Named after classic Hollywood star Lauren Bacall, but designed for today.
Before L.A. fashion phenoms Rodarte, Clare Vivier and Toms shoes, there was Cynthia Vincent. In a town where designers can come and go, she has been a career player. She attended L.A.'s Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, winning the Silver Thimble Award while she was there. She had her own retail store, Aero & Co. in Los Feliz, featuring local independent designers in the 1990s before everyone had “discovered” L.A. She was the founding creative director of contemporary label Vince, and has had two boho clothing labels of her own: St. Vincent, and until two years ago, Twelfth Street, beloved by Gwyneth Paltrow, Miley Cyrus, Jessica Simpson and more in its early 2010s heyday.
Now, 25 years after starting, she’s reinventing again, launching Baacal today to cater to the long-neglected plus-size shopper, sizes 10 to 22, which has just started to get attention thanks to L.A.-based online retailer 11Honore; expanded size offerings from American runway designers Christian Siriano, Prabal Gurung, Brandon Maxwell and others; and new labels such as Vincent's, Universal Standard and more.
“Honestly, I used to be a size 10, now I’m a 12/14, and I had some pretty high-powered meetings for work where literally, I could not find anything to wear,” says Vincent. “I probably had 500 to 600 boxes come to my house. I tried on everything. If the quality was nice, the fit was off. By the time I was done, I didn’t feel good at all. I knew it wasn’t me, it was the clothes."
Named after rule breaker Lauren Bacall, new label Baacal has a simple mission: “Women of all sizes deserve beautiful clothes.”
The designer is offering limited-edition, monthly drops of wardrobe workhorses. For holiday, that includes pull-on, pajama-style pants, a pajama shirt and structured, elongated coats. “I’m all about the third layer,” she says. “It replaces your cardigan. And by adding structure, you feel better, because it’s flattering to all body types.”
Going forward, each style will be offered in a variety of prints and fabrications, which brings Vincent to the other pillar of her new business: Bacaal is 80 percent sustainable, using existing and vintage fabric stock, and cutting down on supply chain waste.
“For just a small example, when a cutter does a pattern, he rolls it up and puts it in a plastic bag to transport to sewers. I needed to rethink this, because that bag is only used once. So I purchased multi-use bags. We have to think differently, even if it’s just one step.”
It’s her daughter Theanna, 12, who made her realize that any path forward in the fashion industry had to be more sustainable, she says. “She made me commit to it. After she did a project about polyester, she educated me about how bad it is, for one thing. I never realized that it never stops going into the water, no matter how many times you wash it, it continues to leech and flake."
“For me, ultimate sustainability is that you don’t throw it away, that it’s the opposite of landfill fast fashion,” she says, stressing that she wants to make pieces to last. “That’s the best compliment if someone holds onto my garment.”
Prices range from $95 to $795 and the sales model is direct-to-consumer, reflecting a change in the way fashion is doing business, she says. “This is something I wanted to do 10 years ago, but the model didn’t allow for it. I had to rely on retail stores, which only bought small sizes, even though I knew the number one size selling out was 10. I love that technology has fueled this and that now fashion is about being accepted for who you are.”