprint of a Rolling Stones tee and they’ll place it at $100, but they don’t know that it’s worth $5 and was sold at Walmart,” she says.
Included in her list of misconceptions about vintage is the ease of selling and of finding inventory. “It’s a grind. If you want to grow and actually make money, it’s definitely an extremely hard grind,” says Rogue. “You have to have an eye. ... You’re going to have to learn how to identify what vintage pieces are of value, what vintage pieces look like. You’re going to have to learn what the trends are. You’re going to have to learn to predict trends.”
For those who want to get into vintage retail, Rogue advises starting online. “Clear out your closet, find 30 to 50 items, even 20 items, you want to start listing,” she says. As you prepare to list, take good photos using natural or softbox light, a clean backdrop, and incorporate as many social media platforms to promote yourself as you can.
If you keep doing something you hate, honestly, what’s the point?
As far as the future, Rogue already has her goals set. Next up is to open a second store before expanding globally and launching custom collections that include items beyond just clothes. “We’re going to launch our own line. I want to have sour candies and gummies and tons of different stuff,” she says.
Although it’s a struggle to find and retain knowledgeable retail employees, and the learning curve has stretched her along the way, she wouldn’t change it for a minute. “It’s really tough being a boss,” Rogue says. “I’m so glad I opened the space, and it’s 100% — 110% — the right decision, but it’s a lot of learning.”
Rogue hopes others can find jobs they love as much as she does. “If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, you have to reevaluate and think about what you love doing, because that’s how you’re going to be fulfilled,” she says. “If you keep doing something you hate, honestly, what’s the point?”