Designer Deanna Ansara defines her label Vincetta as an "anti-fashion fashion brand" that welcomes disruption and diversity. She sees Vincetta as not only a label, but also a vehicle through which to engage in urgent discussions surrounding sustainability, inclusivity and authenticity. Unafraid of calling out the industry for its many flaws, Deanna is opinionated, vocal and committed to creating real change.
In an industry obsessed with perfection, the transparency with which Deanna shares her processes, both personal and professional, is comforting, relatable and wildly uncommon. Her personal history with mental illness fuels her work and reminds us of the necessity for humanity in design.
As a result, her designs are minimal and put the wearer first; - her primary concern is the fit and for each woman to feel confident, comfortable and wholly herself when wearing one of Vincetta's garments. The pieces can be layered, worn forwards or backwards and tied this way or that, taking on the essence of each wearer and accommodating for women of all shapes and personalities.
Where are you from?
My roots are Lebanese, but I grew up in Metro Detroit, about 25 minutes' drive from Downtown. I've now been living in Brooklyn for nine years.
Can you tell me a bit about your childhood?
A large chunk of my life has been characterised by extreme adversity. I don't have many fond or safe memories, which has been quite difficult to work through. I was recently diagnosed with PTSD, although my therapist thinks that I am impressively high-functioning considering what I've been through. He reminds me that I am facing it with courage, and as my subconscious moves towards consciousness it shows that my mind is strong enough to heal from years of control, and abuse.
Why did you decide to start Vincent?
Vincetta is my love letter to myself and my mother - I am healing for the both of us. When I began conceptualising the brand in 2012, it was before inclusivity, sustainability and mental health were trending topics, yet these were always my main drivers. In order to push the boundaries and create a new standard in fashion, I had to evolve a deeper sense of purpose. By the time I launched in 2014, I'd created a more evolved and intelligent approach to design. I wanted something ethical, non-pretentious, streamlined, elevated, functional and well designed that would fit everyone. This approach evolved into the phrase "basics for the non-basic". The clothing is minimal, but the emotion and process behind it is not, and the person wearing it is complex with many layers - just like the brand.
How have these core values shaped the brand?
I want people to feel like their truest selves when they put on my clothing. Vincetta stands for something larger than just pretty things. Sure, the pieces are lovely and is made to fit, but that should be a given, shouldn't it? This brand is an expression and exploration of healing, carving out a special place within this ridiculous industry and touching on uncomfortable and unsettling issues that no-one else wants to address.
How do you design for size inclusivity?
The design has nothing to do with it, actually. Inclusivity lies with the fit, and good design is nothing without this. The fashion industry normally designs for an archetype of what they want a woman's body to be, not the reality of her body. The execution of an inclusive fit takes far more time, attention to detail, expertise and monetary investment, which is why many companies don't do it. It's that simple.
Can you tell us about your relationship with your body?
I don't have just one relationship with my body, but several. I've gained about 20 pounds in the past year and a half, which was incredibly difficult on my psyche. The only thing keeping me sane is reminding myself that I am more than my body... and of course, avoiding the jeans that no longer fit. My body has got me through incredibly difficult times - it is the vehicle that moves me from A to B - and my self-worth stems from far more than just my physical form.
What are some of your struggles as a small brand?
Brand awareness, rejection, cost, building trust with stores, vendors, customers, collaborators, venues...and executing it all in multiple cities. I'm not afraid to go against the grain and take calculated risks, but there is no format for the type of brand I'm creating. There have been many difficulties in advocating for myself and what I feel is right.
How have you overcome some of these struggles?
Education and a willingness to learn and make mistakes. I'm not formally trained in business, but being self-taught also allows me to have a fresh perspective. Two years into my business, I was exhausted and felt so far from my mission that I nearly quit. Then my mentor told me that I was actually in a great position, because I had options: quit, pause, or push on and take control of my life. It was the best advice I've ever been given.
Deanna's Mini-Guide to Detroit
The Shinola Hotel in Downtown is a fairly recent opening that I like - its namesake watchmaking brand has its global headquarters nearby and the hotel shares its functional, craftmanship-led aesthetic.
2Booli is a casual Lebanese restaurant in the suburbs with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, while J. Alexander's is an American restaurant that makes an other-worldly carrot cake. Downtown, stroll through the Eastern Market to my favourite café, Trinosophes, before heading to Parks and Rec Diner for brunch. For a light dinner, try tapas restaurant La Feria or for a more substantial meal check out The Apparatus Room.
Visit The Heidelberg Project to see a very real Detroit - it's a neighbourhood of abandoned houses that has been turned into a giant art installation. My favourite areas of town are the Cass Corridor and Gratiot Avenue, but if you're into architecture check out the Guardian and Fisher buildings as well as the Renaissance Centre. Pure Detroit offers tours.