It all began with a squirrel and a hammerhead shark. This unlikely animal pairing is the cornerstone of the Vinca jewelry catalog, the brainchild of Austin-based designer Amanda Dimova.
Dimova creates laser-cut jewelry out of wood, acrylic, and leather. Her designs range from adorable neon hedgehog rings to downright strange Sriracha sauce earrings and necklaces adorned with French expletives. She is also currently working on custom designs for Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Vinca’s products are carried in various boutiques around town. Lauren Bianchi, who owns SparkleKids: Upscale Resale, has watched Dimova and her designs blossom over the past few years.
“She’s a real go-getter,” Bianchi said. “She’s always at shows and always working to get her stuff in stores.”
Vinca started in 2006 while Dimova was attending UT. With a small catalog of designs in hand, she soon realized getting her line into stores wouldn’t be easy.
“I took it to stores trying to get customers and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Dimova said. “I thought you just go and people order, but no — they have to like it. So that was an obstacle that I realized I’d have to figure out what the customer wants and then make it.”
Dimova said she tried designing to popular trends at first, but soon found that wasn’t quite laser-cutting it. It turns out customers prefer Dimova’s quirky sensibilities to following fads.
“I decided I’m just going to make what I really, really like, and I made the squirrel hair clip and the hammerhead shark hair clip and I actually got orders for that,” Dimova said.
One of the first stores to pick up Vinca was Blue Elephant, a boutique on North Lamar Boulevard.
“At the time, Vinca was the first jewelry line out there using their laser-cut technology to create jewelry pieces out of acrylic and wood,” said Rachel McKee, store manager and buyer for Blue Elephant. “I liked it so much for the store because it was an original creation concept, but was also really cheeky and funny … [the pieces] mix really well with a more conservative look and add that element of edge.”
Dimova left UT in 2007 after her first daughter was born and went on to work for her parents’ shoe company, putting her jewelry business on hold.
“I remember thinking in my head, ‘How many thousands of pieces do I have to sell a month to actually make it worth my time?’ And so I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to put the jewelry behind me … I’ve got to raise my family,’” Dimova said.
After the shoe business slowed down in 2011, Dimova decided it was time to go back to school just before Vinca gained momentum. At the same time, Fab, an online shopping website, began carrying her designs and built a wholesale customer base for the company.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I started school again and then business is picking up, so do I keep going with school, or do I focus on the business?’” Dimova said. “So I just balanced it to where I would pass my classes and get stuff shipped on time. Those were my goals, and it worked out even though I was late on a couple shipments and maybe I didn’t make such good grades, but I got it all taken care of. So it worked out.”
While orders flooded in, Dimova couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that her line was finally off the ground.
“I remember one of the first orders I got from Fab that was really big was 400 pairs of diamond earrings,” Dimova said. “I just sat on the picnic table outside for a couple hours and I should have been doing my homework at the time but I was like, this is making me money, this is awesome, I can’t believe it.”
This past year has brought Dimova far from peddling her animal kingdom odd-couple from store to store. It’s only a matter of time before Vinca takes over all of our jewelry boxes.