How One Woman Became Hollywood’s Red Carpet Weapon
Collector Janet Mandell has dressed every A-lister imaginable—the catch? You can wear it all, too.
For her family’s annual Christmas Eve party in 2019, Kourtney Kardashian wore a jaw-dropping Tom Ford x Gucci dress. Her curves were draped in floor-trailing, supple red satin, the bodice’s corseted cinch surrendering to sultry surprise in the form of a lower-back cutout.
“I sourced the [Tom Ford-Gucci] 2003 runway gown from Janet Mandell, who has been buying museum archives for the last 10 years,” her stylist, Dani Michelle, revealed to Vogue at the time. “Just as we have brand showrooms for current designers, I have a network of archival vintage collectors.”
Michelle isn’t alone. Rental services have become the ultimate asset for stylists looking for a local middleman between luxury fashion houses and vintage retailers. But it’s Mandell’s unparalleled eye that has elevated her above the rest. Michelle, who has been styling since 2008 and now counts Kristin Cavallari, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, alongside Kourtney Kardashian, as clients, claims Mandell is now one of her first ports of call. In fact, the Gucci by Tom Ford gown sourced from Mandell and donned by Kardashian is one of her “favorite dresses on a favorite client.”
“[Janet and I] have a similar vision of what’s ‘cool’ and incredible, so I always love her buy,” Michelle tells Coveteur.
It was never Mandell’s intention to derive a business from her personal wardrobe, but it became the only practical route when her collection was the consistent envy of her entire cohort. The fashion and lifestyle blogger, then writing for her own site, By:Fashionaholic, in Chicago, would watch as friends flipped through her racks of covetable vintage couture or new season must-haves, begging to be lent premier pieces. The interactions informed her approach with future clients: presenting one-of-a-kind pieces in a one-on-one shopping experience. Just like that, the collector’s own eponymous showroom was born.
“We decided to go back to the old-school way of shopping,” Mandell explains. “Creating an experience with a high level of customer service with one-on-one attention. A symbol of true luxury.”
In 2019 Mandell’s collection was reported to be worth $2.3 million, but its current value is unconfirmed. Regardless, word traveled quickly that Mandell had one of the most comprehensive collections of luxury apparel in Los Angeles, and almost overnight she had become Los Angeles’ vintage behemoth. Famed celebrity stylists such as Michelle or Mimi Cuttrell, a trusted go-to for the likes of the Hadid sisters, Priyanka Chopra, and Ariana Grande, became regulars at Janet Mandell.
Molly Dickson had transitioned into the world of celebrity styling from the Marie Claire fashion closet when she happened upon a picture of Chopra in a fuchsia Tom Ford dress, styled by Cuttrell by way of Mandell. Dickson had an upcoming client fitting and, on a whim, decided to message Mandell to source a specific look. The pair have since formed a lasting relationship, with the stylist recently pulling vintage CHANEL for client and rising starlet Sydney Sweeney.
“Her edit is young, cool, fashionable, and everything is always in amazing condition, which is sometimes rare for vintage houses,” Dickson says.
“Buying and collecting for the showroom is my true passion,” adds Mandell. “I love finding one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and get excited when I come across an up-and-coming designer I can’t stop thinking about…[My relationships with designers] are just as valuable as the products themselves.”
Mandell has now formed a relationship of a different kind, one with luxury extended stay AKA. After the business outgrew its pop-ups and a residence in the Hollywood Hills, she decided she wanted to elevate the retail experience to a “mini vacation.” Clients can live, work, and visit in proximity to Mandell now that her showroom has been shifted into the West Hollywood location.
“Hollywood is a vibrant destination that attracts an audience eager for high-quality experiences,” says Elana Friedman, chief marketing officer at AKA. “When Janet approached us, we were delighted to collaborate, as her brand aligns with AKA’s commitment to design and quality.”
As of this month, the Janet Mandell x AKA is now open by appointment. The collaboration allows visitors all the amenities of a hotel (valet parking and a view) while perusing Mandell’s beautiful pieces. The collector hopes to one day expand to AKAs in other cities. Next stop, maybe? New York.
“Sometimes it takes trial and error to get where you need to be,” Mandell adds. “After working with the top celebrity stylists, editors, and influencers, convenience and location became top priority. AKA provides the security, comfort, ease [we were missing].”
According to Dickson, Mandell’s momentum won’t be slowing down anytime soon. “Now that sustainability in fashion is becoming so important, it’s no surprise many stylists are looking to vintage as an efficient source in their market requests.”
Creative industries that intersect with fashion have also cottoned on to the necessity of sustainable practices. Aware that most attendees will only be photographed in a particular garment once, the BAFTAs encouraged guests to rent their outfits in 2019. The pivot toward sourcing vintage designs from local buyers has created some of the most standout red-carpet looks of the past decade.
“If celebrities are not given a couture custom dress to wear on the red carpet, vintage is what stylists seek out because the chances of someone else wearing a vintage piece is rare,” claims Mandell. “We keep clients in mind as we add to the archive, and take the female body into consideration as well, with a size range from 0 to 16+.
Among Mandell’s favorite looks created with her pieces is Selena Gomez at last year’s American Music Awards in a 2017 Christian Dior mirror-embellished romper (styled by Kate Young). She also remembers Rosie Huntington-Whitely in a vintage Gucci by Tom Ford for the Oscars’ Vanity Fair after-party. The pieces are sourced both from vintage dealers across the world, as well as purchased virtually and directly from designers.
Consequently, Janet Mandell’s Instagram bears no difference to that of any fashion documentarian. There’s the runway stills, red-carpet looks, celebrity reposts. But while a fashion blogger may immortalize their favorite fashion moments as a source of aspiration, the theme of Janet Mandell’s shared photographs is that she owns all the pieces in them. Olivia Culpo in a CHANEL terry cloth two-piece? Mandell. Chrissy Tiegen’s one-shoulder YSL? Mandell. Kylie Jenner’s Tom Ford hooded, leopard-print dress?
Janet Mandell, the secret staple of Hollywood, who wants you, yes, you, to wear it all, too.
Photos: Nick Little; Model: Natasha Henry; Stylist: Case Fielding
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