“It is all about empowerment – with our products we want to be able to deliver a new level of confidence and self-respect in people. With VINNY’s we want to be able to lift people to a new level when they put on our loafers.”
Virgil founded VINNY’s with a passion for being a gentleman while still being able to blend into the streets. His heritage brought him to where he is today and you will be able to read his interesting story and journey.
WHAT HAVE YOU PREVIOUSLY BEEN WORKING WITH?
Virgil started blogging already back in 2008. He wanted to create a Danish equivalent to the popular fashion blogs such as Hypebeast. At that time Instagram was not a thing, Facebook was just starting to get popular and not everyone owned a blog and was micro-influencing on all social media channels possible. At that time there was no real place to go to, to find that inspiration. Virgil thought he knew a thing or two about fashion already then and he wanted to give some of his knowledge and insights back to the young people of his own age. What he did not know or expect was that the Superbial blog would turn into such a huge success!
BLOGGING AND BEING THE FIRST MOVER
After some time blogging, Superbial had really gotten the attention of all the ‘right’ people out in the Danish fashion, lifestyle and music industry. It was now a thing. Suddenly Superbial were hosting big fashion parties, they were invited to all the big parties, they were being asked to launch new brands and artists, they were the first Danish blog to write about the famous artist The Weekend and got the chance to release the Danish Mø artist. They slowly transformed into becoming a consultant agency offering their services as everyone wanted whatever they were doing or selling. The consultancy agency turned into a great success and was active for a couple of years. Virgil’s lust for writing and sharing insights about fashion and lifestyle was not to end just yet. Denmark’s largest fashion magazine, Euroman, wanted Virgil to start writing for them. So around the year 2010 Virgil continued his writing and “blogging” for the Euroman universe. It is not a full-time job, but something Virgil enjoys doing while figuring out what he actually wants to do. As per his legacy and heritage, Virgil had considering studying law at the University of Copenhagen and hence he got a student job that same year at Kammeradvokaten, one of the biggest law firms in Denmark. He wanted to study law since the age of 8 as he always wanted to be the man of the people. He wanted to help others and do what is right for the greater good of people and society.
But reality stuck him with the direct insight into the hard life of being a top lawyer. Virgil, now in his early 20’ties, could see that you gave a lot of your free time and energy to the job. You basically were the ‘job’ and it was you, and your life. There was really not any time for anything else. Virgil strongly believes that you need to do things that make you happy. With this strong belief in mind, Virgil knew that he shouldn’t be a lawyer but needed to find a different way to become the man of the people.
Around this time Virgil is playing around producing his own t-shirts for himself. He created a t-shirt, which fitted him, and had his intended quality and style. He was frequently wearing them as those t-shirts simply were more pleasant to be wearing on many levels compared to what he could buy in normal shops. Virgil didn’t think he would actually start a new brand and had no idea what was soon going to become one of Denmark’s largest brand stories. His good friend, Andreas, had noticed Virgil wearing these t-shirts a couple of times and asked him what this was all about. Virgil jigged about and said it was only for himself to be wearing. But Andreas wanted to challenge this idea and convinced Virgil to start a brand with him and create their own clothes. Clothes as they thought clothes should be, with high quality and with fantastic fitting. The two guys turned into a strong match. With not more than an idea and a t-shirt the two guys, Andreas von der Heide and Virgil Nicholas, founded what is today known as Les Deux – referring to those two guys. The brand should represent daring to do something, which is not written in the stars. Dare to actually say yes and do stuff. Just like Virgil and Andreas turned out to do. In the meanwhile, the two guys are studying. Virgil has realized what he was good at and what he loved doing – marketing, branding, story-telling. And so he was admitted to Copenhagen Business School to study exactly that. It is a fine balance for the two guys studying at the same time as being entrepreneurs. The brand is growing and placing itself as a strong brand in the Danish fashion scene. Virgil can utilize his knowledge and network from his time with Superbial. He was able to send merch and clothes to all the hot celebrities in Denmark and make them wear and show their brand. Basically, this was a very early celebrity marketing campaign before everyone were using bloggers, celebs and influencers to create a new brand. Everything was taking place on venues, at events, and the hype was created on blogs and somewhat Facebook. They were attending and hosting fashion parties and driving around in cars with Les Deux on the sides picking up people to participate in their parties. Things are going fast, very fast. Maybe a bit too fast. It is certainly the life in the fast lane with parties, fashion weeks, celebrities and fame.
Virgil looks towards himself and comes to the conclusion that he needs to take a break. Virgil decides to work with himself and learn more about who he is and what he wants. He takes a quite ordinary job as a Sales Agent in Gant Rugger while studying for his Bachelor’s degree at CBS. Here he learns, first hand, about menswear and how a man thinks fashion. What makes a man buy certain things and position something as being fashionable. This job gave him a strong insight into all the mechanisms behind a strong brand and customer-centric fashion. Virgil evolves into having more and more responsibility for marketing and sales, and together with his colleague, Mads, they expand their wholesale business even further. Virgil ends up as Brand Manager for Gant Rugger with a strong insight and a proven track record of being able to build a well-positioned brand in a short time, once again.
Virgil decides to create his own consultancy firm as people were still picking his shoulder with the memory of what he did at Superbial and knew he had created Les Deux. They wanted him to create a success for them as well, so he named his company Courtesy De V, and it went off. He styled the most popular music artists in Denmark before going on the stage or presenting at national TV. He worked with the people on how to turn them into fashion and style icons. But his new agency did also work with classical PR, ambassador / early influencer strategies and marketing. Virgil has been running this agency on and off for the past many years until now. What he noticed was that people always wanted to have the same recipe of success, they never dared to try something new. Even when Virgil came up with great new ideas. This both bored and frustrated Virgil it was always the same over and over again. Hence, he started working a bit more with strategic communication through Courtesy De V.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA OF STARTING YOUR OWN COMPANY?
The mother of Virgil’s boy, Vincent-Laurent, got pregnant and Virgil wanted to make sure he could spend time with his new family and take care of them. In that year between 2017-2018 he worked for the Danish international fashion success, NN07, followed by one year at Arkk as Brand Director. After one year at Arkk he stopped and was now without a job and considered either get a very corporate job within the field of branding or marketing or finish a Master’s Degree at Copenhagen Business School. It ended up being none of the above outcomes.
One day when visiting his parents, they were looking at old pictures from their childhood and Virgil noticed that they were always leather shoes. It didn’t matter if they were playing around or going to church, they were wearing leather shoes at all times, Virgil recalls. As browsing through the pictures he could see all kinds of Derby or loafers on their small feet and then he knew! “This is what I’m going to do, this is what I will be making”. And on that very day, he decided to create Vinny’s. With the idea of creating a modern yet traditional leather shoe and make the loafer a piece of every man’s cloakroom just like the suit.
WHAT IS THE VISION YOU HAVE FOR YOUR PRODUCTS?
It is all about empowerment – the confidence and self-respect in people. Virgil wants to be able to lift people when they put on a loafer from Vinny’s. You feel like being a better person, even stronger, more satisfied, more positive and more holistic when putting on a loafer. Think about it like putting on a suit. These are also some of the feelings that are triggered when you are putting on a suit. Somebody or someone needs to be a front mover and Vinny’s was one of the first brands in Denmark to introduce the loafer. Suddenly you feel what it is like to put on a nice piece of leather shoes.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST MILESTONE YOU REACHED?
The amazing support was without doubt the most impressive milestone to reach. To experience this support and feedback on my product throughout the entire country of Denmark was stunning. In the beginning, Virgil only had his product and that was it. He got 3 customers and they believed him all the way. Their belief in his product, the trust they gave and the support towards Virgil and his brand was without doubt the biggest milestone. They were sold out in only 3 weeks and then Virgil knew he needed to produce more than only 200 pairs next time. People were already talking and a hype was starting to be created around the products and the brand. Some of the early supporters still have their first pair and continue to love them to this very today.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS?
We definitely want to continue the organic growth journey that we are on right now with even more branding and great storytelling. We want to communicate our story and our universe. You need to get a feeling of the VINNY’s universe when you see our logo and buy our products. We will focus on our core markets and continue to focus on Denmark and the US. But it is important that we do things our way and in our tempo. Hence, to be able to build a brand, which has a strong foundation and will be part of the man’s wardrobe for the next 15 years and not just tomorrow.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT MARKETING?
We strongly believe in our brand so we want Vinny’s to be able to stand strong and independent on its own. We will never be a brand, which is dependent on influencers and others. We need to be independent in order to survive and create a strong legacy. Hence, all our marketing efforts will lie in strong conjunction with this. We want to continue our storytelling strategy and we need to continue delivering impressive and engaging content through pictures, visuals and words. We want to continue being the brand people talk about and get inspiration from and we can only maintain the status as such a brand by continuously delivering inspirational content to the market.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND OBSTACLES WITH YOUR NEW BRAND/COMPANY?
Definitely, time has been the biggest obstacle and the biggest challenge. There is always too little time when you are on your own acting as a one-man army while trying to be an entrepreneur, family dad and a good friend. Things have been above all expectations and went very fast lately, and therefore we need to make sure they don’t get out of hand. We need to be able to follow along and be in control.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 3 YEARS?
We want to position ourselves even stronger in our core markets e.g. Denmark, Norway and the US. Further, we want to look into projects and co-labs, which make our brand stronger and positions us where we want to be. We want to position ourselves and our raison d’être more than ever before. We want to make sure that things are moving on at our pace and that Vinny’s will become inevitable as a brand.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR NEW ENTREPRENEURS AND FOUNDERS?
You need to figure out what you can add to this world that is not here right now. There are a lot of t-shirt brands out there, so if you want to get success with this you need to have some kind of edge or change to the ordinary t-shirt – you need to stick out, right? In other words you need a raison d’etre. There is already enough pollution and overproduction going on in the world. You really need to be able to add value in this world otherwise you have a really hard time in front of you. Barriers to entry are lower than ever before, yes sure, but what is that you can bring to the table? Thousands of brand t-shirts die each year so you have to really sharp on your unique selling points. We have from the very start implemented a recycle policy of old leather and make our shoes last as long as possible with the right treatment, leather oil and the ability to change the sole once in a while. Also, we want to deliver an accessory to every day or extraordinary events – you will remember for the rest of your life exactly which shoes and what suit you were married in, right? It makes me so happy that people actually choose our shoes for one of the biggest days in their life. In my opinion this is truly when quality and love walks hand in hand.
“Traede has helped us optimize our time and improved our sales, B2B and B2C processes. Also, I have a way better overview of my business today than I had before.”
Virgil Nicholas, CEO and Founder of VINNY’S
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