May 26, 2024

These Brass Boots Follow Madison Brill Wherever She Goes

What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists, and actors—to tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.


These Brass Boots Follow Madison Brill Wherever She Goes

Since day one, Madison Brill has had a knack for entrepreneurship. After cofounding Mom Gallery in Austin, Texas, the millennial spent a few formative years working at Gagosian. “I loved art, and collecting always came hand in hand with that,” Madison says. Today most savvy design heads are likely familiar with her Instagram account @ilovecraigslist. As the self-proclaimed CEO of the online marketplace, Madison does the public service of scouring through the often sketchy classifieds to spot one of a kind furniture finds and sharing them with her followers free of charge. Lesser known is that beyond the pages of the internet, Madison has quite the knack for snatching up equally unique finds IRL.

What and when?

Brass boots, numerous—four to be exact. It all began in 2012, when Madison, a then undergraduate student at University of Austin, stumbled across a pair at a Housing Works. “I remember thinking, These are really cool, but I don’t need or have the money for them…but when I do, I’ll have these on display,” the collector recalls. So when she came across the same pair again a few months later at the same store, the opportunity felt too good to pass up.

This time, the brass boots were sold individually for $20 each. Hoping to be smart with her limited funds, Madison decided it would be best to just buy one. “And then I was like, What am I doing?!” After quickly coming to her senses, she purchased the other boot and then called it a day. (Add in a fascinating backstory told by the shopkeeper and the antique footwear was simply too good to pass up.)

Madison's antique brass boots decorate the hearth in her Los Angeles home.

Madison’s antique brass boots decorate the hearth in her Los Angeles home.

While the boots were originally functional, and served as antique jousting boots from medieval Spain, they had since become a rare collectors item. On top of that, Madison envisaged herself in a grand apartment where they would be on full view in her future. But even sans a spacious living area, the collector happily displayed the boots in the entryway of her college apartment shortly thereafter (it was the only option, as she had no living room at the time). “For parties, I would hide them,” adds Madison, a tradition that continued after moving into her first solo apartment.


Fast-forward a decade later to a boutique hotel in Paris where Madison came across a decorative version of her chic brass booties in the lobby—cleverly used as an umbrella stand. It nearly felt like fate when a few days later at the Marché aux puces de Paris Saint-Ouen flea market she saw them standing in the shop window.

Madison with the vendor at March aux puces de Paris SaintOuen who sold her a second boot.nbsp
Madison with the vendor at Marché aux puces de Paris Saint-Ouen who sold her a second boot. 

In the same frantic should-I-should-I-not manner that the first set was purchased in, Madison perused the shop, and trying to be pragmatic, decided it wasn’t necessary. After scouring Etsy and realizing that the exact same versions of the boot were reselling for upwards of $1,000, she eagerly returned to make the purchase. “I ran back into the store,” she admits. “The French man laughed at me and told me to sit down while he packed up the boot.” Shortly thereafter, the $100 boot traveled back in her suitcase and returned to Brooklyn—but not without dubious looks from airport security. There were now three boots standing tall in her Chinatown abode.

But the story doesn’t end there: A few weeks later, Madison received a text from her friend Lily Sullivan claiming that it must, again, be fate that she stumbled across the exact counterpart of the third boot (in case she was looking for a matching pair). Once again, Madison couldn’t resist the temptation, so her friend promptly made the purchase and shipped the antique from Vermont to New York. Since then, she’s resettled in Los Angeles into a 1930s Spanish style home where the two pairs of boots stand by the fireplace.


Despite the fact that her career revolves around sourcing from the internet, Madison maintains an affinity for in-person finds. “There is something different about antiques,” she continues. “They have this distinct narrative and feel that is really amazing.” Each shoe adds to her never-ending brass-boot saga, recalling tales from various corners of the globe. To this day, Madison’s friends continue to send photos of brass boots they spot in the wild. With the Middle Ages Modern aesthetic in full swing, her brass boots could not have stepped into the spotlight at a better time.

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