“The most interesting woman in the world.”
When I interviewed Suzanne Vinnik, founder and CEO of the luxury and glamor fashion brand byVINNIK, this is what came to mind.
Suzanne Vinnik has an AMAZING life story, career and creative outlook – and today on The Curvy Fashionista, I’m excited to share some behind-the-scenes insights about this rad founder and brand. her mark!
Let’s hit it!
Because this is an IN-depth interview, I figured it would be helpful to have different sections:
- BRAND Ethics & HISTORY: It’s been interesting to see how a luxury brand has become BE and we’ll dive into it!
- CLOTHING CAPSULE PLUS SIZE: How Suzanne Vinnik designs each item to wear 5 different ways with at least 5 customer in mind
- WHAT’S COMING SOON: We’ll take a look at the future of byVINNIK and discuss what’s next for this luxury and opera-inspired brand
Before we start– hurry up and follow VINNIK on Instagram! The editorials, the models, the LIVE SALES, it’s all just a big party — you definitely don’t want to miss it!
byVINNIK | Brand Features & History
When I first stumbled across VIINNIK (thanks to the ethical plus-size stylist, Kat Eves, for the tip), my first thought was,
“How did this happen?!”
Looking at the beautiful fabrics, with their textures and colors — when I see the designs, I am INTERESTED with the silhouettes and a little BAMBOOZLED by the color play.
Then, when I realized that the brand was founded by a professional opera singer, things started to come together.
“I am a professional opera singer,” Suzanne shared at the beginning of the interview. “As an opera singer, you have a closet full of gowns and things that you can actually wear a few times. I remember there was a time when I had a small apartment in NYC, and I was swimming in capes. I actually had to lift the bed to put my robe underneath it.
“I have so many skirts that I actually have to lift the bed to put the skirt underneath.”
While swimming in the aforementioned dress, Suzanne had an idea. “I realized that if I had this problem, so should my co-stars. I decided to start a Facebook group to sell or trade robes and 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 source of influence for the works created by VINNIK later. “We’re all fed up with jeweled dresses,” says Suzanne. “Space becomes a place to push back against false expectations about women. We’ve all been told that we’re too fat/thin or our knees are too bad – you can name it! In that space, we all started to support and explore our own individual styles as creative and professional performers.”
Soon the Facebook group became one of the first peer-to-peer marketplaces. “I debuted with Sara Duchovnay, another soprano. We launched at the same time as Poshmark and other fashion resale platforms.”
Suzanne at this point is still a full-time performer, she and her co-founder are burning candles at both ends. “We were held together with glue and tape and glitter,” she shared with a laugh.
We were held together with glue, tape, and glitter.
Soon, Suzanne found herself sourcing vintage for her Shoperatic customers. “I am a classic hoarder,” she admitted, a little proudly and a little regretfully. “People will see my classics and say, ‘Hey, I love that! If you find something similar to my size, get it!’”
Design for Plus Size
As Suzanne sells her wares, connects customers and clients, and sourcing vintage items, she finds that there are actually so many options for making a statement to friends, collaborators and its oversized customers.
“I’m between L and XL, and I’ve had a bit of the same problem,” she shared. “Definitely not on the same level. My friends keep saying, ‘I can’t find anything cute.’”
Realizing the problem, Suzanne decided to join — again! “I looked into space and said, ‘I can solve this problem. So I start my line.
And in May 2019, Suzanne started designing her product line. And if you know the fashion timelines, you can see what’s coming next…
“I launched a week before the lockdown,” she shared. “And I realized this, ‘Oh damn, I can’t go back to singing.’ You see, singing contracts drop. The performers were sent home without pay. I realized, ‘This isn’t the life for me anymore.’”
“From there, I went it all,” she shared. “And our wonderful clients and customers have really cared about VINNIK and shared a lot with us. I am grateful for the success we have had over the past few years.”
GLAMOROUS large size capsule wardrobe
Okay, now are you ready to talk about plus size wardrobe options?! I thought about jumping into that RIGHT in the first place, but I realized that to understand styles, fabric choices, etc., you really need to understand SUZANNE!
I’ll admit it – when Suzanne mentioned creating a “large capsule wardrobe” at the start of our interview, I was MYSTERIOUS. Personally, I’ve always envisioned a “capsule wardrobe” as something for those boring oatmeal-loving people who run around all day in turtlenecks or like navy blue business suits…
But Suzanne pushed that back!
“ARE NOT!” she said with a cheery laugh. “People make ‘capsule wardrobes’ boring with black or a terrible set of neutrals. It’s not for me or my clients!”
Ok, yes, I’m listening! I care!
“This is how I do it,” she explained. “I have a basic outfit and having something to wear it on is fancy, so I stand out. I don’t have to worry about planning, because I have a top accessory that makes me look like I spent a lot of time getting dressed. Looks like I tried really hard, but I just couldn’t do it!”
And looking through VINNIK’s Instagram, I saw her point of view most intuitively. In many photos, the style reflects her ethos! It makes complete sense!
And Suzanne doesn’t get into capsule wardrobes for the sake of being trendy. It comes from the need to act, as a creative professional.
She gives more basic stories about a full-size wardrobe, saying, “There was a year when I was at home 19 days, so it was important to carry everything I own in a European carry-on bag. I need a capsule wardrobe that is ALSO not boring. My whole way of dressing and my approach to fashion incorporates this need.”
Style it in 5 different ways
A great full-size wardrobe isn’t about looking like you wear the same thing every day. It’s about wearing more from your existing wardrobe.
“A lot of my work is reversible or can be styled in more than one way. In fact, I have a rule – I must be able to style a work that I create at least 5 different ways. If I can’t style something in five different ways, it doesn’t exist.”
If I can’t style something in 5 different ways, it’s not worth existing.
Ethical Plus Size Luxury – Sustainable
Suzanne often avoids using the word “sustainable,” saying, “I am selling a product. But I try to do it in the most ethical way possible. We use deadstock fabric, all labor is ethical and well paid.”
Suzanne’s willingness to get super specific about her production is encouraging, especially in the fashion world where there’s a lot of green!
[You can read more about Suzanne’s ethical practices on this post!]
Price Score Accessibility
Discussing accessibility from the advantage of price points can get complicated, especially on a global scale.
Instead of avoiding the conversation, Suzanne joined — and led the conversation.
“Ordinary people can wear luxurious and beautiful things. I pay people who make clothes ethically, and I want to value them ethically to consumers.”
Suznne went on to explain, “I just want to create beautiful items with luxurious fabrics that ordinary people wouldn’t wear. Designers using the same fabric have larger teams and their pieces also cost around $4,000.”
Join the Fashion Cult of Glamorous Lostrs
Fair warning for new VINNIK customers — once you start, you won’t stop! “My customers are repeat customers,” she cried. “They are loyal! And honestly, I think of my customers when I design — I design for them. When I’m designing a new piece, if I can’t think of five clients who will wear it, I can’t!”
Of course, when asked who her customers were, Suzanne couldn’t identify which group or category they belonged to.
“All in all, my clients are misfits!” she shared. “They are women who want to be seen. They are sub! They want luxury and glamour! So many of my clients have become my friends through fashion and personality. We all found each other and made an incredible community.”
More Suzanne, “When I see someone just buy a VINNIK item, I just want to say: ‘Welcome to hit fashion!’”
And, from seeing the level of engagement and discussion Suzanne has with her customers on social media — from Instagram Direct sales to conversations in comments about going to Home Depot in her opera coat — she’s clearly built a great community.
Ready to shop byVINNIK?
Be sure to shop their website THISand join the brand on Instagram This!
What do you think of these glamorous and gorgeous looks from byVINNIK? Which will YOU wear? Audio if comments with your thoughts, we’d love to hear them! <3