On the corner of Sunset and Micheltorena in Silverlake is a gray-blue front, the flagship store of LA-based designer Clare Vivier and her namesake brand, Clare V. Inside against white walls, CA-made colorful leather handbags and apparel pops. Shelves feature glasses, wallets, and gifts for the women who appreciate a faultless look.
Simple, decidedly French, Clare’s is a story of fashion and fate. After finding 400 dollars on a sidewalk, she purchased the sewing machine that would launch a thousand bags. But it all started with one, known famously as La Tropizienne.
After graduating from University of San Francisco, Clare moved to France. She interned at a documentary film production company and waitressed on the side. The effortlessly chic style of France and French women spoke to her longtime interest in fashion. Feeling inspired, she started a blog for fun. She also happened to meet her husband, Thierry Vivier, and they moved back to California.
In Los Angeles, her fashion blog began to pick up some traction as she formed her own style, an effortless blend of French and Californian influences. "Ever since I can remember," Clare says about her unique style and dressing for herself, "it has always been an important part of my identity and happiness."
During this time Clare had a day job, working as a prop stylist and commercial production coordinator in LA. But she needed a bag to hold her laptop and notes. The designer couldn’t bring herself to carry a meek, corporate-looking, nylon tote, especially being fresh off the sensibility of Paris. So she made her own custom bag. Inspired by the L.L. Bean boat tote and the essence of St. Tropez, her bag demonstrated flare, functionality, and outright “coolness.” And everyone noticed. After receiving numerous compliments, Clare felt like she was on to something, and stepped in the role of Clare Vivier, handbag designer. It was a buyer at Fred Segal luggage shop "back in the day," she says that gave her a first very useful bit of advice. "Why would anyone buy this at this price? No one knows who you are," Clare recounts upon sharing her first laptop bag which was admittedly overpriced. "I had to reassess," she says.
Her breakthrough was in fact her self-made tote, La Tropizienne, and her blog exposure claiming “I’ve got your summer tote.” It cultivated the market for chic working bags. She worked alone for many years doing both the business and the creative side of things. And in 2012, she trusted her gut and took on two business partners, Steven Alan and Randy Kercho, who became her mentors and key contributors to the growth of the company.
It was trusting her gut that led Clare to her success. She admits to the difficultly of allocating responsibility and “hiring the right people to do the things that are not my strength. It is challenging, but when you find the right people, it’s so rewarding.” Rewarding to say the least. Clare V. has expanded to six stores nationwide, including two in New York, and has designed collaborations with big names such as Steven Alan, & Other Stores, GOOP, Jean Stories, and Apple, to name a few. Her dream though, not surprisingly, is to "open a store in Paris."
Indeed it was a story of fashion and fate, but most importantly a woman that let her passion live free alongside her work. She gave it the room and possibility for her creativity to flourish and it awarded her with her very own fashion line, possibly every girl’s dream.