Burke Residency 19: Vincetta Studio•
Posted on May 14 2022
EMMA: Hello! First things first, do you prefer to go by Deanna or D? And, along those lines, could introduce yourself and tell us about how you began with Vincetta?
D: I usually go by D! It’s been my nickname since I was a kid, it’s just easier since most people mispronounce my name. I’m an adventurer, explorer, and always have something on my mind. I’m equal parts refined and outlandish. I hold all parts of myself with an understanding of they are all here for a reason, no matter how contradictory. It’s tough sometimes, because I don’t always present as one note which can be potentially confusion to some. Sometimes I think, just pick a lane and stick to one identity, but then I realize it might just be better to work towards accepting all of me, not putting any confines on who I am as a person and allowing it to flow as it will.
I started Vincetta almost 9 years ago, wow. I explain more about the origins of its name and journey in my recent Lutte Collective feature. Give it a read :) The brand is an ever-evolving project. It started as a love letter to my mom and a desire to shift the exclusionary nature of art and fashion. It’s such a wasteful and secretive industry. I don’t like that. Lilian, my mom, took her life when I was quite young, hence the mental health core of my work. My aim has always been to disrupt our societally conditioned ideas, stop putting people in boxes, and making fashion less pretentious by holding anyone who want to be part of this, not leaving anyone out. I just want people to feel good and be themselves, not who I want them to be. It’s a space where inclusion, mental health, and sustainability are front and center - raising the bar for transparency, human-centered design and business.
E: On your website you describe Vincetta as a “slow fashion brand emphasizing humanity through design;” I would love to hear you elaborate on this and tell us what it is about clothing in particular that so resonates with you in the consideration of our humanity.
D: I think sometimes we forget how human everything is in this world of technology, instagram, immediacy, and our ever shortening attention spans. Design is innately human, or at least it should be. I’m on the side that is countering fast paced releases and production and also the commodification of this art form.
Fashion is one of the many industries that focus on trend, clout, and hierarchy. I’m just not that interested in those things. I prefer a more human-centered approach, changing up the rules of how we value/view ourselves, others, and our surroundings. Seeing beneath the surface, past all of these boring and basic ways we measure things - that’s where I’m at. Knowing who you are and being able to stand securely in your insecurities is probably the most powerful thing you can wear. Everything else is an embellishment.
Making decisions that have nothing to do with trend, clout, hierarchy allow you to live a more genuine, fulfilled life. Those things are fine, but they should be the priority.
I design with versatility, size fluctuation, gender fluidity, movement, and comfort in mind. I want the person wearing the piece to be the sole focus. When they put something of mine on, I want them to feel most like themselves - I’d say being able to move around and feel comfortable is a great place to start - fit is an important part of that.
Over the years, I scaled back the amount of items I’ve designed and honed in on a solid base/permanent collection which I’m excited to continue evolving. I spoke a bit more about this in a Podcast interview with Ikkivi - I said something like “my permanent collection are pieces that ground you.” I’m excited to get back to having fun, experimenting, expanding upon slow fashion and what it means to emphasize humanity through design.
E: Similarly, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about what is it about minimalist design that opens toward self exploration and personal evolution.
D: The philosophy “less is more” resonates with me because I associate excess with waste and prefer to work within what already exists - design fewer, better items that can shape shift with the person throughout their lifetime. And if it’s time to part with a piece, it’s something you’ gladly re-sell or give to someone you love. We are ever-evolving beings and I think we as designers should take this into consideration. Instead of designing for a specific “trend” “age” or “body type”, it should be approached more holistically with a deeper understanding of the human condition.
Minimalist design is misunderstood. It’s less about neutral colors and palette-able lifestyles [ I call it, "beige”. ] It’s more about discerning which elements to leave in for function and purpose, allowing the eye to wander and more deeply appreciate what is remaining. Focusing on fewer pieces is so that each one has an opportunity to be appreciated, not commodified. By doing so, it innately re-humanizes the process because we don’t take it for granted. When something is simple, not trying to take up the most space in the room - it allows the wearer to explore who they are and how they want to show up. It’s less about the material and more about a beauty that cannot be measured or materialized. Sometimes, simplicity is an invitation to expand yourself.
E: I find the holistic approach you take to slow fashion very inspiring in that it goes beyond ethical and sustainable production to include mental wellness and social responsibility. Could you talk about about how you came to this broad view and how you implement it with Vincetta?
D: A holistic approach is the only way I know how to make sense of things. I get bored in surface level conversations, womp-womp. Having a multi-faceted lens of equal parts intellect and creative is just how my brain works, I guess. I’ve always been really observant, protective of others, and challenged the status quo. If you knew a bit more about my life when my mom was still here and the years that followed her passing, it might be easier to understand why I am the way I am. This is also something I talk about in more depth in my Lutte Collective feature.
It brings me joy to explore and connect unlikely dots through design, writing, and conversation. Like a lot of people, I cope through creation, it’s how I’ve always expressed myself and shown that I have something of value to contribute to the world. With Vincetta specifically, I aim to create pieces that remind people of who they are, remove the pretension from fashion, and expand on our ideas of inclusion.
Vincetta is a project that allows me to explore our identity through the physical form and its relation to our state of mind and surroundings. I want my clothing to allow for transformation and ability to be fluid in who we are. Perception, evolution, and autonomy are the main intangibles I take into account when designing. I enjoy blurring the lines and shifting the way we value ourselves and our surroundings.
The tangibles of how I implement are through fit, transparency, and representation. Inclusion, for me, spans beyond gender and size (that’s part of it of course). There’s also age, lifestyle, lived experiences, and neuro-diversity. Over the years, I’ve dressed all bodies, genders, ages - capturing different ways of existing in the world, so I’m excited to get back to it, going even deeper into this approach.
It’s been tough setting up new shoots since the move, but we’re gonna get back to it soon. I’m re-evaluating my own creative direction to more clearly reflect my vision. The social hierarchy and social norms are not a priority in my space. I like what I like, I am who I am…Letting go of perfection…Not taking everything so seriously all the time. That’s more of an energy I’d like to see manifested within the brand. Essentially, I’m getting the brand to break out of whatever box I placed it in and meet me where I’m at. It takes time for these things to come to life when you’re primarily a one-person team, especially when you’re not trying to emulate another aesthetic. But I’m patient, I think the brand will evolve in its own time to present the way I want it to.
A quote from the LC Feature : “Watching my mom's identity and self-worth slowly fade and going through neglect and isolation myself is all part of that. No one should be made to feel isolated, lesser-than, or alone (which seems obvious and yet we have more people than ever who feel this way). My drive for inclusion stems from this. We are all multi-faceted and sometimes we put so much emphasis on our perception vs. focusing on our own genuine development. This is why we need to open up more conversations that normalize the human condition and mental health is an integral part of that.”
E: It looks like you straddle two places: Detroit and New York, and I’m wondering if these places inspire or influence your designs or approach to production. Would Vincetta be what it is today without one or the other?
D: I moved to Detroit a year ago after being in New York for over 10 years. New York will always be home for me. It’s where I grew into myself and a place where I run into friends all over town. I travel back every other month or so. The mix of the two cities gives me broadened perspective. It’s a more well rounded understanding of the pace we move as a society and a deeper understanding of myself. Excited to see how the rest of this year pans out and how my own work will evolve through this.
When I was in New York, I gained a deeper understanding of this very flawed and toxic industry. But, all around, the city just clicked with me right away and I fell in love. I got to explore it when I still had a flip phone and before influencers were really a thing, so I’m grateful for that. It opened me up to a whole new world of resources, opportunities, and relationships. It’s where I started my career with some pretty large companies and a couple of pretty nasty freelance gigs. I got to apply my resourcefulness and toughen up a bit, and definitely sharpened my eye. My work experiences revealed the immense waste this industry creates, the ways in which its infrastructure is unstable, and things I didn’t want to perpetuate within my own practice.
I assisted a pretty renowned stylist, would be on set dressing talent like ASAP Rocky and Muse, carrying a hundred pounds of clothes, accessories, styling equipment up and down 4 flights of stairs… working 14 hours days. All while being told “you’re not moving fast enough, not well dressed enough, not smart enough”. I was fired every other minute, and of course because I’m me, I snapped back - which may have earned me a little bit of respect. There are so many stories. Basically, fashion is a nasty industry to work in, it’s dirty. But I do enjoy making fun of how ridiculous it is. We’re so intense for no reason - it’s hilarious because we’re such a mess yet portray a lifestyle that is unattainable by most. What are we even doing?
So, moving on…. hahah. Detroit is really cool. It’s giving me space and time to sort through the next iteration of my practice. The name Vincetta also came from an abandoned car garage in Detroit where I had a shoot at in my late teen years. Coming back here felt like it would be temporary, and yet, I’m still here. I love having this be my home base for now. More space, surrounded by nature, closer to family, a cool food, urban farm, music, and art scene, plus I have a fraction of the living expenses, and more time. It’s really nice.
E: I think it’s safe to claim that all of us feel an intense ambivalence about social media and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, particularly regarding community building and representation.
D: I like that, an intense ambivalence. I have a hard time sustaining a healthy relationship but when I’m not taking it so seriously, stressing about perception or having the most curated feed, it becomes a lot more fun. Easier said than done.
This is a massive corporation essentially emulating the news cycle, shortening our attention spans, and getting people to log wild and unhealthy amounts of screen time to to serve more ads, gather data, sell that data, etc. My motto for years has been “Mental health over relevance”. I’m not as interested in participating in this “fear of missing out” culture. It does’t feel good and if I catch myself doing it, I just don’t go on social media for a little while. There’s no race, I don’t know why we’re racing. Towards what exactly? Fame, is it?
Before the pandemic I didn’t put that much stake in all this. I doubled my following from 2020 - 2021 and then realized I didn’t care so I took a break from social climbing to nurture the relationship with myself, loved ones, my existing community. When I moved to Detroit, I kept it at a distance for about a year. I needed to explore myself beyond the brand. I found myself trying to emulate this sort of “beige” identity because it’s so widely understood and accepted but the truth is I’m not that. So.…I had to get back to being me for a while and exploring what community, identity, etc mean for Vincetta and myself.
I think we need to be more mindful in how we use this word. If a platform is solely centered on an individual or sales of a product, it’s less of a community and more of an audience. When there are collective efforts of fundraising, sharing of resources, exchanges of thoughts and ideas, using the space to be of benefit the whole - that is community. Within Vincetta we’ve had multiple community initiatives and it reminds me why it’s so important to work together.
First, I want to talk about lifestyle. We are selling ridiculous ideas of it on there. Even if deep down we know none of it is real, subconsciously we are cataloging / internalizing it. I consider the ways in which an image can make someone feel good in where they’re at now and maybe even remind them to be themselves. I crave something that feels human and wholesome. There’s a harmful feedback loop we have going and I’m more interested in disrupting that.
Now, representation in terms of inclusion. I think it usually feels forced, and probably because it is. Even for myself, I’ll look at the feed and be like, oh god, it’s awful. Probably because we’re so concerned with the curation and how it looks vs. just posting what feels authentic in the moment. I just want to get back to taking a bunch of pictures of people I like and admire instead of solely relying on editorial and curated shoots. Naturally, this will include such a wide range of people, sizes, gender identities, ages - because I find so many different people attractive and interesting. We’ve lost our souls to content creation. Our obsession with clout and climbing has turned us into content curation balls of anxiety. It makes me sad, I think.
E: To conclude, I see mention on your website and IG of a Patreon launch and I’m so curious! Could you tell us more about this project and give us a taste of what else Vincetta has on the horizon?
D: There’s no roadmap for the type of work I’m interested in pursuing, so I get to build my own, which is somewhat overwhelming but also cool. The work I want to do is intertwined with so many things, I’m in the process of finding out what that means and what it could look like. Evolution is exciting - it should be treasured. When we allow ourselves periods of time to float and not have it all figured out, it will happen as it should.
My new project, 'Side Effects' is essentially me exploring unconventional paths to mental health and sustainability. This is a way to support my own work/research and the brand (all 3 tiers get exclusive discounts to Vincetta). It’s a space where I will feature other thought makers such as one coming up this month, Innermade, hold open community conversations, and more deeply explore and write about the topics I’ve shared over the years on Instagram. For now, it exclusively lives on Patreon and would love to have more people join me! Soon, I’ll be taking on one-on-one sessions, which is something I’ve been planning for a couple of years now. The sessions will all be within personal exploration where we talk about evolution, development, and needs. It’s taking a more holistic approach to sustainability within our lives, practice, and/or business. It’s a safe space to explore what needs exploring within your practice and can be as fluid or structured as needed.
For Vincetta, there will be more experimentation. I’ll continue dropping limited run pieces that build off our core. But this year, I’m committing to more vintage drops with slower, more intentional Vincetta restocks and designs. I want to evolve its identity and assortment to more accurately reflect me and the people within Vincetta’s community.
I want to get back to this place of love for creating as an art form instead of allowing capitalism to inform my decisions. This will likely live through my own personal experiments and up-cycled pieces that will be available exclusively through Vincetta. I want to blur the lines even further of what genderless clothing means. How my own paradoxical style is reflected in Vincetta. Also, graphic tees….That’s been a project I’ve wanted to play with since 2017. I want to mess with old photos, free association drawings/writings, and collaborate with other artists to create something really special.
Over time, I think it’s inevitable that my different experiments and projects will intersect. Right now I’m playing and having fun with it, discerning what I want and what I don’t, where I’m willing to waiver and where I’m not. Ideally I’d love to carve out a a space for my community where design and art, product, workshops, conversation/writing, and education can all live under one roof. That’s a lot to chew on though, so we’ll see how that plays out and what role each of these takes on. More and more, we’re going to see brands exploring a more intersectional way of doing business. It only seems like the natural progression of things.