The Los Angeles–based dealer started his business last year and has already accumulated more than 20,000 Instagram followers. He has the fashion industry credentials to match, having worked for Vivienne Westwood in Los Angeles. “I love Vivienne mostly because of the art history references she uses, the way that she makes the past relevant even with her sewing techniques,” says Valencia. “She presents clothes that are such a beautiful way to educate the public.” Ironically, the Westwood devotee got his start in vintage fashion dealership with a Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal bandage coat from 2008 that he found at a thrift store in Los Angeles. “I didn’t know what it was. I tried it on and I looked like I had gone through a wood chipper,” he says. “I sold it and that paid for my whole vacation.”
Most of the pieces come from private dealers. “It is word of mouth, polite reminders like, ‘Are you still interested in selling this?’ ” he says. “I work in three different time zones, but when you’re passionate about something, you can do it forever.” Typically, Valencia tries to accumulate pieces that are museum-worthy, such as the Vivienne Westwood corset that shows the lip-locking Hercules and Omphale painting by François Boucher from the line’s Fall 1994 collection. Oftentimes Valencia is tasked with restoring the corsets, a process that can take up to two weeks and several different hands, including a couture cleaner, a corset-maker to fix boning, and a threader who will patch up loose threads and holes. Valencia’s affection for corsets runs deep. “There is something very enigmatic about them. You put them on a female form on models and it is transformative, like the way that it elevates the butt. It is a very controversial piece,” he says.
The waist-whittlers are far from inexpensive and range from $2,000 to roughly $5,000 depending on rarity. Valencia doesn’t list prices to deter people from visiting the page. “I don’t want to scare people with the value. It is like window shopping—you walk past Chanel, you’re like, ‘It is really pretty. Should I go in or should I not?’ But I am very inviting.” In other words, price upon DM request.