In 2013, soprano Suzanne Vinnik was contacted by a fellow soprano who was looking for a way to de-clutter her closet and get rid of some gowns that she had already worn for previous concerts. Suzanne had experienced the same struggle with her over-stuffed closet in her one bedroom apartment in New York City. As a true fashion-forward diva with a love for all things stylish, Suzanne knew firsthand the realities of needing to look your best when performing onstage. In an age when every event is photographed, she knew it was important to vary her performance wear. This professional expense often resulted in very expensive shopping bills. To compound this issue, closet space in major metropolitan areas is at a premium; most New York City closets do not allow for the high volume of clothes that a performing artist needs at any given time.
Suzanne decided to create a small private Facebook group called the Opera Diva Dress Collection, and invited a dozen fellow singers to join the group so they could trade, buy, sell, and rent gowns from each other. During the first week of the group, Suzanne sold and rented several gowns from her personal closet. Her own investments in style and fashion began helping her pay for expenses in between performing opportunities. Suzanne reached out to other performing arts organizations and web developers about the idea of creating a peer-to-peer website where this group could operate, but was told that the scope of work and development price would be prohibitive.
In 2015, the Facebook group had grown from a small group of friends to a large and vibrant community. Suzanne revisited the idea of starting a website, and at the advice of a friend who was a singer-turned-entrepreneur, she applied and was accepted into a business mentorship program. Mentors in the program would often refer Suzanne to other people they knew who were experts in different areas of tech and business. They taught the diva legalities, strategy, wireframes, pitch decks, and everything in between. Suzanne quickly realized that she could cut a lot of costs by doing things herself, and accumulated several new skills which she’s since been able to impart onto other divas starting their own businesses. One of her greatest investments of time and education was in photography, which began out of the necessity to take photos of merchandise and create visually appealing content.
In early 2016, Suzanne was introduced to soprano Sara Duchovnay by her best friend, heldentenor Clay Hilley. The pair of sopranos quickly connected over their love of fashion and their deep desire to be financially secure while pursuing their operatic careers. Sara understood the worlds of opera and fashion. For several years she had operated a successful clothing resale business on a different platform, but longed for a way to interface with her clients on a more personal level. By the end of the night, Suzanne knew that Sara was the ideal business partner to transition this social media community into a reputable business. Sara had the knowledge of fashion brands, unique perspective, confidence, calm focus, compassion for others, and general “chutzpah” that made her the ideal business partner. While they were not friends when they went into business together, the pair of divas have become an inseparable duo who are frequently invited to speak, give interviews, appear in international fashion spreads, and publish articles together on topics such as entrepreneurship in classical music, fashion trends, body positivity, and the issues that women face in the opera world.
On September 12, 2017, after a summer of around the clock work, Shoperatic.com was launched. Two sopranos helped Suzanne and Sara bring this dream to fruition. Errin Hatter, who is now the manager of operations, temporarily moved to New York City to help with day-to-day operations, while “Techie Diva” Maya Kherani developed the site through the beta-testing phase between rehearsals and performances.Within just three months of operation, this peer-to-peer marketplace facilitated over $100,000 in gross transactions and has put over $265,000 into the pockets of divas in under a year. Shoperatic LLC operates as an altruistic business, and its core values will always be dedicated to embracing the collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit of the performing arts community. Shoperatic LLC will continue to facilitate individuals leveraging the value of their pre-existing industry-related goods and services and act as a centralized location for discussions, content, and other related offerings today’s performing artist needs to succeed.
With Vibrato, Legato, & Love
Gowns provided by Tosca New York
Photography: Mati Bardosh-Gelman
Makeup: Kelly Smith Slawson
Hair: Olivia McKeldin