Alexis Krase has lost count of the number of tears shed in her store’s dressing room.
“We get individuals who come in here and they become emotional – like, we have people who cry because they're so happy that they found things that fit them,” Krase said.
As the owner of Plus BKLYN, New York City’s only brick and mortar vintage store for plus size customers, Krase is familiar with the struggle her customers deal with during a shopping trip.
“I know that we've all had the experience – no matter what size you are – of, like, going into a dressing room, trying on stuff and feeling like nothing that you tried on fit, and you're inherently flawed,” she said.
“If there's one thing that we can do for people, it’s make them feel that they aren't that way and that they can be comfortable in who they are.”
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With that goal in mind, she found a spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, five years ago and Plus BKYLN was born. The second-hand resale store specializes in both contemporary and vintage styles and everything sold is sizes 12 and above.
Recently I chatted with Krase about her store and the intention behind its colorful design, the mission of Plus BKLYN and why she’s hopeful that Gen Z will help usher in a more body positive attitude when it comes to vintage clothing.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
NGOZI EKELEDO: How did Plus BKLYN come about? What made you want to start this store?
ALEXIS KRASE: Plus BKLYN came to be out of, I would say, like, a necessity that I felt as a plus size person. I'd been plus size my whole life, and I'd always struggled to find clothes that were fashionable and cute and uniquely my style that weren't, like, matronly. And I was surprised when I moved to New York, which was like the fashion capital of the U.S. – maybe the world – that there just weren't really very many stores at all that catered to people who were my size.
It's shocking to me and so many when they hear that we, Plus BKLYN, are the only plus size-focused boutique in New York City. There are big box retailers, of course, but we're the only mom and pop shop doing what we do that's brick and mortar.
I mean, think about how many of our straight-size counterpart boutiques are out there, like how many boutiques that exist just for vintage, for individuals that wear up to a size 14.
EKELEDO: What that first day was like when your store finally opened?
KRASE: When we first opened, which was nearly five years ago, it was really, I think, a momentous occasion for me personally.
There was like a line of people ready to come in. I mean, I was shocked that we had such a great reception. Like, I just, like, word of mouth started sharing and posting online in my own little community, and it just kind of spread.
We do get trolls and hate just for existing as a fat-positive business. Most of that exists online, [and] those are the minority of the feedback that we get, but sometimes those voices are the loudest. So, you know, we've had to learn to persist through that and just kind of like say, you know, 'Screw the haters' and do our own thing. But I would say, generally speaking, we've had a really great reception.
EKELEDO: A lot of the comments I've heard and seen from your customers are that they love coming to Plus BKLYN because when they’ve tried to shop secondhand elsewhere, the cuts or the colors are just kind of dull, and it's almost like many stores think they don’t want to have fun with clothing.
When you come in here, the colors are bright, and it’s really the first thing you notice. Is that something that you wanted to be a conscious thing?
KRASE: Yes, absolutely.When I started Plus BKLYN, it was a very conscious decision for me to make sure that like, first of all, our physical space is loud. I mean, if you walk in, you'll see we have bright colors, we have mixed prints, we have a painted polka dot floor and a leopard print rug and a glitter wall and sherbet paint across the walls and body positive art. And that's because I think it was really important to me that our physical environment reflect the clothes and the intention behind the store itself and what we carry – which is vibrant, fun, playful, loud clothes.
That’s so important because I think traditionally many plus size styles have been very matronly, ill-fitting, drab colors, and often times if you even go to a big box retailer, the plus sizes are usually, you know, somewhere way in the back. It's in a dark setting. It's very depressing, and it doesn't make shopping very fun, and so for us, it's like, “How do we create the inverse of that?” How do we create a really fun shopping experience and also curate everything so that it's reflective of the style that our community has and wants and deserves and demands – which is essentially at the end of the day, we want all the same options that our straight-size counterparts get.
EKELEDO: Your store is a vintage and resale boutique. Why was this sustainability element so important to you?
KRASE: My personal passion has always been vintage and secondhand because there is a lot of waste in fashion...
It's been great to hear from some of our counterparts that they love what we're doing and that we're creating a space for vintage and focusing on creating circularity for fashion and keeping clothes out of landfill and incineration, which is also close to my heart in terms of one of my values.
EKELEDO: As a Millennial, have you noticed, with your Gen Z customers, a different attitude when it comes to body positivity or what they're shopping for or what they want to wear?
KRASE: Nobody that I know in my life has had an unblemished relationship with their body at any age in time. However, I do believe that Gen Z tend to have a more positive body acceptance, and then there's also now role models that exist that didn't exist when I was young. Do you know how bad I would have, like, died to have a Lizzo when I was growing up to tell me, like, it was okay to be unapologetically myself?
Having that now for younger generations has really made an impact and allowed people to feel empowered.
I do feel a sense of pride that we can be a part of that wave of change that's happening, and it makes me feel good that that mission that I felt that propelled me to open the store has touched so many people and that it really does serve an important place for a lot of individuals who haven't had options really until now.