One Size Does Not Fit All
Emma Zack, CEO and Founder of Berriez, shares how she built a brand that’s *actually* for everyone.
A missed market in the fashion industry was something Emma Zack was eager to tackle. The CEO and Founder of Berriez, a size-inclusive vintage clothing brand, is dedicated to making everyone feel confident and represented with what they wear. Featured in Nylon Magazine, The Cut, Refinery29, and many more, Emma’s impact has extended globally since its founding and is bound to evolve even more. Step into the inspiring world of Emma Zack with us.
Photo credit from left: Lydia Hudgens, Jess Portillo & Alistair Matthews
Who are you?
My name is Emma Zack, founder/CEO of Berriez and freelance wardrobe stylist.
What did the beginning stages of Berriez look like? What inspired you to start your own brand and how did you come up with the name?
Berriez started not only as a mental escape from my 9-5 at a non-profit, but also after noticing the lack of representation in the vintage fashion world, especially as selling on Instagram was becoming increasingly popular. I was so excited when I discovered I could shop for vintage clothing directly from Instagram; that is, until I realized I was rarely able to find anything in my size.
Occasionally, I’d find a shop selling something ‘oversized’ on its page (but shown on a thin model), and I’d buy it immediately. I soon realized that sizes are arbitrary, clothing doesn’t look the same on me as it does on someone who’s a size 4, and I had amassed a huge pile of ill-fitting vintage clothing that I couldn’t return. I figured I wasn’t the only person who wanted to shop for vintage on Instagram but wasn’t able to find their size; so, I hung a few pieces from my pile of vintage on a rack, took photos of myself wearing them in my backyard, and posted them on Instagram.
And here I am today. Berriez actually started as “Fruity Looms.” It was a play on words, as I used to sell a lot of vintage garments with fruit prints. The fruit theme became central to the brand: humans are like fruit – uniquely sweet, vibrant, and desirable at any size, shape, or shade. In May 2019, my world came crashing down when I received a cease and desist from Fruit of the Loom. From this, Berriez was born – spelled with a Z because my initials are ‘EZ.’
Emma in her home by Macey J. Foronda.
Photo credit from left: Meghan Marshall, Bảo Ngô & Lydia Hudgens
Who is the Berriez customer? How do you want them to feel when they wear the clothes from your brand?
The Berriez customer is someone who appreciates fashion, color, creativity, and uniqueness. They aren't afraid to take risks, and they like to have fun when getting dressed. First and foremost, I want customers to feel confident and special and their Berriez clothes. I want them to like what they're wearing because they like it – not just because it comes in their size.
How has your position in the industry shifted and changed since you started your business? Do you feel welcomed or are there times where you feel isolated? How do you overcome these hurdles and learn from them to strengthen your business model?
It's been a roller coaster. I quit my job in December 2020, when business was doing well. A year later, sales began to decrease, and I knew I had to pivot. I began taking jobs as a wardrobe stylist, which has actually put me in rooms with creatives I wouldn't have necessarily met otherwise and challenged me in new ways. Last year, being new to the industry as both a stylist and a business owner, I began to compare myself to others and question if I actually belonged. I fell into a deep depression and was on the verge of leaving my newfound career behind. Over the past few months – through talking with other small business owners, pivoting the Berriez business model to in-person sales versus online sales, and, of course, going to therapy – I’ve been able to overcome some of my imposter syndrome and continue pushing the business forward.
Where do you see the industry getting better at being more inclusive, particularly toward the plus-sized community? What kind of standards do you think need to be implemented in order to ensure size-inclusivity is prioritized?
There are definitely more options for plus size folks today than there were five years ago; however, the options are still worlds behind the options available to straight-size folks. The fact of the matter is, I still can’t shop at 90% of the brands my straight-size friends can. To make matters more difficult, plus sizing itself is all over the place. For example, one brand’s size 4X might be equivalent to another brand’s 1X, making it all the more challenging for plus-size people to shop. There’s also hardly any stores where plus-size people can shop in person. Can you believe that in 2023 this is still the case? Don't even get me started on the fashion week shows! A brand will put a size 12 model on the runway and think they’re inclusive, and yet won’t make that size available for customers to shop on their website. Brands need to do the research on plus-sizing and realize that the actual grading of sizing for plus is different than for straight size. If you allocate adequate resources to doing this thoughtfully and thoroughly, the investment will be returned (67% of women are size 14 and up, and we need to shop). I realize that not all brands have money to do this, but for the ones who do: do your research! Hire a consultant! It's not that hard.
Were there any moments where you felt like you were lost in your fashion identity? How did you come to find your unique sense of style?
I feel lost right now! Sometimes I feel like I consume so much fashion content that I don't even know what I actually like or feels like me. I do know that I love wearing color, vintage, and clothes my friends made. Over the past 4 years, I’ve turned my closet into 90% vintage, reworked vintage, or small designer – that, I am proud of!
You’ve been avid about thrifting from a young age. Can you explain to us the thrillsof shopping second-hand and how it’s impactedthe shaping of your own fashionable identity?
Thrifting is my therapy. I think of it like a treasure hunt – it's exhilarating because you never know what you’re going to find.There's no better feeling than sifting through a rack of junk and finding that one special piece. I love that you can find clothes at the thrift store that no one else has, and that have lived a past life you can only dream about. This might explain why I love wearing vintage and reworked vintage so much – it's all one of a kind. I’d be remiss not to mention that it’s also much better for the environment. Lastly, I have a better chance of finding a pair of pants that fit at the thrift store than I do at any store in Soho.
Tell us a little about your inspiration behind your collection, Vices, and what it was like to show at NYFW SS23. What do “vices” mean to you, and what was your process for envisioning this concept and ultimately bringing it to life?
Everyone has a vice – right?! During the pandemic, many of us relied on our vices to get through the day. Vices are most often associated with shame. I wanted to create an environment that instead of shaming people for their vices, celebrated them. I wanted it to be fun, and unserious – because so much of fashion is boring and serious. One of my favorite parts about Berriez is collaborating with small designers, and through this collection, I was able to work closely with multiple small designers to bring each Vice to fruition.
Photo by Taylor Smith
You have been having pop ups in both New York and LA, what are major differences you’ve noticed between coast-to-coast culture and how do you incorporate their nuances into your brand to target a broader audience.
I haven't noticed that much of a difference between coasts, but I have noticed the shared experience of customers wanting to try pieces on in person. Now more than ever, customers want to be out and about; they want to know how garments feel and look on their bodies. For plus size shoppers in particular, it's important to try pieces on in person (especially because of the sizing issues mentioned above).
Where do you see yourself & Berriez in the future?
THE HARDEST QUESTION EVER! Let's speak this into existence
I see Berriez with a storefront and an ethically and sustainably produced clothing line. For myself, I envision REST. I also see myself consulting for larger brands who want to extend their sizing, and offering more personal styling services.