Susie Mensah tried on a lilac crochet dress on the corner of a store called Berriez, then posed as her friends and the store owner waited with ooh of approval, the way friends do when an outfit looks really, really good.
The dress joined a long list of pieces that she and her friends tried on during a recent afternoon of shopping in Brooklyn. They changed in and out of their clothes, looking for cute summer outfits. Music played and gossip flowed as the piles of “yes” grew.
It was like a dress-up game at a slumber party, or a fitting room montage from a movie. But instead of a mall or department store, the setting was a personal shopping date at againan Instagrammed shop-turned-mall that sells vintage and independent designer pieces with a focus on plus-size shoppers.
“When I went in, because it’s my first time, I thought: ‘I could cry,'” he said. Mrs. Mensah, a model in the city of Toronto. “I’m like a size 4X. It’s very rare that I find clothes that express who I am and also give me the space to explore and have fun with who I am.”
Berriez got its start in late 2018, when founder Emma Zack, 31, noticed a dearth of online shopping options for vintage plus sizes. At the time, Ms. Zack was Instagram-shopping for vintage clothing, shopping for “oversized” pieces that were often shown on slim models, she said, estimating they would fit her size 14 figure. But they never seemed to work, and she felt frustrated and inspired.
“This kept happening over and over again,” he recalled. “And I’m like, ‘I can’t be the only one my size who wants to shop vintage in a curated, aesthetically pleasing Instagram store.'”
She began selling clothing on Instagram, running the business out of her basement while working full-time at a nonprofit criminal justice organization. She hosted pop-up stores in New York and other cities, drawing a cult following of plus-size influencers and devoted shoppers for her collection, which she dubbed “cured for curves.”
In 2020, Ms. Zack left her non-profit job to go full-time as CEO of Berriez. The following year, she got studio space in an industrial building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she now hosts personal shopping dates, like the one with Ms. Mensah and her friends. lucy knell and roseline lorenzo, who are also models. Last fall, Ms. Zack walked the store’s first show during New York Fashion Week.
Shopping appointments have been in high demand, Ms. Zack said, with sessions booked almost every day in April, when she officially began offering the service. In addition to sourcing vintage pieces from thrift stores and estate sales across the country, typically selling for less than $100, Ms. Zack collaborates with up-and-coming designers to expand her size offerings and create special collections, often costing less than $400.
“As a fat person, I think there’s a lot of pressure to be moderate and low-key and look great, but not draw too much attention to yourself or your body,” said Libby Torres, a Brooklyn-based journalist who has been on a personal date. shopping in the store.
“Like, we’re big, we’re taking up space. But I think that’s exactly what Berriez’s clothes and Emma’s personal style have also encouraged me to do,” she added.
Compared to other shopping experiences, where there is often an element of “having to explain your body” to salespeople, Ms. Torres said, Berriez was “radical” because it was comfortable and offered many options in its size. She could buy not only looks that fit her, but also clothes that excited her and fit her personal style.
Ms. Zack convinced a client, Ramona Sadiq, to get a metallic chain bra. “I’m not one to have a chain bra with a harness,” said Ms. Sadiq, who owns a woodworking business in Queens and is now friends with Ms. Zack. “That’s not necessarily my thing, but I did it and I loved it.”
Many Berriez fans said that Ms. Zack seems to treat each person as if they are her only customer, working with the goal of making them feel and look good, rather than trying to sell them everything they see. She knows many people’s measurements and remembers their tastes and style wishes.
Sharing a room with a fashion label and custom lampshade company, the Berriez studio is filled with a rainbow assortment of clothing, art, and accessories. The shelves contain T-shirts with garters, patchwork pieces, wavy neon crochet dresses, shirts with mock nipple rings, and graphic shirts from the ’80s and ’90s.
On the walls, Ms. Zack displays her favorite finds, like a Michael Simon sweater with a doodle of a roller coaster with balloons and confetti, a Heinz ketchup sweater, and a giant pink wristwatch.
Of course, Berriez is still a business, and Ms. Zack faces her share of challenges. She now balances the store with work as a freelance wardrobe stylist. And sometimes, she said, it can be hard to sell clothes to people who have been told their bodies must be a perpetual work in progress. But finding and selling a great vintage for all bodies is a process he is passionate about. “Knock on wood, I’ve never had someone come and go empty-handed,” she said. “So I think that’s pretty revealing.”
Ms. Mensah, the model who tried on the crochet dress, he reflected on the Berriez shopping experience as he walked out. (She ended up buying a tank top, but said in a follow-up call a few days later that she was still thinking about the dress.)
“I can actually go out and not have worries and know that I’m going to find something that makes me feel good, that fits with other people who have similar experiences to me,” Ms. Mensah said. “It’s just another avenue of community building and intimacy that I haven’t experienced.”