“The most interesting woman in the world.”
When interviewing Suzanne Vinnik, founder and CEO of the luxurious and glamorous fashion label byVINNIK, this is what came to mind.
Suzanne Vinnik has a FASCINATING life story, career, and creative outlook, and today on The Curvy Fashionista, I’m so excited to share some behind-the-scenes insights into this rad founder and her brand!
Let’s hit it!
Since this is an IN-DEPTH interview, I thought it would be helpful to have different sections:
- ETHOS AND BRAND STORY: It’s always fascinating to see how a luxury brand came to BE, and let’s dive right into it!
- PLUS CAPSULE SIZE WARDROBE: How Suzanne Vinnik designs each piece for use in 5 different ways with at least 5 customers in mind
- COMING: Let’s take a look at the future of byVINNIK and talk about the future of this opera-inspired luxury brand.
Before we get going, hurry up and follow VINNIK on Instagram! The editorials, the models, the LIVE SALES, it’s one hell of a party – you definitely don’t want to miss it!
by VINNIK | Ethics and brand history
When I first came across VINNIK (shout out to plus size ethical stylist Kat Eves for the tip), my first thought was:
“How did this happen?!”
Looking at the beautiful fabrics, with their texture and color, seeing the patterns, I was LOVED by the silhouettes and a little THRILLED by the play of colors.
Then, when I realized that the brand was founded by a professional opera singer, things started to click.
“I am a professional opera singer” Suzanne shared at the beginning of the interview. “As an opera singer, you have a closet full of dresses and styles that you can really wear a couple of times. I remember at one point I had a small apartment in New York and I was swimming in bathrobes. I literally had to lift my bed to put the dresses under it.”
“I had so many dresses that I literally had to lift my bed to put the dresses under it.”
While swimming in said dresses, Suzanne had an idea. “I realized that if I was having this problem, my acting partners must be. I decided to start a Facebook group to sell or trade dresses, and I invited about 15 of my other opera friends to join. By the end of the week I had 1,000 people!”
This Facebook group became the influence for pieces created later on byVINNIK. “We were all sick of jewel wrap dresses,” Suzanne shares. “The space became a place to reject misogynistic expectations. We had all been told we were too fat/skinny or our knees were too ugly, whatever! In that space, we all begin to support and explore our own personal style as creative and professional artists.”
Soon, the Facebook group became one of the first peer-to-peer marketplaces. “I pitched with Sara Duchovnay, another soprano. We launch around the same time as Poshmark and other fashion reselling platforms.”
Suzanne at the time was still a full-time artist, and she and her co-founder were burning the candle at both ends. “They held us together with glue, tape, and glitter,” she shared with a laugh.
We were held together with glue, tape, and glitter.
Soon, Suzanne found herself buying vintage for her Shoperatic clients. “I am a hoarder of antiques”, she admitted, a little proud and a little regretful. “People would see my vintage pieces and ask, ‘Hey, I’d love that! If you find something like this in my size, get it!’”
Design for plus sizes
As Suzanne sold her pieces, connected clients and clients, and sourced vintage, she discovered that there really were a plethora of statement-making options for her plus-size friends, collaborators, and clients.
“I was between an L and an XL, and I experienced the same problem a bit”, she shared “Definitely not at the same level. My friends kept saying, ‘I can’t find anything cute.’
Seeing the problem, Suzanne decided to intervene – again! “I looked at space and said, ‘I can solve this problem. So I started my line.”
And in May 2019, Suzanne started designing her line. And if she knows the fashion timelines, she just might see what’s coming next…
“I launched a week before closing”, she shared “And I realized this, ‘Oh shit, I can’t sing again.’ You see, singing contracts dropped. Artists were sent home without pay. I realized: ‘This is not the life for me anymore’”.
“From there, I went with everything”, she shares. “And our wonderful customers and clients have really embraced VINNIK and shared us far and wide. I am very grateful for the success we have had in recent years.”
Capsule Wardrobe Large Sizes GLAMOUROUS
Okay, are you ready to talk about plus size capsule wardrobe options now? I thought about jumping into that RIGHT from the start, but realized that to understand byVINNIK’s silhouettes, fabric choices, etc., you really need to understand SUZANNE!
I’ll admit it: When Suzanne mentioned creating a “plus-size capsule wardrobe” at the beginning of our interview, I was SKEPTICAL. Personally, I’ve always envisioned a “capsule wardrobe” as something for people who are boring as oatmeal, who run around all day in turtlenecks, or like navy work suit ensembles…
But Suzanne turned that down!
“No!” she said with a full laugh. “People make ‘capsule closets’ boring with black or a horrible set of neutral colors. That is not for me or my clients!”
Okay, yeah, I hear you! I’m interested!
“This is how I do it”, She explained. “I have a base outfit and I have something to wear over it that is fancy, so I can be extra. I don’t have to worry about planning, because I have an over the top accessory that makes it look like I spent a lot of time getting dressed. It seems like I tried really hard, but I didn’t!”
And looking through byVINNIK’s Instagram, I saw his point in the most visual way. In many of the photos, the style echoes her spirit! It made a lot of sense!
And Suzanne doesn’t like a capsule wardrobe because it’s trendy. She comes from the need to be functional, like a creative professional.
She offered more background on a plus-size capsule wardrobe, saying: “There was a year when I was at home for 19 days, so it was important to take everything I owned in a European-sized carry-on suitcase. I needed to have a capsule wardrobe that was NOT boring, either. All my way of dressing and approaching fashion incorporates this need”.
Designed in 5 different ways
A great plus size capsule wardrobe isn’t about looking like you wear the same thing every day. It’s all about getting more WEAR out of your existing wardrobe.
“Many of my pieces are reversible or can be styled in a variety of ways. In fact, I have a rule: I have to be able to design a piece that I create in at least 5 different ways. If I can’t design something in 5 different ways, it’s not worth existing.”
If I can’t design something in 5 different ways, it’s not worth existing.
Plus Size Ethical Luxury – Sustainability
Suzanne generally avoids using the word “sustainable” and says, “I’m selling a product. But I try to do it in the most ethical way possible. We use dead cloth, all work is ethical and paid fairly.”
Suzanne’s willingness to be super specific about her fabrication is encouraging, especially in a fashion world where greenwashing abounds!
[You can read more about Suzanne’s ethical practices on this post!]
Price point accessibility
Discussing accessibility from a price perspective can be tricky, especially on a global scale.
Rather than avoid the conversation, Suzanne stepped in and is running it.
“The average person should be able to wear luxurious and beautiful things. I ethically pay the people who create the clothes, and I want to price them ethically for the consumer.”
Suznne went on to explain, “I just want to create beautiful pieces in luxurious fabrics that the average person won’t wear. Designers using the same fabric have larger teams, plus their pieces are around $4,000.”
Join the fashion cult of glamorous misfits
Fair warning to new byVINNIK customers: once you start, you won’t stop! “My customers are regular customers”, she exclaimed. “They are loyal! And to be honest, I think of my clients when I’m designing, I’m designing for them. When designing a new part, if I can’t think of 5 clients who would use it, I don’t!”
When asked who her customers are, Suzanne couldn’t pinpoint them into a group or type, of course.
“In general, my clients are misfits!” she shared “These are women who want to be seen. They are extra! They want luxury and glamour! Many of my clients have become my friends through fashion and individuality. We have all met and formed an incredible community.”
adds Susanna, “When I see someone new buy a byVINNIK piece, I just want to say, ‘Welcome to the cult of fashion!’”
And, seeing the engagement and discussion Suzanne has with her customers on social media, from Instagram Live sales to comment chats about going to Home Depot in an opera coat, it’s clear she’s built a beautiful community.
Ready to shop at VINNIK?
Be sure to shop their website HERE and join the brand on Instagram here!
What do you think of these glamorous and beautiful looks from byVINNIK? Which would YOU use? Ring if the comments with your thoughts, we’d love to hear them! <3