Sit down with Sarah, Owner of Rizzo's

We sat down this week with Sarah, the fearless leader and owner of Rizzo’s, to learn a little more about her and how she started the boutique.

Owner Sarah Silvas-Bernstein

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started Rizzo’s?

Yeah! I’m from Colorado and I’ve stayed here my whole life, mostly from the Denver/ Boulder area.

I officially started the shop in 2019, as a pop up market to be an outlet for my love of historic and vintage fashion. In 2020 I moved into a shop in Niwot, called the Little Shops and that was my foray into having a real brick and mortar. I was there until 2023, and then mid 2023 I moved into the space where we are right now! So this is the first larger-scale brick and mortar shop for Rizzo’s.

How did you first fall in love with vintage clothing?

When I was 14 I got my first job at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store and one of my jobs was to sort through the clothes and pick what to keep and what to get rid of, and that’s when I really fell in love with vintage clothes. I actually still have the first piece that I like ‘found.’

It really was a moment of this is what I love and what I want to do, all the way back when I was 14 at that store. So I’ve been collecting vintage clothing since then. I continued to source things and sell things to people on the side through Poshmark and online resale until I started Rizzo’s.

Why is Rizzo’s special or different from other vintage stores?

I think a big part of that is me. I have a graduate degree in historic fashion and I am a fashion exhibition curator. I work in fashion museums currently and I teach in university level fashion departments. So I have a specific skill set and knowledge when it comes to historic and contemporary fashion that is grounded in evidence based practices and a deep knowledge of clothing, textiles, and the fashion industry that most of my contemporaries do not. That background, knowledge, and work that I have done in my past and currently do sets this business apart.

The other thing that sets Rizzo’s apart is I really see it as an expression of me and my style. I like to call it a ‘public facing private closet’. It’s what I love, and nobody else out there is me and nobody else out there has my closet. So this is an opportunity to share that with everyone else.

What does Rizzo’s mean to you?

To me, it’s all about bringing the extravagant, the maximalist, the over the top, ways of adornment of self and home that we might reserve for special occasions to the ordinary and the everyday. It’s about that boldness and creative expression. 

What does the ‘Rizzo’s customer’ look like to you?

The Rizzo’s customer is a creative maximalist. Someone who is looking to align their big work they do in the world with how they dress and adorn themselves. It’s them bringing their style into congruence with those really bold and creative expressions of themselves.

What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?

I’m really in love with these new silk velvet pouches. Going back to what makes Rizzo’s unique, I travel around the country and the world to learn about unique textiles. Uzbekistan is this country that has amazing textiles and I fell in love with their silk velvet handiwork when I went to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe.

Ever since I’ve been looking for Uzbekistan silk velvet that I can have here in the store and so these new clutches and pouches are me being able to bring that searching to life here.

What advice do you have for people who are trying to find their style?

Don’t look outside yourself. Both in sourcing your inner inspiration and letting that come to life in how you adorn yourself.

But also, I really like to suggest to people tapping into ancestry, whether that’s blood ancestry or just ancestry you’re particularly drawn to. Cultural, or popular culture, or just inspiration from those that have come before us and to draw stylistic inspiration from them.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love selecting objects to carry in the store and curating the look, feel, and experience of the boutique.

Who’s your style icon or inspiration?

Milicent Rogers. Right now I’m also really inspired by the 1970’s Yves Saint Laurent Russian collection. And always André Leon Tally.

How did you choose the name Rizzo’s?

I named the boutique after Rizzo from Grease because she’s a really bold character.

Favorite dessert?

Cheese. I’m the cheese platter person, I will order the cheese platter at the end of the meal.

What show are you currently binging?

Call the Midwife from BBC. It’s literally about women giving birth in the 1960’s all the time.

What’s your favorite season to dress in?

Fall, definitely.

Last but not least, what’s your favorite vintage find?

I’d probably go back to that first jacket I found, it is a black cropped velvet sailor style jacket. The label says Jaeger in it. That jacket spurred my career and so it has a lot of meaning. 

We can’t wait to see you all in the store soon to shop Sarah’s ‘public private closet.’

Check out Sarah’s current exhibition at The Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising on Heirlooms and Heritage of James Galanos. 

See Sarah's full exhibition and teaching portfolio here.