The Break Vintage is doing retail differently – and it’s seriously working

I first discovered The Break Vintage last fall when I stumbled into their Brooklyn pop-up shop: I was immediately taken by the store’s unique collection of affordable vintage (everything is under $100 and most things are even under $50). I picked up a pair of velvet snakeskin heels and a long, gold brocade vest that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Together, they were $40 dollars. In New York, this pricing is unheard of for good quality, curated and covetable vintage.

Late last year The Break secured a permanent, gallery-like space in North Williamsburg/Greenpoint, which has become a neighborhood staple. Full of tropical plants, arty vases, indie magazines and PVC berets in every colour by Glazed NYC, the store has become my go-to spot for finding cool clothes at an accessible price point. Plus, their vintage selection is different than most stores I’ve found here — you’ll likely discover items such as an oversized blazer in tomato red, plaid printed trousers, silk nightgowns, and basket bags. It’s a mix of brand names and unknown labels all with a modern aesthetic. Plus, each item has a tag that says exactly where it came from as the goods are hunted from local estate sales attended by owner Hannah Richtman and her dream team of employees.

Upon first meeting Hannah I was charmed by her warm, approachable, and genuine personality. Her roster of sales associates are some of the best people I’ve met since I moved to New York: each one has their own unique style and personality while they all embrace a sunny, “up for whatever” disposition that makes you want to come and hang out every day of the week. A favorite is Luke Meagher, a student at FIT who calls himself a “fashion commenter and Instagram dancer”. He often posts videos of himself rocking designer boots dancing around the space on Instagram and he also has a popular YouTube channel and Vlog called Haute Le Mode, in which he creates videos that comment and dissect the latest fashion shows and street style with a raw candor that’s refreshing and hilarious. Then there’s Hannah’s right hand, Sarah Frey, who describes her eclectic style as a “north country girl living in Brooklyn”. She’s a real sweetheart who often travels with the founder to scour the tri-state area for the best vintage goods.

In everything that she does, Hannah celebrates and uplifts her staff: her team members regularly do take-overs of the store’s Instagram stories, which gives shoppers an inside view of what’s happening behind closed doors including everything from finding the vintage goods, to photoshoots, and working retail. On International Women’s Day, she shared a photo of each of her employees along with a quote about what it means to be a woman.

Photo by Gillian Millberg

These people are equally apart of Hannah’s fast-growing brand — The Break has 12.5k followers on Instagram where the account is arranged akin to a fashion magazine, with styled photoshoots in addition to polaroids and graphics that are on brand yet are laid-back. Though the vintage she sells embraces a relatively simple aesthetic, Hannah sets her brand apart in everything that she does by treating it like gold and styling every aspect of the label like it’s a page in Vogue Magazine.

While the store has fast become a vintage fan favourite, it’s also recognized as a community centre for New York’s youngest and most stylish class: the space regularly welcomes a wave of emerging creatives into its space allowing them make their dreams realities through special events and brand collaborations. I recently attended an event hosted by Pond Magazine, a small, local online publication: even in the dead heat of summer, it was overflowing with people and packed to the brim. In May, the store hosted an art show that benefited Planned Parenthood called “In All Ways A Woman,” which featured over 30 female artists including landmark artist Marilyn Minter and model-cum-artist Myla Dalbesio. In a big city that often feels isolating and lonely, The Break is a true diamond in the rough.

This Thursday September 7 from 6-8 PM, the store will host its first New York Fashion Week event with a special presentation that embraces both inclusivity and a see now/buy now tactic. Taking place at the store’s space and creative hub A/D/O across the street, the event is open to the masses unlike most of NYFW. Plus, its alternative models embrace all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds (the store is currently sharing polaroids of each model on its Instagram page).

The invite reads, “We will present a cohesive, elevated collection of vintage clothing, paired with modern accessories from small, women-led brands, all of which will be available to purchase throughout the event and the Fall/Winter 2017 season.” In addition to a special, curated collection of vintage, event goers will witness artist Andrea Smith live-painting the store windows, and be able to shop exclusive jewelry by Sorelle and berets by Glazed. Each rack will be stocked with fresh new stuff.

“We’ll stay true to our accessible price point, modern aesthetic, and inclusive atmosphere. No front row, no hierarchy. All are welcome and we can’t wait to see you!” The invite continues.

As The Break continues to grow its cult following, big name retailers would be smart to learn a thing or two from this small scale vintage shop that’s doing things differently and seriously making an impact.


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