What is Success Clothing and where does it come from?
Whats’up everyone, my name is Vinny Success, and I am the founder of this brand. I’ll take about 5 minutes of your time to tell you more about me. My family left Vietnam during the war and came to Montreal during the 70’s, and they found a new home in Côte-des-Neiges. They came here with the American Dream in mind, because it was a new beginning, with new opportunities. We didn’t have much growing up, all my uncles and aunts were busy studying, working 2 jobs or more. My dad used to deliver pizzas, work at the gas station and study at the same time. My family always told me that hard work is the key to Success, and it always stuck in my head. We didn’t have much but we had love and dreams. So I was born in 1986 and grew up as a regular kid from the 90’s. Everything was so much simpler back then! I was just a nerdy chubby kid, reading mangas, and people at school loved to make fun of me. There was this one particular kid who enjoyed pushing me in the wall, and emptying my backpack on the ground. I guess we can call that a bully, I don’t know, probably. Years after years, this thing kept going on, all this anger inside was like a burning fire. And then one day, my dad was driving across from our local skateshop, and I asked him to buy me a skateboard. And that thing changed my life forever. It taught me to be confident, I started to listen to punk rock, and that inner burning fire finally had a way to come out. A few months later, I went back to see the guy who was bullying me all this time, and I made him pay for all those years of bullying. It felt so fucking great, you have no idea. That’s when I realized that skateboarding was a confidence booster, and the energy from punk rock helped me channel my anger into something else. Skateboarding also showed me that perseverance was a great tool to achieve goals, and to always get back up after each fall. I was still in 6th grade by that time. So I started high school for the first time the year after. It was my chance to start over a new life, a new me. I’ll never let anyone fuck with me again. So I shaved my head for the first day of class, and came in with my skateboard. This way I’ll show everyone that nobody can treat me like shit. And it worked, there was no more than 20 skaters in the entire school. So if you grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s you will remember how segmented the kids were. You were either a skater who’s into punk rock, or you were one of those preppy guys or jocks who were into hip-hop. We used to have these Fresh vs Hesh fights at school all the time. Just because. Don’t ask me why, it was like that, how stupid were we. Skaters hated the basketball players, and they hated us too. Skaters were wearing brands like Vans and Thrasher, and they wearing brands like Nike and Sean John. But I had a huge problem : I was a skater who started listening to hip-hop, and I also loved Nike and those urban brands at the time. Whenever there was a fight, I didn’t know which side to pick! It’s hard to explain, because nowadays, everything is blended together. Every culture can co-exist, sometimes overlap, but it wasn’t like that back then. With that whole teenager crisis going on in my life, I started drawing a lot, and got into graffiti. It was the perfect blend of art and rebellion. I loved the art of lettering, the adrenaline of running from cops, I started to appreciate the visual aesthetics of things. So when I graduated from high school, I decided to apply at Dawson College in graphic design. But they declined me, and gave me 18% for my portfolio. What a shame! I felt so insulted and discouraged, but I wasn’t gonna let this break me. I ended up going at Ahuntsic College in the same graphic design program, but at the other end of the city. It ended up being a blessing! I never liked school until now, and doing graphic designs all day made me love school for the first time. That’s when I knew this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. 3 years went by, and I graduate from Ahuntsic with a degree in Graphic Design. I decide to apply to the UQÀM school of design, which is pretty much the best in the country. Again, they declined me and gave me 8% for my portfolio. What the fuck? How insulting again. So no choice, I’ll take my second choice, and ended up graduating with a baccalaureate from a communication program with a specialization in interactive medias. So while I was studying there, I was doing website designs for random clients. To thank them for their business, I printed this t-shirt that I would give them once the project was paid and complete. It was a t-shirt with a pair of sneaker hanging from the neck, and it was written “Swagged Up” underneath. I made 35 of these shirts, in 5 color ways, for each day of the week to wear at school. Funny enough, nobody called me for web designs. But one day, I got this phone call from this guy Vic. He had a store downtown called Fly Society, and wanted to put some of these shirts on consignment to sell. These shirts were meant to be for my clients, not sold in store. But hey, why not give it a try. And the response was amazing, we were selling very well at the time. That’s when I understood that maybe I could start a t-shirt line? Why bother with web designs, it felt so much nicer to see people wearing my design in the street! So I took some time off, to think about what I wanted to do with this. It took me about a year of brainstorming, and one day I found it. I thought about us growing up with not much, and thought that Success was a good name because it was what our family wanted when they came to America. Everyone wants to succeed, that’s the whole point of the American Dream. Okay great, I have the name, now what kind of clothes should I do? And again, I went back to my high school days. Remember when I said I had a problem, because I was a skater who liked hip-hop? Voilà. This is what was missing back then : a clothing line for the kid I used to be. A hybrid brand for different cultures, to break the old school segmented clothing industry. And it became my mission, to create the brand I wished was available when I was in high school. I didn’t want to wear hardcore skate hoodies, but I didn’t want to wear the super baggy urban clothes either. I needed to create something in-between that will speak to both crowds, and of course, push positivity and the entire concept of Success through very cool graphics. And that was in February 2008. I dropped this first t-shirt called “Luxuries from the Eighties” and designed all these things I wanted when I was a kid, like a Sony walkman sport in yellow, the very cool square Mac computer, the gigantic brick first cellphone, etc. I sold all my DJ equipment to get around 1000$ and started my first run of Success tees. I made about 60 tees this time. Now I had to have a photoshoot to get people’s attention. I was a nobody, didn’t know anyone, but I had some friends who had cameras and knew how to film and take pics. So I asked my friend Alexandru to take pics for me, my homie Cristobal to film the shoot, his girlfriend at the time Abby to do the makeup. And since I didn’t have any models, I asked this cute girl in my class Brigitte if she would be down to pose with me. I rented this empty place where they give dance lessons, and we shot our first ever Success photoshoot there. How fucking crazy is it to think that I did all this for just one shirt? I didn’t even know if there was going to be a second shirt after that honestly. It’s been exactly 10 years since that shoot, and I’ve been doing nothing else but work on the brand since. Never had a job since, and woke up every single morning happier than the day before. I am not even sure why I am writing this long ass text to talk about my story. Maybe because Facebook made this section and asked me to tell “a bit more” about the story behind the brand. Maybe it’s too much, because it certainly isn’t just a bit more. But I hope that it will help you to understand the motivation behind my work and my brand. Maybe it will help you focus on your own dream also, I would love it. My story was full of failures, but I stayed focused and kept going in the right direction. Never give up, dreams don’t work unless you do. Thanks for reading me, and feel free to tell me a bit about you and your story in the comments section. -Vinny Success
Before you got into fashion you were a Dj. What made you want to switch?
For the most part, I was always confused about what I wanted to do in life. I was really into music and I was really into visuals. During my high-school years I spent most of my time doing graffiti, scratching and making beats. At some point I had to make a choice to either go into graphic design or sound engineering, I just followed my instincts and figured that since I was drawing before I started to make music I would keep music as a hobby and do visuals full-time. Seeing as I didn’t really have any money at the time, I sold my Dj equipment to start my first t-shirt run.
As your brand grows, how do you plan on making sure it doesn’t become played-out?
It’s definitely hard. You don’t get to decide when it becomes played out or not, the people do. For some people, Success is really corny and for some it’s just the brand that they’ve been looking for. I just make sure to stick to my recipe. It’s like making a cake, the cake itself always stays the same but at the end of each season I add a different topping.
What would you say people like most about “Success”?
Aside from the clothes itself, I think a lot of people like my story. People that know where I come from, how I started and how little I had 10 years ago. They’ve seen me start from nothing and know they can make it too. They also relate to the whole concept and state of mind behind the brand, because Success is a universal concept. No one wants to be a failure, everyone wants to Succeed, right?
What’s your favourite piece from the new collection?
The “Exploration Vest” is my favourite piece of all time. It’s where I wanted to be a few years ago and I finally made it. It’s something that the older crowd can definitely appreciate. I’ve always wanted to be more than a graphic tees brand, and thanks to my factory, I can now design pieces that have more style, technology and research behind it.
Name a few brands that you’d like to collaborate with in the future.
There are few brands that I really look up to. My preference right now would be Diamond Supply Co. I met the owner, Nick Diamond a few weeks ago and it gave me a lot of motivation. Our recipes are pretty similar, we both stay true to our mottos. Other then that, I really look up to designers like Ralph Lauren, I’d love to work with him one day. He’s the real definition of self-made, self-paid, American Dream.