We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
Devon Lee Carlson may have just made the rounds at New York Fashion Week, dressed by city's the coolest brands (Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Sandy Liang, Miaou), but the Thousand Oaks native is a California girl at her core.
Her profession, like that of many Angelenos, defies categorization. She's the co-founder and designer of popular phone case brand Wildflower, alongside her sister, Sydney. She's a model and muse for brands like Réalisation Par and Feel Jeans. She's an Instagram influencer and occasional YouTuber, creating content for the likes of Dior Beauty, Versace, Prada, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. (The latter recently tapped her to design her very own capsule collection in celebration of her 27th birthday.) She also debuted a line of hats with Aussie brand Lack of Color this summer, and worked with her sister on a collaboration with Frankie's Bikinis. Oh, and she styled Olivia Rodrigo's "Good 4 U" music video. NBD.
In a city full of beautiful girls who know how to pose in a gifted outfit, Carlson stands out for an innate and unique sense of style that reflects a genuine obsession with fashion, and a gracious, smiley demeanor that makes you want to watch everything she does. I discovered her during a bored, mid-quarantine fixation with YouTube, and her mood-lifting videos felt like hanging out with a stylish, funny best friend. She's surprisingly normal, whether she's making matcha in a bathrobe, gallivanting around St. Barth's with Bella Hadid or going on tour with her rockstar boyfriend. She seems genuinely excited by and grateful for every PR package that comes in the mail, and always has a positive attitude (but not in, like, an annoying way).
Much of her content revolves around a self-diagnosed "addiction" to shopping, with a particular focus on vintage pieces from the '90s and early 2000s. (In fact, she might be patient zero for the Gen-Z-fueled resurgence of trends like low-waisted pants, trucker hats and going-out tops.) Her obsession with the era stems from middle school, when she desperately wanted to dress like stars from "Hannah Montana" and "The Simple Life."
"I feel like right now, I'm just collecting my dream wardrobe that I wanted when I was in middle school," she tells me over Zoom from her new house in Los Angeles, wearing a 2000s-inspired sweatsuit from her Marc Jacobs collection. Her parents are there, and her mom occasionally jumps in to remind her of an early shopping memory, like "the Kitson story," which I obviously had to hear.
"One of my cool friends, who had unlimited spending budgets, took me to Kitson for the first time in my entire life, and you gave me $20," Carlson recalls, estimating she was in sixth grade. "She had Juicy Couture-themed birthday parties. She had multiple Juicy Couture tracksuits. And I was literally obsessed with the way she dressed."
"Her mom took us to Kitson and was like, 'Girls, pick out whatever you want.' And so she was going HAM. I was in heaven. I was just like, 'This is where Paris Hilton shops, oh my god.' I tried on quite a few things and her mom kept being like, 'If you need me to pay for it, I'll buy it and then your mom can pay me back.' I was like, 'Oh cool. Of course, sounds good.'"
"When she came back... You go, 'We owe Lauren's mom $264,'" Devon's mom interjects. "I about died, but I was trying to keep my cool in front of them because I didn't want to embarrass Devon."
"I was literally sick to my stomach telling my mom that," adds Carlson. "I wanted to be cool in front of them and act like I could afford all of this stuff." (Her mom made her do extra chores as payback, because the clothes weren't returnable.)
With her own income, Carlson can now go back in time via vintage stores and resale apps and amass the wardrobe she always wanted. Below, she discusses her shopping tips and sources, 2000s rom-com style icons, experiences collaborating with brands, tendency to shop for and style her friends and future fashion career aspirations.
"I've always been into making a full look. I always wanted to do my own hair and makeup and pick out my own clothes. And my mom loved shopping, too. I want to say we loved fashion, but we just loved all sorts of clothes. I didn't really dive into designers and stuff probably until I was in high school.
"Me and my mom loved shopping together, looking for deals and finding cute things. Old Navy, we loved; the sale rack at Limited Too. It's funny, my sister hated shopping — she's a big online shopper, I've always been in-store.
"Once I got my own job, when I turned 16, that's when I started thrifting, because it was really all I could afford with my paychecks, gas and budgeting and everything. I could get the most bang for my buck at these thrift stores or Urban Outfitters' sales section. I just fell in love with thrifting. It was, like, vintage Charlotte Russe that I was buying; it wasn't anything that was worth more than probably $15, $20, but at those stores it was like $2. I could get a lot more stuff, and I loved experimenting with my style and wearing fun things. I would drive all around — I still lived in Thousand Oaks, which is the suburbs outside of L.A. — to Ventura or the Valley and go to any and every thrift store that I could find.
"When I started dating my boyfriend, I would go and visit him on tour. While he was doing sound checks and everything, every single city that we would go to, I would [find the] nearest thrift store, consignment store, anything and just search. I just love finding gems. I was never really an online shopper until quarantine. I loved The Real Real app, Vestiaire app — I was searching those, just trying to find the best deals for certain pieces that I've longed for.
"The first designer bag I ever got, my boyfriend bought for me. It was a Louis Vuitton shopper bag from the Murakami Collection, and it had the cherries on it. I still have it, obviously. I'll never get rid of it. Then, I got a Balenciaga City bag for Christmas the year after that. [I thought,] 'Uh-oh, this is going to be an issue. I like these too much.'
"If I'm in-person shopping, I don't really have an agenda. It's more of a therapeutic experience for me, just going in with no expectations and seeing what I can find. But if I'm online shopping, I usually have a piece in mind; I can type in certain keywords or a certain brand and go through — or I'll clean out my closet and be like, 'Okay, I need new pants, so I'm only going to try to buy pants.' I never really try to be too specific, because I'm a shopaholic.
"I like shopping on Sundays. I have certain friends that I know I can shop with, and certain friends that I cannot shop with at all, because they're just going to be waiting outside the store. I usually shop alone. I'll put in my headphones, play either a podcast or music and just do laps around the store. I like to I feel the different materials. I'm a big try-on girl, because fit is the most important thing, at least in my opinion, for my personal style. It could be the funkiest, most extravagant piece, and if it fits really good, you can sell it.
"I really love Wasteland. I'll find good designer pieces there, and they're mostly fairly priced. I love the Rose Bowl. The tip is going early; my friend and I will always bring the cart and we'll get there at like 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. We were digging through all of this stuff and we were having so much fun because it was so empty. You could do it in peace.
"Online, I've been loving Poshmark. I've been trying to do a lot of stuff around the house, and I don't have as much time to go and drive and do a whole day of shopping. I can sit on Poshmark and scroll through and find things. I love Depop, too. I feel like I mainly really only buy vintage or secondhand, because it's just been my mindset from the beginning: If I'm going to spend my money on something, I want it to be rare and feel special.
"I love Versace — vintage Versace and Versus by Versace. There's a vintage brand called Morgan, they have really good stuff. There's this girl on Instagram, Real Life as Liv, and she's so educated on designers from the nineties and early 2000s. She just started a TikTok, and she always [shows] brands that were worn on 'Sex and the City' and whatever. I take notes on her videos and I search a lot of the keywords or the designers. There's this brand called Joey and T, and she describes them as kind of reinventing or making the miniskirt of the early 2000s. I was determined to own a Joey and T miniskirt because it's the one Paris Hilton used to wear.
"When I was in middle school, I was beyond obsessed with 'The Simple Life.' I watched 'Hannah Montana' and 'The Simple Life' — that's all I consumed. I feel like right now, I'm just collecting my dream wardrobe that I wanted when I was in middle school and in high school. I love the search. It's part of the fun, going on eBay finding the stuff.
"I get a lot of inspiration from movies. I'm so inspired by, obviously 'Clueless' and '13 Going On 30' and even 'Gia.' I love Angelina Jolie in that movie. I love 'Charlie's Angels,' 'The Sweetest Thing' and all those romcoms. 'Legally Blonde,' literally I watched too many times growing up, to where I treat [my dog] Martin like he's my Bruiser. I love how she's at Harvard and she's still being herself and doesn't conform to being boring to fit in. Those characters have always resonated with me, and I've been so inspired by them.
"Also Kate Moss, I love the effortless chicness of the way she dresses. And I love Rihanna, obviously. I think Rihanna was someone who gave me a lot of confidence when I was younger, seeing how she mixed different styles.
"When I was in middle school, I used to say that I wanted to be a fashion designer; everyone had that phase of saying that they want to be a fashion designer. So [designing collaborations] was kind of a fantasy that I got to live out.
"Lack of Color was fun. I didn't realize how much goes into designing hats. I also kind of have a large head, so figuring out what looks good and feels right was really fun. That was very inspired by the early two 2000s and the hats Britney Spears used to wear. I loved Britney Spears growing up, too.
"The Marc Jacobs collab was like... I feel like it still hasn't set in. The tag is really what got me, just seeing my name next to Marc Jacobs was the weirdest, most exciting, surreal moment. The first designer thing I ever bought was Marc Jacobs — it was a Marc by Marc Jacobs wallet, and it had a zipper with a hand strap, and I used to wear it with the hand strap because I wanted everyone to see the Marc Jacobs logo on it — so really big, full circle.
"[The Marc Jacobs team] told me after, 'You're a perfectionist.' I was like, 'Okay, the hoodies' sleeves need to be half an inch longer, we need to crop this...' This T-shirt had three rounds of revisions, and it's literally just a T-shirt. There were so many little details that I was very particular about, but that's just the kind of person I am.
"It definitely got me really excited, getting to do that and seeing how much fun I had and how I got to be creative. I loved the whole process. I was like, 'Oh, maybe I'll dabble in this in the future.' We'll see.
"I just went through my clothes, and because I just turned 27 and had all of these old belts, my friend goes, 'You're 27 now, I think it's time to retire the pleather.' The pleather pants are still cute.
"I just auctioned off some of my old shirts on the streaming show that I do on the shopping app Popshop Live. I really like to only keep stuff that's really nice quality or a really good fit — that I know, no matter if I feel gross, I can put it on, whether it's pair of jeans or a dress, and just feel good. I like buying some secondhand trendy stuff, but I'll usually wear it a couple of times and then give it to my sister or my friend, let them wear it a couple of times, then they can give it to their sister. I like seeing clothes live a long way.
"I feel like so many people say this, but I'm dressed based on my mood, and I need to be comfortable in what I'm wearing, because if I'm uncomfortable, I literally cannot function. I'm also very comfortable showing my skin. It changes every day. Right now, I have sparkly nails on and my Marc Jacobs set on, but I still feel like if someone's like, 'I need you to go somewhere in five minutes,' I don't need to change. I can still like show up and feel comfortable and cute.
"I always dress for the environment. If I'm going to the office, I'm wearing crazy pants and a T-shirt and sneakers, which I feel is still pretty casual, but I'm not in a crop top or a miniskirt or anything like that. If I'm going out to dinner, if I'm with the girls, I usually will wear my tallest shoes and smallest skirt and a T-shirt and big jacket or something. And if I'm going on a date, I'll wear a dress and maybe a cute heel and I'll do my hair. When I go to CVS, I'll literally have no makeup, mismatched sweats, flip-flops and unbrushed hair.
"I never really feel like I need to impress. There have also been plenty of times where I'll be in my yoga clothes and then end up running errands and shopping and maybe having an encounter with someone who follows me or watches my YouTube videos — I'm just standing in line, like, 'I hate that I'm in yoga pants and a hoodie right now and you're like, 'You're my style icon,' but whatever.' If anyone watches my vlogs, they know that I'm mostly in a robe half the week.
"I hope to have more opportunities to style in the future. I have so much on my plate; if I do, I want to make sure that I can give it the attention that I think those jobs deserve. [The 'Good 4 U' video] took so much time. I had literally three days, I think, but it took 24 hours of every single day getting everything put together. It was fun, being on a set and not sitting in the makeup chair or having to be in front of the camera.
"I always loved getting people ready and making them feel good.
Every prom, my mom used to yell at me because I wanted to do everyone's hair and makeup, and I would leave 15 minutes for myself to get ready. I like doing that kind of stuff, helping people feel confident and finding a style that they feel good in. I enable [my friends always borrowing my clothes] because I buy stuff that I know won't fit me. I'm like, 'Well, I bought this for you because you needed it.'
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.