Amy Lee of Vagabond Youth talks college, fashion and YouTube

Susan Lee/Courtesy

A previous version of this article stated that Amy Lee is a sophomore. In fact, she is a junior.

It’s time to slip on your favorite chunky platform shoes and partake in some vlogging vagrancy. If it’s any time to be a young, empowered public figure, it’s in the age of mass fashion media. Amy Lee, of the trademark Vagabond Youth, is a junior at UCLA, the CEO of her own vintage online store and the fashion guru behind a YouTube channel that has accumulated a following of 153,000 subscribers as of now. The young entrepreneur sat down with The Daily Californian over webcam last week to give us an insight on her work in the online fashion community.

The Daily Californian: What inspired you to start your YouTube channel?

Amy Lee: The story is that I started with a blog originally, then made a YouTube account to show my blog readers a video of my shoes. Then people who didn’t even read my blog asked me to style my shoes and basically wanted more. I kept complying with their demands, and my YouTube channel took off compared to my blog. And now I don’t even post on my blog anymore.

DC: Before you started your YouTube channel, you founded your own online store. How did that come about?

AL: When I was 14, I really loved websites like Etsy where girls in their 20s were able to show entrepreneurship. To me, that was really cool, and I looked up to people like that. I’ve always thrifted for a long time, so I wondered about those who lived in less accessible places, but still wanted cheap, upcycled clothing. After seeing other overpriced vintage stores online, I wanted to find a way to make thrifted clothing available and affordable. I began selling clothes on Myspace to my friends, and then one summer, I decided to showcase some vintage pieces, and they all sold out within a week. I just kept rolling with it.

DC: You have so many things going on: your store, YouTube channel and school. How do you balance all these in your life?

AL: When it came to time management, it started off with very little sleep, to be honest! But since I’m a communications major, school ties into a lot of what I love to do. YouTube as a public forum allowed me to express my ideas, and since communications has a business side, I was able to incorporate all these aspects into my life. One time, I even submitted one of my blog posts as an assignment for my communications class. What I’m studying just intersects with what I’m doing now, which I love. Everything makes sense.

DC: Describe your aesthetic.

AL: Probably … Californian-inspired, refined grunge.

DC: Do you have any other YouTubers that you enjoy watching?

AL: I love Jenn Im from Clothes Encounters, Claire Marshall, The LineUp, Beauty Crush and The Fashion Citizen!

DC: Your favorite current trend?

AL: I’ve been loving cropped mock necks lately! It’s perfect for the fall in California. It’s long enough to cover your arms but is cropped for the warmer weather.

DC: What’s your favorite form of fashion rebellion?

AL: Wearing socks with heels.

DC: Favorite designers?

AL: For ready-to-wear, Alexander Wang. For runway pieces I wouldn’t wear, I love avant-garde fashion like Comme des Garcons and Alexander McQueen. I also love the menswear by Public School.

DC: Do you ever garner reaction or attention in real life regarding your YouTube channel?

AL: Oh yeah! Even though I’m part of a niche community and don’t have a huge following, I always get approached when I’m in a mall or public event, probably because most of my viewers are from LA. Especially at UCLA, people would shout at me, “Vagabond Youth!” on the streets. I’d shout back, “I’m late for class, but hi!” I’m very grateful.

DC: What’s your favorite fan encounter?

AL: Probably my very first one. I only had 13,000 subscribers at the time. I was eating Korean barbeque, and a girl approaches me. In my head, I’m freaking out because I totally thought I had met her before and forgot her name. Then she told me she watched my YouTube channel and asked for a photo. I turned beet-red and smelled like meat, so it was really embarrassing.

Contact Valerie Khau at [email protected].