Cynthia Vincent is a fashion veteran. She's shifting her focus to servicing the true majority of women: size 10 and up.
The designer herself. Image via CFDA.
Cynthia Vincent, fashion veteran and local LA designer, has a new line geared towards the “true majority” of women, those a size 10 and above. Baacal is not only only for 10+ but it’s also locally made in Los Angeles and 80% sustainable. Although the fashion industry is a worldwide, multibillion dollar machine; I can tell you from working very closely with Cynthia during my time at 11 Honoré, the plus size woman is underserved. Her options in the contemporary to better market are drastically less than someone who happens to be a size 8 or less.
There are multiple reasons for this and gratefully, multiple brands like Baacal who are trying to change that. Besides the inherent bias of women’s fashion showcasing mainly on models who are often sizes 0-2, there are also production limitations to creating sizes above a 10 that increase the cost to the brand.
To create a true “plus” size pattern that fits sizes 12-24, you must create an entirely new pattern from a size 18, fit it properly on a size 18 model, and go through the exact same process you would go through to create that garment for sizes 0-10. You initially double the cost and fabric usage for one design. In my experience, most brands are willing to do the work with proper resources to get this new pattern done and sell to the plus size woman.
However, as our retail world has continuously experienced bankruptcies, store closings, and now a recession, there has not been enough demand for brands to produce sizes 12-24. It’s a bad self-fulfilling prophecy of lack of money to produce the clothes the plus size woman desires combined with the lack of demand in the traditional retail and e-commerce space.
Thankfully we have retailers like 11 Honoré, Co-Edition, Net-a-Porter, and Rent the Runway working hard to change this fact as well as brands like Baacal, Veda, Good American, and Rachel Comey. It takes a village and I’m happy I was able to be a part of the shift as well!
In Conversation with Cynthia:
Ariel Kochbarski (AK): Cynthia, how did you get your start in fashion?
Cynthia Vincent (CV): When I was 6, I told my mother that when I grew up I wanted to create clothes for my Barbies...I like to say I grew up and so did my Barbies.
AK: When did you start Baacal and what inspired you to create Baacal?
CV: I launched BAACAL the last weeks of 2018/January 2019. I wanted to launch with real “buy now wear now” drops, trench coats and 3/4 90’s inspired Car coats in camel and Black. I went against the fashion calendar because I never believed in it. This antiquated idea of coats in June !!.....I wanted to test my theory. I also knew that there was literally little to no options for women past a size 8 in better contemporary designer clothing and even less well made outerwear, with what I call the third pieces, being so important.
In my past fashion endeavors, I was perpetually being asked by women to make their size (12,14,16...)I also knew that size 10 and 12 always sold out first. The need was there but not the retailers .....Never was that more compelling then when I (now a size 16,) having no longer an atelier to make me something ....had a very important meeting to attend. I shopped for 2 weeks in person, had a ridiculous amount of on line orders shipped to my home, spoke to every sales person that had anything past a size 12 in designer clothes (2 were able to find something for me to try on). I realized that if I as a designer who can make most anything work, could not find something appropriate for this meeting, how could other women, civilians?! Who just wanted beautiful quality clothes that actually fit and maybe even give them that amazing feeling when you find that great pic you look fantastic in and dare I say, feel amazing in?
AK: Baacal is not only inclusive but it’s also 80% sustainable - can you share how you were able to accomplish that and how soon you see your sustainability growing? Is your goal to be 100% sustainable?
CV: I strongly believe that as a new company or any company really we have a responsibility to be conscious about what we make, waste and put into this world. 80% is my goal and it’s very challenging to achieve all the time. It’s more costly in both time and resources to stay committed to sustainability, and we must find a way. It’s actually more challenging than I anticipated. One of the areas I need to work on is education in my community, and now with Covid-19, it is even harder. Sourcing sustainable fabrics, using vintage, deadstock, now that’s the easy part ...
AK: What do you see as the evolution of Baacal post the pandemic?
If anything, it showed me my instincts were right: make less, make better, the best way you can, using the least amount of resources, natural or otherwise. It has also made me really look at and reflect even more on what a woman really needs/wants now. Be it a kaftan or a more casual utility jumpsuit that fits so well, you will live in it and give your PJ’s a break.
AK: What is important to your customers now vs. pre pandemic?
CV: I do think customers are looking for real connections and transparency. Feeling beautiful and comfortable in BAACAL has always been the goal, so that remains. I think this was all starting to happen already and the current situation, the pandemic, the social unrest, the BLM movement, the climate changes have accelerated what customers now want and expect.
AK: On your site a portion of your proceeds go to the NAACP. Have you always aligned with that organization and if not, when did you begin to do that?
CV: I have been a supporter of the NAACP for a long time and felt that they have a deeper understanding of what is needed in this current time. There are many other great organizations. I just wanted to support one that has been around for a long time fighting for and supporting Black lives.
AK: Following up on that question, why do you feel that is important for businesses to take a stand on political and social issues? There was a time when it was very important to stay neutral and I have seen this shift as well.
CV: It might stem from so many individuals and companies becoming very wealthy from consumers they in turn do not support or even directly or indirectly hurt, by polluting, ignoring or just not caring about their very consumer. People want to know that there is a conscious behind the brand. That their money is well spent. Some consumers only want to support like-minded. Social Media has been a tool for change we have seen this work so well with BLM and supporting Black and minority businesses.
AK: Lastly, what has kept you sane during this time? I am always interested to hear how other fashion professionals have been able to find their zen with such upheaval in our industry!
CV: It’s funny, some people may have described me as Zen or very centered in what can be a very stressful and chaotic business in the past.. Now the calm or Zen as you ask is very different. Without getting too metaphysical I’m sitting in the discomfort… and when it is just all too much music, the ocean at night and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s does the trick.