We caught up with Deanna Ansara, the founder behind the sustainable clothing brand Vincetta. The founder of this anti-trend and anti-fashion brand spoke to us about turning her passion into a business, the thrill of sourcing upcycled materials, and the evolution of herself and her brand over the years.
I was born in the suburbs of Detroit of Lebanese descent. My mind has always worked differently in the way I viewed the world and processed my surroundings. Creating always provided an outlet for self expression and coping. I lost my mother at the age of 5 - she took her own life. The years to follow, until I left home at 17 were full of lessons. My brothers and I had abusive and neglectful people enter our life after my mother left - one after another.
During those years, my happiest memories were ones where I was creating. I started painting, sculpting, getting my hands into anything. Sculpting turned into draping which evolved into making my own clothes. I learned to sew at the age of 10 years old and over the years, found myself through self-expression by way of creation, designing clothing, and thrifting.
My mother’s story - also for another time, is why I’m deeply passionate about inclusion and normalizing mental illness. My lived experience is what feeds my passion for mental health advocacy, creating safe spaces for people, and engaging in uncomfortable conversations. This is what has informed the kind of work I do and why/how I do it.
I started working in corporate fashion at the age of 21. I assistant-designed at J. Crew for a while, then moved into designing mass production clothing for much larger companies. For a brief moment, I worked under Rushka Bergman styling shoots for Vogue L’Uomo, which was stressful but helped sharpen my skill set and eye.
When I worked in design, I noticed the lack of soul and care that went into creating these garments, the time constraints, and the amount of pressure put on designers and factory workers. Size inclusion and sustainability were not trending themes in the industry when I started. It was frustrating to not fit into the clothing I wanted to wear. It was fashion telling me: you need to lose weight, change your shape, you’re not allowed to wear this. I could only imagine how larger bodies than mine felt. And so enters Vincetta.
I entered Vincetta with the intersection of mental health, sustainability, and inclusion in mind. The brand evolves with me and I find it simpler to give myself permission to do things the way I see fit, not worrying about how everyone else is doing it.
The highs of starting the business have been the people I have met, and collaborated with. The difficult part has been turning my coping mechanism and what I love into an actual business. I am just a one person team, so it’s difficult to strike a balance between business, art, and creation. No one ever tells you how designers do it - the industry is so secretive in that way.
Building a supply chain is one of the most difficult parts of having a product based business. There needs to be trust, clear communication, and a high level of respect between you and your production partners. I started by making pieces at home then began working with local manufacturers. Right now, I am doing a mix of those two things. I make patterns in-house, which allows for more control and time to evolve the fit. Cut and sew is all done in the Garment District.
We currently produce with a small women-owned factory in NYC’s Garment District and a sewer in Long Island, too. We have all worked together for many years and have a great personal and working relationship. Producing fewer styles in small batches is better for everyone. It’s more manageable for the producer, they get paid more per unit, and I can afford to pay people as soon as they’ve completed the work. It works for all of us.
There are things I’ve wanted but did not allow myself to have. It feels good to believe I am worthy. Now, I get to build towards something that meets the level of work and amount of hours I have put into building this company in a way that reflects who I am. This brand has such a deep soul, I want to see it blossom and grow.
This idea of “anti-fashion” has such negative connotations, when in fact I love and appreciate fashion. What I don’t love is the strain the industry puts on the environment and garment workers. We are consuming products at a rate that is unhealthy to our psyche, the makers, and the planet. It’s also frustrating to see small and large brands alike greenwash - tokenizing inclusive and sustainable terms without doing the actual work behind it. Especially when there are already people under the radar that have been working hard for years in these areas.
Vincetta has been a slow fashion brand for 6 years and has spoken out about the issues within the industry from beauty standards, unethical labor, and greenwashing. Sustainable and ethical fashion is an entire movement. I love knowing that I am one of many who is part of this - pushing for the change we want to see. We are all tackling these issues differently, with our own approaches. I believe there is a world where we can still have our desires met, but in a meaningful and sustainable way; A world where companies are held to a higher standard.
I love sourcing upcycled (aka deadstock) fabrics because I adore finding materials that no one else will have. The same thrill that you get vintage shopping is the same when I go to massive fabric surplus warehouses. You search 20,000 sq feet and never know what you’re going to find.
There’s much to be said about creating within constraints and limitations - it forces you to be more resourceful. I really enjoy working within what already exists - I get to create something beautiful from the waste the fashion industry continues to create.
With most of the collection being made from deadstock materials - you know that not everyone is going to be wearing the same thing. Everything is limited edition. To me, that feels more like collecting a piece of art versus buying mass produced clothing.
It can bring people together and build unlikely connections. There is also lots of information and inspiration on there, too. The flip side of that coin is we spend unhealthy amounts of time staring at our screen and valuing ourselves based on our online presence. We tend to compare ourselves to others which can leave us with fear of becoming irrelevant, feeling incomplete, anxious, or thinking we need to be more like something or someone else. This new shop tab is incredibly dehumanizing, too. Don’t love that.
That being said, Instagram has been a great tool for building my brand. Being able to get information out there and connect with people is lovely. The thing I love most is being able to make genuine human connections. I just need discipline in limiting my screen time.
With Vincetta, I have always taken a minimalist approach to design. Minimalism is a process of removing elements from the design to reach its true essence. I work within self created constraints, for example, working with deadstock fabric. It is more challenging, but I enjoy it.
Our designs have to meet certain criteria— it should fit well on a wide range of bodies, remain relevant for decades to come, feel like a collectors item and a tool for people to explore themselves. I think about designing from all of these angles, but I always start designing in shapes and drapes.
The way each person can interpret a minimal design is what’s most interesting for me. It allows the essence of a person to shine through and encourages them to be more creative in expressing themselves. I’m a fan of simplicity done well. It’s not trying to be anything it’s not. It just is and there’s something really refreshing about that. It’s how I feel I am as a person.
Start slow and lead with your heart. Stay true to your desires and who you are. Think of your purpose - why you’re doing what you’re doing? We're living in a time where this is so important.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because they're bound to happen, you're going to learn from them. Lastly, find a process that works for you and brings you joy! What a gift to be building your own company! Remember, when you’re having a difficult moment, take a step back and ask for support - try to view it with curiosity and as a learning opportunity.
Hot tip (that no one likes to talk about), brands that appear really streamlined - the ones that gift and produce endless amounts of product have a lot of money behind them. Don’t let that deter you from doing something special. Just know it will likely look a lot different and that’s OK! You will find a way to build slowly and in a way that works for you. Reach out if you ever need resources.
I heard someone once say that as an artist, you should create even when you don't feel like it. Even if it comes out terribly, even if it doesn’t come out how you want it to, you should always be creating because that's the true essence of an artist.
We forget that creating is so healing to us as humans. Creation comes from the soul. It comes from you. It doesn't have to always be about an aesthetic. And hopefully, it leads to something else, something that we want to share with the world.
I have various rituals based on what I need that day. My mornings often start with playing with my pup, Niko followed by a morning walk and coffee. Some days I start by cleaning and saging the apartment, that always helps set a positive tone for the day.
For me, a large theme this year has been writing. It brings on a catharsis that nothing else can - especially when I’m feeling tense or anxious. I come in with no judgment and just start writing. I always learn something profound, things that are held in my subconscious. It opens doors.
The thing is—self-care doesn't have to be a big production or this really expensive thing. It can be simple and intuitive. Even just looking around and being grateful for the things around us. It’s putting a face mask on or meditating. All of these little things add up. It seems so simple, but we don't learn to do that because we’re constantly being sold on other things.
This was an intense year. When I look back, this gave us an opportunity for things that we otherwise may not have made the time to do. I took months to pause in making any new product, took the time to slow down and just be with myself. I reflected on how to move in a more intentional direction. Growth doesn't come from the positive, easy experiences—it comes from the challenging ones where you take a hard look at yourself and surroundings. I think that ties so strongly into sustainability, thoughtfulness and mindfulness.
I’m in the process of leveling up the brand and am very excited about this. I’ve needed the brand to catch up with where I’m at in life, so that's beautiful, too. It couldn’t have come at a better time in my career. I’ve had Vincetta for 6 of the 12 years I’ve worked in this industry. I have suffered from PTSD for my whole life and only just started the healing process over the past few years.