Ones to watch: Vincent Lai, Skinny Vinny

by Harry Sheff

By Harry Sheff and William Buckley

Brooklyn native Vincent Lai was between industrial design jobs when some sample bags he made as an experiment took off. “I wanted to combine my product design education with the soft goods and pattern-making knowledge I gained growing up in a garment factory,” Lai explains. “I felt that bags were the perfect marriage between the two.”

Vincent LaiLai didn’t intend to start his own company — at least not when he did, back in 2008. “It was not planned,” he recalls. “I always knew I would start something up, but not this soon in my career. As I was looking for a new job, I had some sketches and ideas for bags collected in my sketchbook through the years. I made some samples just to get it out of my head. I sent some photos to my friends and they forwarded it to other friends and out of the blue, a blog picked it up and then another blog and another. I started to get some orders and I thought, hmm…maybe I’ll see where this will take me. I suspended my job search, and have been doing Skinny Vinny ever since.”

The Skinny Vinny collection currently consists of bags ($58 to $195 retail) and ties ($50 to $90 retail), all made in Brooklyn.

What’s next? “We’re working on a line of tech bags,” says Lai. “We have been primarily working with canvas and are now going to do a line of nylon bags so they’ll be more weather-proof. It’s still in the development phase and will need to go through some product testing to get them to the functionality level where we want them. It’s geared toward the commuter or the weekend adventurer.”