Avid vintage shoppers—or really, any person who has ever set foot in a second-hand store—is keen to the fact that perusing pre-owned goods isn’t always a glamorous experience. Cue the omnipresent scent of mothballs that lingers while you flip through rack after rack of lackluster items, in search of one or two salvageable pieces. Sometimes you’ll come away from your hunt with a perfectly aged t-shirt or the designer dress of your dreams, that is, as long as these prime finds aren’t exorbitantly marked up.
This is certainly not the experience of stepping into The Break, one of Brooklyn’s preeminent vintage destinations. Once touted as a hidden secret among the fashion industry and local shoppers in the Greenpoint neighborhood, this vintage destination is just that: a destination worth visiting for their stellar pre-owned threads.
Once you step into The Break’s airy shop, you’ll understand why. The racks are not jammed with hundreds of products, but carefully curated with a few select items that appear to be the OG versions of runway looks or the perfect basics that will soon become VIPs in your closet, for years to come. However, it’s not all vintage; The Break stocks select items you’ll want to both Instagram and adopt into your everyday life, including Earth Tu Face lip balm that’s housed in a gold-rimmed shell, sustainable, hand-dyed bras from Hara The Label, and a bag from Tuza that was hand-woven in Mexico City by Arturo, an artisan.
If that’s not enough to lure you in, the shop’s friendly sales associates are always eager to hand you a glass of rosé.
This whole experience was the mastermind of Hannah Richtman, a fashion industry alum who started shopthebreak.com in October 2014 as a place to sell her personal vintage collection. She would style shoots with these pieces and post them on the site for sale, using the stylized images to build a loyal customer base.
“The Break was born out of my desire to create a destination for fashion and lifestyle that is as inclusive as it is chic,” she explained. “I started dreaming of a physical space that was a reflection of my values; where I loved — and could afford! — everything in the store, have a cocktail, work a while, dine in and dance the night away, all under one roof.” In December 2016, her brick and mortar dreams became a reality.
Richtman also makes sure to remind her customers about the ethical virtues of shopping vintage. On The Break’s website, alongside the story about their intentions to bridge the gap between runway and reality, the shop lists the following sustainable facts:
“Did you know that fashion is one of the most polluting industries? 85% of textiles end up in a landfill. For every pound of recycled clothing that is spared from disposal, approximately 3-4 pounds of CO2 are saved.”
Taking this mission one step further, The Break offers their shoppers a level of transparency that few other vintage shops have committed themselves to. Each of their cream blazers or button-front dresses comes equipped with a tag noting its origin — whether that was a New Jersey flea market or any other suburban vintage mine. According to Richtman, she does this to foster a conversation about how clothing has the power to impact our environment.
The same standard is held for the contemporary labels at the shop.
“Brands that are good for The Break are brands that are universally good,” explained Isabelle Estrin, the shop’s wholesale buyer. She noted that their beauty and makeup brands are organic, cruelty-free and made domestically, while their chosen fashion and accessory brands are small, independent businesses that are dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices.
Considering The Break hits all the necessary buzzwords for a conscious fashion company in 2018 — inclusive, transparent and sustainable — it comes as little surprise that this business is empowering, too. And not just of their clued-in customer base, but of their actual employees.
The team at The Break happens to be predominantly female, though Richtman notes that she doesn’t take gender into consideration during the hiring process. Instead, she builds a close-knit community of like-minded fashion and vintage lovers who support and embody The Break’s aforementioned ethos. As a result, Richtman gives her staff a platform by showcasing them on the shop’s website — sometimes allowing them to share a playlist that mixes Etta James with Drake or posting a photoshoot and interview that shows off their personal style.
Her reasoning for that? “Empowerment for all is crucial to our mission. We want every person that interacts with The Break to feel safe, confident, and welcome,” said Richtman.
Should you need any further convincing to visit The Break, consider this: I once wandered into the shop and swiftly became the proud owner of a mint condition, hot pink Christian Dior skirt suit — for just $80. After all, isn’t that what every vintage shopping experience should be?
Words: Dena Silver
Images: © The Break
Copy Editor: Sonija Hyon