Do you also find yourself needing a pair of penny loafers for your wardrobe? The it-shoes of the moment might owe some of the success to Virgil Nicholas. Last year, he launched the footwear company, Vinny’s, which focuses exclusively on the classic leather shoe. But Nicholas’ style has long been a favorite with the fashion crowd. Back in 2009, he started the blog Superbial, which became his introduction into a business he discovered he had talent for. The ambition of the law degree was dumped in favor of a career as fashion designer and brand consultant. A decade worth of projects in the portfolio later, the young entrepreneur is still treading an unknown path, but one thing is for certain: as long as he has got stories to tell, the journey continues.
What’s important to you when creating a home?
There are always candles in my home. It gives an atmosphere whether it be a scented candle in the kitchen, candles in a holder, or incense, it just gives a feeling of calm. And then carpets, a daybed and armchair are important elements. Everything that makes you want to put your feet up and relax. That’s what I need when I come home. It’s important to me to make my home a base more than just a place I sleep.
Are you passionate about design and interior?
Within the last year, I have started to look closer into what I really want in my home. But first and foremost, it has been about what I like and what creates the right atmosphere. There has to be a balance between brands and something more down to earth. One of my most precious possessions is a carpet I bought in Marrakesh many years ago. It is very colorful and a bit quirky but it gives a nice contrast in any setting. I like to break the nordic minimalism a bit.
What do you dream of adding to your home?
I wish things would be a little more stored away. It’s definitely a consequence of having a child, everything can’t be hidden away. But I would like a better system. Something that’s practical where you can put things aways but also take them out easily. Aesthetics are very important to me and I could definitely use some tools to strengthen that in my home.
What or who inspires you most at the moment?
There is a designer from New York called Kerby Jean-Raymond, who has the brand Pyer Moss. He is fantastic. He is really true to himself and exceptional at developing his craft and collections while telling stories through his work and with his creations. I really admire that. To me, it’s extremely important to contribute something genuine to the world. If you don’t have a story or something to offer then the product becomes irrelevant.
What’s your ambition with Vinny’s?
With Vinny’s, I aim to inspire self-respect and empowerment. I believe the loafer is a product that makes you stand up tall and feel pulled together regardless of what else you are wearing. And I believe that when you feel pulled together you take yourself more seriously, and hopefully, also have more respect and recognition for other people. We are launching what we call Vinny’s Readers Club soon, which is something I have wanted to do for a while, where we will be talking about literature. It is basically about immersing yourself in something other than your phone and the online world. I value being able to contribute with more than simply shoes and fashion.
Why did you choose to focus on penny loafers?
The long version of the story is that I had worked in the industry for ten years, and after having worked for a sneakers brand, I needed to find out whether I should start my own brand again or change business and do something completely different. Then one day I visited my parents with my son where we looked at old pictures from when my brothers and I were kids. Previously, I have always looked at the clothes we were wearing, but this time I looked at our shoes – perhaps because I had just worked with sneakers – and I could see that it was all leather shoes and penny loafers in most of the pictures. It made me realise that through my history of collecting shoes and especially sneakers, I have always had one pair of penny loafers that I have worn to pieces before buying new ones. So it just made sense that was what I should be making.
What is your idea of success?
I have done a lot of different projects but I haven’t necessarily seen them as successes. I have mostly seen them as stepping stones on a path I didn’t know where was headed. It has been fun to start different brands, selling them off, starting new concepts, watching ideas being implemented, and getting recognition from others. But to me, the idea of success is the feeling of making it. I think the first time where I really had that feeling was when we sold 200 loafers in three weeks in Denmark. That was crazy. I initially had an expectation that Vinny’s would be a side project where I could be completely uncompromising about everything, so it was a massive success seeing how fast the sale went in a country that is conservative and a bit boring. I feel like all the things I have done in the last decade accumulated into my decision to continue a project, that I didn’t know where would end, in the beginning of a pandemic. When you are the breadwinner in your family, it’s a very big decision to go for the unknown. I knew I could make clothes but shoes I had no idea of how to make. I just knew I had to do something where I had complete control of the process. And I have succeeded with it.
What has it been like starting a brand during a pandemic?
It has been fun but challenging at the same time. Creating Vinny’s has been like a new education for me. But especially because we have been in a pandemic, I have had the ambition that we must succeed. I wanted to inspire people to not give up even though it is difficult and production can’t follow, goods are delayed, and suppliers are potentially closing. It might sound cheesy, but I believe good energy and faith will take you far. And hard work, of course. So for me, it’s been fuel on the fire being in a pandemic. If we can make it during that, then I believe we can make it on the other side as well.
Has corona made you realise anything you are afraid of?
When I was little my dad told me there were many things he hadn’t been able to experience in his childhood, and it was important for him to create a life for his children where we could achieve all the dreams we had. He told us that we should avoid being in situations where we would regret not having done something we wanted to. And that has stuck with me ever since, which is why I have aimed to seize every opportunity and not waste any time. It has been funny to see how corona has been an eye-opener for many. People made crazy decisions because they have realised that they only live once so they need to make the most of it. But that’s how I feel every day.
What’s your personal relationship to fashion?
For many years, fashion was very important to me. I would wear the latest collections and most renowned designers. But as I have gotten older, I am more concerned about keeping my style and choices simple. The essence of my wardrobe has gone from being very current to becoming more timeless. Fashion is less important to me than style is. And style is as timeless as it gets, so that is what I care about. I still love following the fashion scene as it is my job and my passion, but I enjoy having a distance to it now, where I can follow it but I am not addicted to it in the same way I used to be.
What is something you do to relax?
A few times a month I go to church. I was raised Catholic so church is a place of solace for me where I can press pause. It is also meditative for me to just sit at a bench and stare into the air. The best way for me to get a break is peace and quiet. Not reading or watching television, but just checking out completely.
What do you love most about Copenhagen?
That’s a hard question when you live in the world’s greatest city. It’s amazing that we have easy access to everything the heart desires. You can walk from the Catholic cathedral and five minutter after jump in water by the harbour, and then you can go get a glass of wine straight after. There are so many opportunities. It is the feeling of being in a metropolitan city while things are still intimate and there isn’t far from one friend to the next – we are very lucky.