Coming Home In Style
Bri Magnifico '08 returns to her hometown of Bennington, VT, to open up a shop with flair.
By Mary Brothers '22
Bri Magnifico ’08 never thought she would go to college in the same town she grew up in.
Despite being a proud Benningtonian, she was eager to explore other areas. Until, that is, her high school interest in Costume Design led her to look more seriously at the college that was right in her backyard.
“When I went to Bennington College and checked it out, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is actually amazing,” said Magnifico. “I sat in on a theater class with Dina Janis. I loved it so much, and I loved that Bennington was so different from other schools. I could create my own education. I could pursue all of the things I was interested in.”
The tight-knit feel of the College was also attractive to Magnifico—and its hometown location ended up working in Magnifico's favor.
“I love that Bennington is in this small community, and I loved that I could be home without being home,” said Magnifico.
During her time at the College, however, Magnifico noticed a divide between the Bennington students and the town of Bennington.
“I didn’t understand why people weren’t hanging out in downtown Bennington, since I knew there were cool things to do,” said Magnifico.
After graduating from Bennington, Magnifico relocated to Brooklyn, where she began working for fashion designer Adam Selman.
“I worked for Adam Selman for about five years, and we did all of Rhianna's costume—all of the red carpet looks and all of her music videos and tours,” said Magnifico.
Sarah Krinsky, Magnifico’s future business partner and co-creator of The W. Collective was also working in the design world in Brooklyn at that time. Eventually, the two crossed paths and became fast friends.
“When Sarah was working at Loopy Mango [a store in Brooklyn], Adam Selman came in to buy a ring for me, and Sarah sold it to him,” said Magnifico.
Thirteen years and one pandemic later, the time seemed right for Magnifico to move back home, especially when Krinsky asked her if she wanted to open up a store in Bennington together. Magnifico saw the opportunity as the perfect chance to “build a bridge” between the town and the College.
And The W. Collective was born. A retail, cafe, and event space, The W. Collective operates exclusively in-store and features ethically sourced products with a strong focus on highlighting women-owned businesses. When creating the space, Krinsky and Magnifico drew upon their extensive design experience to curate the boutique space’s look and feel.
“It’s a whole experience from the moment you walk in. There's always something to catch your eye every time you turn around. The space tells a story to people while they're shopping,” said Krinsky.
In addition to their wide variety of vendors, Krinsky and Magnifico offer up their own creations for purchase, as well.
“One of my favorite things to make are Kokedama moss balls,” said Krinsky. “I also source vintage clothing, as that was my first business.”
Magnifico enjoys making everything from candles to sweatshirts, but hopes to focus on selling her original clothing designs in the space in the future.
“I really want to move into more clothing design. Someday we'll have some true Magnifico designs in here, hopefully within the next year,” said Magnifico.
While Magnifico enjoyed her post-graduation time in Brooklyn, returning home has lifted a certain weight off of her shoulders.
“The funny thing is, I always felt more inspired here than I ever did in the city,” said Magnifico. “The city just puts a lot of pressure on you. My time at Bennington College and my time here now has allowed me to experience things at a slower pace and explore more organically.”
Magnifico credits her Bennington education with allowing her to find freedom within her work.
“At Bennington, the process is the main thing. You learn you have to respect the process,” said Magnifico. “That mindset allowed me to experiment with different mediums and to trust the process, instead of looking at what other people are doing and being stressed about that. Everyone knows that Bennington students are weirdos—in the best way possible.”
While the local Bennington community has widely embraced The W. Collective, both Krinsky and Magnifico particularly enjoy welcoming Bennington students into the space—and not just as customers. All Bennington students are invited to apply to show their artwork for a month at The W. Collective.
“I always wanted to build a bridge [between the town and the College], and The W. Collective is a perfect way to do that,” said Magnifico. “And, hopefully, we can facilitate that connection with some sort of creative endeavor.”
“It's so exciting to see Bennington students walk in the door,” said Krinsky. “The minute they come in, they’re really excited to be here in this space. I’m happy that we've been able to create something that people are being really responsive about.”
For Magnifico, returning to Bennington and opening the store has allowed her to reconnect with her roots, while simultaneously expanding upon them.
“It’s a really special, full circle moment for me. I’m like, ‘Okay, if the Bennington kids like it here, we’re doing something right.’”