With 13 boutiques in the United States and hundreds of stockist in the United States and around the world, designer Clare Vivier has been expanding progressively its brand since 2006, when she created Clare V. The designer, originally from San Francisco, has been living in Los Angeles for 20 years, in the Silver Lake district, and is supported by investors Bedrock Manufacturing Co. and Steven Alan. She talks to FashionNetwork.com about her current situation, her upcoming store openings and her new projects in France.
FashionNetwork: With 13 boutiques in the United States and hundreds of outlets worldwide, the Clare V. brand is in excellent health. What is the reason for your success?
Clare Vivier: It all debuted with a blog, where I started to tell my life story as a woman, married to a Frenchman, mother of a little kid and where I talked about the different stages of my business project. Clare V. was born from the idea of the first models of laptop bags and clutches made in beautiful materials. My name wasn’t known at the time, so the equation was how to create something that was beautiful, made in Los Angeles and at a fair price.
FNW: You will be opening your fourteenth store in Washington D.C. in the 15 years of your brand’s existence, a pace that will accelerate in the coming months?
C.V: We are still a small company. We try to grow in a smart way and not to go too fast. We have just signed a new store’s location in Washington D.C., in the Georgetown neighborhood. And we are planning to open our first stores in London and Paris. After a first pop-up experience at Le Bon Marché in Paris, we will open a new pop-up at the end of 2023, a concept that allows us to test the market and understand the customers’ reception.
FNW: How do you choose the locations?
C.V: We open stores where people live and walk in their neighborhood. We choose neighborhoods where creative and tasteful people live, where we can be part of their community, like in Silver Lake where we opened our first store at a time when retail and also restaurants were almost absent. Retail is important in the daily life of a neighborhood and a community. You have to be present in the right neighborhood like Brentwood, where moms and entrepreneurs meet, or Cobble Hill in New York, where families and friends like to hang out.
FNW: How do you hope to evolve the experience in your stores?
C.V: The evolution of retail is important. With so many doors looking for tenants, you always have to rethink things. In the Hamptons, we just moved into a larger store, where we will be able to invite brand friends. The idea of opening a café in a store, bringing friends or your baby is part of what we want to bring to the retail experience. We just bought a building in the Loire Valley in France, a space where we would like to open a showroom, develop a homewear line and why not rent rooms to friends of the brand.
FNW: The success of your brand is associated with the success of your bags. How are you looking to diversify your offer today?
C.V.: Bags represent 80% of our sales today. When we opened our first store in Los Angeles, in the Silver Lake area, I first launched a line of T-shirts and sweatshirts with hand-lettered prints, using French words or phrases as L’Amour, Discothèque, Bourgeoise Sauvage. It fit in well with my obsession with graphic and painted design. Beauty, fragrances, home goods followed, and in 2021, we also launched the first apparel collection.
FNW: In which segments will you continue to develop?
C.V: Today, the company has 13 boutiques and an e-shop. 80% of our sales are made in direct-to-consumer and 20% in wholesale dedicated to bags distributed through partners such as Nordstrom or Net-a-Porter. We are still a small company. We want to grow at our own pace and with intelligence. In 2023, our intention is to increase the distribution of apparel and perfumes but without overexpanding.
FNW: Does a fashion show in New York or Paris make you dream?
C.V: I have grown this brand gradually, reinvesting constantly. I bookstraped this company and I don’t necessarily dream of an extravagant show in New York or Paris. The Clare V. brand was born in Los Angeles, and the idea of being outside of the fashion world suits me very well. Unlike New York, there is no pressure to put on a show here. Never say never, but for now the idea is not in my dreams.
FNW: Your brand has long been involved in collaborations. What can we expect in the coming months?
C.V: We love collaborations because they are always born out of friendships or personalities that we admire, like Mike Diamond from the Beastie Boys, who I admired as a musician and with whom I became friends, or the shoe brand Toms whose sales revenues go to the Downtown Women’s Center. We will be collaborating with a surf brand from Hawaii for the next one before a big event is announced for October 2024.
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