By Nikki Gamer/Danvers Herald Correspondent
Wed Oct 08, 2008, 02:31 PM EDT
She’s only 24 years old, but Danvers High School graduate Lori DiVincenzo has already had a variety of life experience. She’s been a make-up artist, a singer, and now she’s taking on the world of fashion. The designer, seamstress, and small business owner recently launched two lines of clothing, which she sells online and through boutiques. From London to California, DiVincenzo’s clothing is catching on. Her style is a mix of high fashion “couture” and everyday wear.
Q: First off, I understand you are working out of your parent’s house where you grew up. Describe your day from start to finish.
A: I wake up, get on my computer, check for any sales, answer any e-mails. If I have to edit pictures or list anything, I’ll do that after I wake up, and then I’ll come down here if I have any orders to fill, and start working on those. If I’m just going to be designing, then I’ll do that. I usually take a break after a couple of hours, and go back to the computer, check more e-mails, list more things, and come back and start sewing again. I usually do that from about noon until about 5 a.m., depending on how much I have to do. It’s very time consuming when you have to hand make everything, and do everything yourself.
Q: Tell me about how you got started.
A: Well, I started making clothing in high school. I wore all the things I made in high school to school. I made all my prom dresses and then I made my friend’s formal dresses. This wasn’t really part of my plan, but I was a make-up artist and then I had to stop working because of health reasons. I couldn’t work anywhere, so I had to think up something to do from home. I started an eBay store where I sold people’s designs. Then I started putting my own designs in the store, and people bought them.
A: When I was 19, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, so I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t drive, I lost my license for 10 months, and the medication is rough, so I had really bad side effects. I was sleeping all the time and I couldn’t do anything. I had to figure out what I was going to do at 19 without being able to work, and that’s when I started working on eBay; it kind of just took off from there.
A: I haven’t had a seizure in about two years. I take my medication three times a day. It still affects me, where I can’t do the things I would want to do, like travel, and that fun stuff that fashion designers are supposed to do. But, it doesn’t affect how I work because I make my own schedule.
A: I designed a hoodie that I’ll probably be introducing within the next year. I got a patent on it, so that was one of the things I was selling in the eBay store. A lot of people really liked it. Then I opened an ETSY store. ETSY’s a Web site like eBay, but it’s only for handmade and vintage-like stuff. You put your items on it for sale. It’s very easy.
Q: How did you learn how to do all that?
A: I didn’t. I had enough time on my hands so I just taught myself. EBay was very easy. ETSY is awesome. It’s where I sell most of my stuff and the fees are very, very low.
A: Nobody else on the Internet knows about me. Only my customers from ETSY know about me; I don’t do any other kind of promotion or anything. I have MySpace and Facebook, but other than that I don’t have a Web site yet; that’s in the works. Most of the marketing I do is word of mouth.
A: Pretty much since I can remember. I can’t draw at all, but I was always doodling pictures of clothes. My grandmother made all of her own clothing and all of my mother’s and my aunt’s clothing. I guess I just inherited it from her. So pretty much it was always kind of part of my life.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration? Do you watch the popular reality TV show Project Runway?
A: Well, I’ve never actually seen the show Project Runway. I never look at any runways or anything. I don’t want to get influenced at all. I want everything I do to be completely original. I try not to look at anybody else’s stuff. With Project Runway, everyone’s like ‘You should try out!’ I don’t want to try out, because you have to do what they tell you to do, and I don’t like that.
A: I guess it depends on what I’m designing for. I already design for some stores in California, so I guess if I was making clothing for them I would be just basing it on the style in California. It also depends on the collection. I have a higher-end collection, which is called VC20, and my casual collection, which is called Venni Caprice. VC20 is a little avant-garde. The casual collection is pretty much for anybody, anywhere. I do a lot of hoodies, a lot of personal pieces that you can wear different ways.
A: Venni is kind of like a combination of my name. My last name is “Cenzo.” My dad’s name is Vinni. My first name is Lori. I threw it all together and we got Venni.
Q: Who besides you runs your business?
A: Everybody! My parents, my friend Jon, my friends… everybody’s been a really big help. My parents are really supportive. They gave me their living room, their porch and my bedroom. I’ve taken over the house with fabric. Whenever I need it, my friends come to all of my shows. So everyone is part of this business as of right now.
A: Getting into regular stores has been really cool. I sell to about seven or eight different stores. I sell in London. I’m working with somebody in Canada right now. I’ve only been doing this for a year and a half, so it’s been really cool to see boutique owners who have said, ‘We really want to see your stuff!’
A: Yeah. This fell into my life. I didn’t really have a choice. I knew how to sew prior to getting sick. I think home economics really helped. I’m not even kidding. The first thing I made was a pillow and I was like, “I really like sewing!” So, I just stuck with it.
Q: Has there been a time in the last two years when you’ve wanted to quit?
A: No, never. I really love what I do. For getting epilepsy and not being able to pursue singing, and having put that dream aside, I’ve never actually had to complain about what I do because even though I didn’t get to go for what I’ve wanted to go for, it’s been an awesome back-up plan. It’s like a hobby that I’m able to do full time.
A: The hardest part of doing this is that I have to do everything on my own with my own two hands. I have to list everything, I have to take pictures, I have to edit the pictures. I have to cut out fabric, sew the fabric, iron, put on labels, design labels. So it’s difficult. But it’s rewarding to see people really happy with what you’ve made
A: It makes me really happy to hear that somebody that I made something for was really appreciative of it, and it fit them well. Hearing that it fit them well is like the best thing ever. When a customer writes back and says, “It fit me.” I’m like “YES!” It’s really exciting! I made it and they like it!
A: I’ve always been a big, huge dreamer. I’ve never wanted to settle for an office job, and I’ve never wanted to settle for anything less than ridiculously awesome. I really want to be a household brand name where it’s known for good quality and really good designing. I don’t want to be super rich. I just want to be successful. I want to take care of my family, and to have a solid company with longevity. I don’t want to fade.
You can check out DiVincenzo’s designs locally at Newbury Street in Boston at OAK Boston Boutique, or go to any one of her numerous Web sites: www.VenniCaprice.com, www.VC2o.Etsy.com to name two.