Local Creator Emi Zerr on Her Brand Earthy Emi and Up-cycling Clothing

The founder of Earthy Emi, Emi Zerr creates up-cycled, one-of-a-kind, vintage pieces that she sells on her online storefront. She loves to dabble with clothing to see how she can create new things from old pieces. One of her signature pieces is taking a men’s suit and flipping it into different clothing sets for women and another is custom denim jackets. 303 Magazine sat down with Zerr to discuss her brand and how Earthy Emi has evolved in the Denver Fashion scene.

Emi Zerr and Her Relationship With Fashion

Photo by Evan Olea

Zerr was born and raised in Colorado. As an ode to her home state, she draws a lot of her inspiration for her clothing from the Colorado mountains and the cityscapes.

“I absolutely love Colorado, from the beautiful lush mountains to the buzzing inspirational city, I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else,” she said.

Zerr was immersed in the fashion world at 14 years old when she started modeling. She took a trip to New York for modeling and fell head over heels in love with the fashion industry. Zerr is 23 years old and has been modeling ever since.

“When I was about 20, I realized how much I loved what goes on behind the scenes of fashion; the photography, the design, the cultivation, the general feel of artful creation through wearable pieces,” she said.

The Making of Earthy Emi

Photo by Thành H. Joris

Zerr bases her repurposed clothing on a theme: Earth. “I love organic shapes and designs and that follows through into the designs I create,” she said.

She creates all her designs herself and has a few signature designs that are very popular. These include one-of-a-kind denim jackets that are coated in art, patches and paintings.

Zerr also creates ‘thrift flips.’ “I take a men’s suit jacket and turn them into a women’s suit set including a jacket, skirt, and in some sets with tailored trousers. The rest of my personal projects include up-cycled pieces from corsets, to dresses, to art-covered jeans,” she said.

Vintage pieces have always been a part of Zerr’s style. When she was in her last year of high school, she wanted to wear clothing that was unique and accessible. She aimed to create her own style with clothing that represented her. As a result, Zerr started to thrift vintage pieces and “soon after, I fell in love with the idea of creating these vintage pieces into something totally new and customized,” she said.

Zerr’s grandmother, Mimi, sewed the first few reworked vintage pieces she sold. Then her grandmother went on to teach Zerr how to sew these unique pieces all herself. “I owe a lot of my success to her. Ever since then, I have built up an entire closet of vintage clothing that is ready to be upcycled,” she said.

When adding to her collection of upcycled clothing, Zerr is very specific about thrifting. She keeps an eye out for denim pieces that have good structure and a nice wash. She always checks the men’s suit area to see if there are any colorful pieces she can redesign. Additionally, Zerr loves the knit fashion trend and makes sure to check that section. “I love working with the material to make these statement pieces,” she said.

Zerr created her website, Earthy Emi, in 2018. She started by making up-cycled clothing for herself because she wanted something different than everyone else. After receiving compliments on her clothing, customers began asking if she could make custom up-cycled pieces for them. Once 2019 hit, she started promoting her clothing on her TikTok.

“One day, I decided to make a little video about my clothes, not thinking much of it. The next day I woke up with over a million views on that single 15-second video along with 20k followers over the course of one night,” she said.

That day her entire collection sold out. Since the TikTok video, she has gained over 40,000 followers and she has completely sold four of her collections.

Following Her Dreams

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Photo by Emi Zerr

Creating your own online vintage business takes hard work and a keen eye, and Zerr has mastered this.

“I started out with a passion for art I created for myself. I believe this is the first step everyone should take when pursuing a creative path. Creating things for yourself first allows for that room of complete freedom and essentially your best work,” she said, “TikTok is the main reason for my success and though I have made efforts through other outlets, I owe a lot of it to the TikTok algorithm.”

Zerr has a passion for creating art in all aspects. She is not only a model and business owner, but she also does graphic design and social media marketing for several companies.

As for the future, Zerr chooses to not think about what will happen with her business because she is enjoying the little moments she has already built. This mentality gives her motivation to work and design without the pressure of what the future may bring.

“I take the ideas that are flowing through me in each moment and pour them into my work, which then tends to transfer over to the actual business side of things. Manifestation baby. So, I don’t feel like I have to worry much, I just create and see what happens,” she said.