Clare Vivier, Designer, Clare V.

When we heard that Clare Vivier was in San Francisco, we couldn't help but jump at the opportunity to sit down with this accessories queen and talk fashion. Not only does Clare design with the modern woman in mind, but she also has a wicked sharp intellect and some of the best personal style in town. She met us on the fly at our neighborhood favorite, 20th Century Cafe, for a quick pot of tea and a chance to hear her thoughts on dressing as an art form, getting down to business and how noticing the lack of something in the market may just be what you need to succeed. Today Lisa Says Gah brings you tea with Clare v. Enjoy!!

Photo cred: Katrina Dickson

Photo cred: Katrina Dickson

LSG: Hi, Clare! We know Paris and San Francisco are involved. Can you walk us through your path? What kind of stops were on the way to where you are now?

I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and went to college in San Francisco at USF. After school, I lived in Paris, and that's where I met my husband. We moved back to the Bay Area, and we lived in Oakland for a few years before moving to LA. I was working for French TV, and I was looking for a chic laptop case to use for work, and couldn't find one - that's where and when the line was conceived.
LSG: Starting a business is scary, and a lot of people talk about starting one but never do. Where did you find the confidence and drive to take the plunge? What do you think holds people back?  

I had a clear vision of what I wanted to create, which gave me the drive to go out and start it. I knew what I wanted and couldn't find in the market, and felt that there was an untapped opportunity to create something special. It's easy to get discouraged by the challenges and hardships as you're starting and growing as a business, we are always adapting to new challenges that present themselves. But that's also what keeps it exciting!

LSG: As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?

Find a way to intern at a larger company in the field you're interested in. It throws you in head first, and you're exposed to so many different and important parts of the business that way. It'll give you a better sense of whether it's right for you and give you an invaluable experience to start off with. Also, be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and find other people to complement your strengths and weaknesses as you start to build your team.

LSG: All of your designs are stylish AND practical; a combination often sought and rarely found. How do you envision the lifestyle of your brand?

We're always careful to design for the modern woman in mind. Much like me, she's working, she may also be a mom, she's going out, she travels, she has a very full life, and we want to complement and accommodate that as best we can.
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Is that where you start when creating a new piece? Tell us about the process of designing a collection.

I work with a great team, and we start with an inspiration that comes through travel, research, reading - anywhere! We're presented with materials to work with, and we begin creating a collection that speaks to the season and the inspiration. It's a process that our design team is a part of, and as the days and weeks go by; it's exciting to see it take shape and look whole.

LSG: Where do you source inspiration and how do you organize it?

I always have a big board in the office that is full of all different types of inspiration. It can be anything from a vintage bag we've found to pieces of fabric, pages from international fashion magazines and different fonts. Anything that sparks some idea and serves as a reference as we design the collection.

LSG: Often the fashion industry is dubbed as superficial by outsiders, but SO many intelligent young women are actively pursuing careers in fashion-related fields. Is the perception of superficiality changing? Why do you think fashion holds such a captive audience of thoughtful young women?

I think the industry has dramatically changed over the years, which is an exciting thing to see and an exciting time to be a part of it. Between the advances in technology that are driving sales, to the new labels that seem to be orientated toward an intelligent young woman - like Horses Atelier, Jasmin Shokrian, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Rachel Comey, and even more established lines like Acne, and so many more to name - not lines for flighty girls. What I love is that these are obviously intelligent collections reflecting a strong consumer.
There are also so many great women designers right now running their companies and there is no way to get around the fact that when it comes down to it - it's business. The reason I think fashion holds a captive female audience is because I think girls like to dress up - we like to adorn ourselves. And as you get older, you realize that fashion can also be an art form and a business.
LSG: What’s on your list while back in San Francisco? Any spots you try to make it to whenever you’re in town?

I always love shopping on Hayes and Fillmore. And I can't visit without stopping at The Mill on Divisadero for toast and coffee. And I always intend to stop and get a burrito in the Mission -  I used to survive off them when I lived there!