Opera singer turned fashion designer, CEO, stylist, and photographer—Suzanne Vinnik discusses her path to building her byVINNIK brand and why doing more than one thing can unlock your full artistic potential.
Suzanne Vinnik is the epitome of the modern diva. She can do it all, she can do it well, and she does it in style, inspiring women worldwide along the way. At 34, Vinnik has already had experiences in the opera field from practically every angle for almost two decades.
From winning major international competitions to singing lead roles in A-level houses to participating as an administrator in the Dallas Opera Hart Institute for Women Conductors, Vinnik not only knows the industry but also how she can make it better. True to her hustling diva essence, she took our call while driving in LA on her daily shipping run to the post office—a moment which doubles as her office hours. While divas around the world eagerly await their byVINNIK purchases, Vinnik leans on her opera singer skills to multitask successfully.
“It’s great to be driven and focused toward a goal, but in times like these we need to think about survival,” Vinnik says. “For so long I know that I only thought of myself as a singer, and once I started opening up my mind, I started doing all these other things—and they felt easy because I had done this other thing that was a million times harder. I am a learner.
“That’s the thing about opera singers, we know how to learn. We never stop educating ourselves. If you can be continuously learning new music and languages and refining your singing technique, you can literally learn how to do anything you want in life. There are so many transferrable skills that you can bring to any opportunity, whether it’s business, a hobby, or just getting through what we’re all experiencing right now.”
Now a business woman on the rise, Vinnik looks back at her artistic education and background with pride. She regrets, however, not having thought of herself as a business sooner. “I think the most successful artists are the ones who treat their career as a business,” Vinnik says.
“You need to look at your career the same way a CEO would look at their company. Ask yourself what works for you, what doesn’t, and what you need to do differently to succeed. Then pull from your correlating skills, and maybe learn a few new ones at the same time, in order to build a divergent path that will lead you to where you want to be.”
Vinnik observes a commonality among successful artists, which is that everything they do, they do with purpose. There is a specific reason behind every decision and career move taken, and she encourages young singers to start developing this mindset early on. A diverse skillset is not only beneficial to the artists themselves, but to the artform as a whole. Vinnik explains that the more involvement opera industry professionals can have with other industries, the more exposure the art form will have to wider audiences.
“Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy,” she shares, “but as a businessperson, as a brand, as an artist, for me diversification is key. That is such a huge part of my brand and who I am. Since the pandemic began, my biggest goal was to grow my audience on social media. And not necessarily just focusing on numbers, but to really target my clientele to people who would be into the types of pieces that I am making.
“I have so many new clients, and they ask me who my designs are named after, and I take the time to send them YouTube videos and tell them about these singers or operas and expose them to this culture. I am an opera singer first, turned designer. My background is in opera, and I will always have that be a part of whatever I do.”
Vinnik’s goal was to ensure the brand authentically represents her spirit, beliefs, and endless creativity. It’s not only about the material pieces people can purchase, but it’s also about supporting the inspiring message and art-making behind the whole operation. “I’m building a very inclusive brand,” she says. “I want to build clothing for people who have felt like nothing existed for them before, clothing that allows them to reflect their personality and who they are and their artistic side, but who also want to be comfortable. I wish for my customers to own pieces that have the ability to transform with them.”
As the brand grows, Vinnik’s “goal has always been the same,” she says. “I love art. I love opera with my entire being. Even if I’m not the person onstage doing it, I know that with my voice and my platform and the community that I’ve created, I can bring opera to more people and eventually support it in a different way by being on the board of a company, for example.
“I would like to hopefully serve as an example to other women that you don’t have to be in an abusive situation or constantly a struggling artist to eventually achieve your goals. You can take care of yourself and give to others at the same time. I always think about others whenever I’m creating or doing anything with my business.
“I would have never been able to contribute to campaigns like the Artist Relief Tree or donate thousands of masks during the pandemic if it weren’t for my business. I love philanthropy and I love supporting the arts however I can, whether it’s with my talent, my time, or my financial contributions. My mission is to be able to make an impact in other people’s lives and support the thing that I love the most, which is opera.”
Vinnik has been a part of the fashion world from different angles for a long time. From modeling in her childhood to creating the Opera Diva Dress Collection (ODDC) group on Facebook, it is no surprise she is now the designer of her own brand. The original ODDC group, now called Shoperatic, has worked as a platform and community connecting divas and affordable high-end fashion for many years. Vinnik now regularly connects with over 11,000 members on her Facebook group in her weekly Live Sales, where her on-camera hosting skills are at full display.
“The Live Sales are honestly the thing that has kept me from going into a dark place during this time,” she shares. “It’s about having that community—it’s not just about the sales for me. It’s about all these fabulous divas who tune in every week to see what I’m creating. It fuels my creativity, and every week I’m working on an entire new collection just for them.”
This connection between business and entertainment is where Vinnik’s passion and wildest dreams are headed, and it all makes absolute sense when one observes the full picture of her creative output and personality. “My dream has always been to be on TV,” she says. “That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I got my toes wet with my show Diva Who Hustles on the Dallas Opera’s TDO Network and now with the Live Sales on Shoperatic.
“Ultimately, I think I’d love to have my own entertainment network, whatever that may look like, and be a brand that does things a bit differently than everybody else. Having grown up in Las Vegas, I’ve also always had this dream about having my own hotel as well. I’m a homebody and having traveled so much and not loving the hotels I’ve stayed at—I’d love to one day create a space that feels like home and is cool with a lounge for performances, a byVINNIK store . . . . For now, I am currently putting together a studio that will serve as a curated photography, videography, and event space as well as a showroom for my clients and for other artists to have access to a creative space in LA.”
As tough as this pandemic year has been for everyone, Vinnik highlights the new friendships she’s formed on social media during this time with people from all industries and parts of the world. While some of these relationships may currently be virtual, she plans to continue nurturing these connections with the aim of collaborating in a nonvirtual world soon.
“These new relationships have pushed me to be creative in a new way that I don’t think I would have been had I not been forced to figure out how to keep my business alive,” Vinnik says. “My business and my network have grown a lot this year. It’s been a lot of hard work overall and many years of learning through trial and error, but I see the reward in it now. For so long, I was manifesting other people’s dreams and trying to help them get to a place of financial security, but I was not doing that for myself. Now I realize that you have to put on your own mask first to then be able to help others.”
Looking ahead to the future and the undeniable continued growth and diversification of her endeavors, Vinnik presents herself as responsible dreamer, which is very inspiring to witness. She is the proof that big dreams and drive don’t have to be stained by uncontrollable ambition to be successful. “I love the direct-to-consumer model and I think it’s the way of the future,” she says. “We’ve seen during the pandemic how traditional retail does not work anymore.
“For me, being an ethical and sustainably made-to-order brand, that’s number one. I’m so glad that from the beginning of my brand that has been the priority, because the supply chains all over the world have been disrupted with the pandemic while I have been able to find a way to move forward. I will always be very hands on with my brand and I will always be creating every day. I have now been able to hire my first real employee and I love that my brand is now also able to give other people the opportunity to grow.”
Vinnik plans to continue being a part of the opera industry and contributing in her own way to move it forward. The past year has raised a lot of necessary questions and change in the industry, which Vinnik believes we should lean on and take to the next level. “I would like to see quality over quantity in the opera industry,” Vinnik says. “For me that’s the biggest thing. Opera is about a live theatre experience, and companies are having to adapt quickly.
“But I would like to see the opera industry adopt a way of producing content that has really high standards, is done in a way that is organic, and leverages social media in a way that reaches new people—doing it in a way that is slower and more methodical and with the goal of building audiences the way you do it online with any other industry. As far as education, I think it is important to encourage young singers to explore their love for opera related to the industry as a whole, where there are many different kinds of professional opportunities, not just onstage.
“I also think the industry needs to move on from the idea that a singer has to be a one-dimensional professional in order to be successful. It’s OK to do more than one thing. It’s not like I’m doing all these things and it gets me away from my goals; I’m doing all these things and it makes me a fuller person.”
Given Vinnik’s unique and successful career path, her advice to young singers is one to be taken seriously into consideration. Vinnik has many talents, and maybe my favorite one is how she always finds a way to lift up the people she believes in. “For young people wanting to pursue anything,” she shares, “you need to know that what you learn in school is not the end all and be all. Young people should learn to be useful and adaptable.
“What I would encourage any person of any age is to be open to education and learning new things and trying things and maybe failing at things. If you have an interest in something, why not learn more about it? I’d encourage everyone to focus on finding opportunities to work with experts. What helped me to be so successful at such an early age as a singer wasn’t just what I learned in college; it was finding my team—the people I could trust.”
For more information and the latest fabulous offerings, visit www.byvinnik.com.