How Vintage Clothing inspired Founder of Berriez, Emma Zack Belief in Dressing For Yourself Regardless of the Rules

Thrifting is already tedious and although some enjoy the hunt, just imagine the frustration when you can’t find anything your size. Emma Zack felt this frustration after shopping for vintage clothing on Instagram and found herself amassing clothes that didn’t fit her.  She found it odd that she was unable to find clothing that didn’t fit her, at a time when a size 14 was considered the average size of women in America. Thus, a  collection of ill fitted clothing inspired Emma to start Berriez,  a Brooklyn based online vintage shop for plus size women. It quickly became her second job. When she isn’t working at her 9 to 5 job at the Innocence Project, she’s scouring thrift shops from New Jersey, Long Island and sometimes even from all over the world. Her mission? To find fun and quirky pieces for plus-size vintage lovers.

While chatting with Emma on the phone she shares she has on a striped button-down and heart print bottoms.  Being a fan of prints and patterns, she believes that clothing should evoke joy and that’s exactly the type of clothing you’ll find at Berriez. 

 Like many clothing brands, they are very few vintage stores dedicated to actively providing sizes for curvy women. The only thrift shops I found dedicated to plus size women here in Canada are Curvaceous Consignments, Consign Your Curves, and Elle + Cat. However these stores are only located in Ontario. Other plus size vintage stores in the United States are Luv Sick Plus, Shop Fatties, Curve Conscious, and a few more. There only seems to be maybe one or two plus size vintage stores in select states.

“There are a few other plus size vintage shops, but they are few and far between. I think there are so few of us because people don’t realize that plus size vintage exists. People might think it’s too hard to shop for plus size vintage,  like the fashion industry in general, the vintage world is also focused on catering to mainly slimmer frames.”

A study conducted by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education found that the average size for a woman in America is no longer 14, it is now between a 16 and 18. Brands like Adidas, Rebecca Minkoff, and Diane Von Furstenberg only began to introduce plus sizes in 2019. While brands are slowly making progress in size inclusivity, Emma believes the fashion industry still has a long way to go. 

“It’s definitely making strides in sustainability, and representation, but they’re still so many brands that go up to a size 8 or only show their clothes on thin white models. Plus size isn’t just a 14 it includes sizes above 14 as well,” says Emma.

According to ThredUp’s 2019 resale report, conducted by GlobalData, secondhand shopping is on the rise. Forbes states that, “resale has grown 21 times faster than the new apparel market in the last three years.” The majority of women in America are plus size and unfortunately, the lack of plus size vintage shops leave curvy women with the challenge of finding clothes that fit them. Luckily, they can order from online vintage shops like Berriez. It’s hard to dress for yourself when an entire industry does not prioritize your size. By making plus size vintage clothing available Emma’s not only teaching women to embrace their curves but showing how plus size women can look amazing in anything. As to when sizes past a size eight will become the norm, it seems like it’s a long road ahead. 

Here Emma shares how she picks clothes for Berriez, how she runs her Berriez, her struggles with body confidence, and the only style tip she follows.

How do you know what to pick when shopping for clothes for the shop?

“Honestly, the stuff I sell is stuff I would personally wear. I love bright colours and patterns! Right now I am wearing heart print pants and a striped button-down. I need to know how to personally style it to buy it. There’s a lot of different things I look for, like shape, so I prefer lots of bias-cut or stuff that I have personally found suits my body. I look for an elastic waist. I try as much as I can to find more natural material, like cotton, silk, or linen. But, often because I’m looking for a certain size there are already limited quantities, so I have to work with what I can find. Anything with stretch is great!”

Do you ever find pieces and think, “Hmm I can make this better?”

“I’ll sometimes buy maxi dresses or skirts and I’ll hem them, so it’s a mini dress or skirt. I did a collaboration with my friend Ella, who runs the brand The Series, and we reworked vintage denim jean shirts and jackets with fabrics and buttons and other vintage things we could find.”

Was it a learning curve to learn the business aspect of running Berriez?

“Oh my gosh, yes! I’m still learning. Someone recently said to me that running a small business is particularly hard because you need to know how to do six different skills. It’s not just picking out the clothes and selling them. It’s also the financials, the expenditures, the marketing,  there are so many different things, it’s overwhelming. I’m still learning tremendously. I have a ways to go. It’s really hard and I didn’t know how hard it was going to be.”

Women are constantly struggling with body confidence,  was there any moment in your life where you didn’t love the way you looked? What helped build that confidence again?

“Of course. I still have my moments, but in high school I was always the big one in my friend group. Looking back at pictures I was probably only a size twelve. Then, I started to see models who looked like me  on Instagram and magazines and I was like wait a second,  I look just like that!  Of course, beauty isn’t just on the outside, you really have to feel it within. I think it’s something everyone will struggle with from time to time,  but it’s not something that I think about as often anymore at all.”

What’s the number one style tip you’d give to people?

“Wear what you want to wear and don’t think about whether it’s quote on quote flattering. I’m wearing vertical stripes right now and I’m pretty sure plus size people aren’t supposed to do that, but who cares. Dress for yourself.”

Feature Image by: Jessica Portillo