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April 14, 2022

Born on Instagram: A Sustainable Shopping Experience With The Break

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA

Update: Live Shopping is no longer available as of March 16, 2023.

Born on Instagram is a series that takes an in-depth look at brands using Instagram as the foundational tool to build community, explore creativity and shape culture. Exploring the stories of entrepreneurs who turned their passions into businesses, the series spotlights innovators from across the globe.

As a vintage collector, @hannah.richtman saw an opportunity to found @thebreak, a vintage store and event space, after sharing her work to Instagram and connecting with the community that responded. Her business has gone from selling one-of-a-kind pieces in real life and on Stories to creating a curated experience with their shop on Instagram. Read on to learn more about how Hannah got her business started and found success through Instagram.

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How was The Break born on Instagram?

I started The Break from my apartment with the intention of building a community, both in real life and online. I made an account and started posting to Instagram immediately, and that’s what ultimately led to our growth into a full-blown hospitality brand!

I styled editorials using vintage and secondhand pieces that I would publish to our website and promote on our Instagram, and threw parties at my home. At first, it was just my friends buying pieces from my personal collection over drinks, dinners and dancing. I would post about it, and quickly people from Instagram started showing up at my door! That’s when I knew the company had legs.

To this day, we have never done any advertising outside of Instagram and word of mouth. Our followers have become our friends, and I’m so honored that so many of them have been with us since the beginning!

What inspired you to start the business?

I couldn’t find anything quite like it! I wanted to start a business that represented a genuinely friendly vision of fashion, hospitality and New York. The goal has always been to build a design-focused space to shop, work, eat, drink, dance and sleep. I started small with a product and a fun, flirty voice—vintage clothing styled for a contemporary eye, sourced to be inclusive and priced fairly.

I went with vintage because it’s what I know; I’ve been sourcing since I was 10 with my mom in Wisconsin. But the clothes have always been a vehicle to reach like-minded people and produce high-quality experiences, and Instagram helped us scale this mission and reach an international audience. Community is at the core of everything we do, and we prioritize innovation, collaboration and generosity of spirit.

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Why did Instagram feel like the right place to gain momentum or market your products?

I was able to connect with so many people outside of my immediate network, and I could receive feedback in real time. The Break has a strong visual presence, but our value lies in the way we relate to and communicate with our audience—the way we make them feel. Instagram has helped me translate the in-real-life energy of The Break digitally by creating a space for us to share our work, invites and ideas on a massive scale.

Tell us a bit about The Break catalogs and how your strategy shifted when Instagram Shopping became available?

BREAK CATALOGS are editorials styled with our latest vintage and secondhand pieces that we post to our Stories for our followers to shop directly via Instagram.

I wanted to promote our Stories content in an exciting and nostalgic way. BREAK CATALOGS tap into that Y2K pleasure of paging through a catalog and circling your favorite pieces, but with the modern convenience of shopping with a few clicks.

All of the pieces are one-of-a-kind and first come, first served—so the demand is high! We used to have to manage all of the sales via DMs and that required full-time attention and a lot of back and forth. Now, people can click the product and check out seamlessly.

How quickly The Break sold out of vintage pieces using Instagram Stories - 1 Day

Your shop on Instagram is beautifully curated. What’s your approach?

Fashion is cyclical, so staying on top of the runway and trend cycle helps us understand what’s coming, but I always stay true to a few essentials: tailored suiting, crisp button-downs, structured blazers, good denim and BOOTS!

As I’ve grown as a person and developed my sense of style, The Break has also evolved. We’re now sourcing more high-quality, luxury pieces and products that will stand the test of time and add value to your closet and life. We want to encourage our community to consume consciously.

What does it mean to be a sustainable fashion business today?

Everything! All fashion companies should be actively practicing sustainability wherever possible. It can be difficult and expensive for a small business, but even having awareness is beneficial.

What’s your approach to creating social content? How do you get your brand message across on Instagram?

I want our community to hear my voice through the captions. It’s very flirty, sometimes silly and always welcoming! My approach is to humanize the business so that people can understand that there are people behind The Break, not machines.

Are there success stories that you can share with us?

I saw an opportunity to sell vintage via Instagram Stories the day they launched, and I remember scrambling to test my theory. I took some quick photos of pieces and posted them to our story with the description and price and asked people to DM to purchase. I was amazed at how quickly people resonated with the idea, and we sold out on day one.

Before the shopping tools were introduced, I created a system to make the process as efficient as possible, and it was amazing to see so many sellers adopt it! Now it’s commonplace to discover vintage on Instagram and so much easier to buy, which is so exciting.

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What's been the most valuable part of launching a small business on Instagram?

Our goal is to make our online presence feel as warm and exciting as visiting us in real life, so being able to connect with our audience via DMs and receiving feedback in real time has been so valuable. I love meeting our Instagram friends in person and so many collaborations have been born via the app.

What’s next for The Break?

We are building our hotel concept and event production agency and are excited to continue experimenting with experiential retail. I would love to produce more of our QVC style show A Break! with The Break, and I’m so eager to experiment with the Live Shopping feature.

Learn more about how to prepare your shop on Instagram for sales and make your products easy to discover.

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA