C’est Magnifique!

Clare V.’s timeless line of stylish totes and purses, with artistry that induces a smile
A snapshot of the line and its streamlined, happy aesthetic, displayed along the shelves of the company’s Denver location at Free Market in the Dairy Block.

There’s an enlightened elegance about L.A. designer Clare Vivier’s creations. “They’re chic and timeless,” Vivier says. “But at the same time, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s a nice mixture of the Paris and Los Angeles aesthetics. Everything we make is going to be in style for quite a while—we’re on trend without being ‘trendy.’ But we also have a bit of fun with things.”

Carry-All Queen Clare Vivier, above, in her L.A. store.

Classic and fun? To that we say a very loud oui. Meander about a Clare V. store, like Denver’s Free Market (her ninth American shop, which she opened in April), and you will see what Vivier means. There are bags with enduring shapes (the Simple Tote in a colorful knit stripe, the Foldover Clutch in leopard suede, a cross-body Midi Sac in croc) as well as apparel emblazoned with cheeky French sayings (“Liberté Egalité Maternité,” “Vive La Resistance”). Everything—even the dust bags, which proclaim “Merci Beaucoup” or “Tout Va Bien”—is delightfully stylish. Attention to detail abounds in mix-and-match straps to go with the bags and funky, colorful fonts for monogram options. The more you look, the more you notice.

Moyen Alice in Cream, $195, with Neon Orange Shoulder Strap, $45

All of the above made us eager to speak with Vivier, who shared her thoughts from her L.A. home base.

When did you start making bags?

“I grew up in St. Paul, went to school in San Francisco and then moved to Paris, where I met my husband, who is French. I was working with him in French television when I realized there were no cute laptop bags in the market. So I made my own out of canvas and denim, with padded pockets. I had no background in apparel, but after we moved to L.A., I began making the bags out of my house and selling them through Mohawk General Store. A lot of other stores wanted to sell them too, and they really took off. It was a super-organic story, a real ‘home run.’ We now have nine Clare V. shops and are sold in 150 stores around the world.”

Simple Tote in Camel Suede with Black & White Stripes, $495

Foldover Clutch in Navy Suede with Black Mini Checks, $235

Why Denver?

“We’re in touch with our customers because of e-commerce, and we knew Denver was a good market for us because the bags already sold well there.”

Sissy in Cherry Pablo Cat Suede, $325

Where do you source your materials?

“I’m about to head for Europe. We go two times a year to Milan to source our leather; they have the best tanneries in the world.”

Dust protection bag

Sandy in Navy, $119

Where do you get your inspiration?

“I’m fortunate that I get to travel a lot and see people around the world, and I constantly see things that inspire me—little details, little slices of people and their attire. And I love shopping vintage.”

Helene in Army Suede, $535

You manufacture in L.A.?

“Yes, everything is made in Los Angeles except for our basket bags. We don’t have the artisans in the U.S. to make the baskets, so they are woven elsewhere and finished here.
I am in the factories all the time—it’s great for quality control. There are so many details in a bag, from the color of the thread to the different hooks and D-rings. The sewers in our factories are so skilled, and I find them inspiring.”

Phone Pouch in Leopard Velvet, $199

What makes your stores so special?

“We want the entire experience of shopping in one of our stores to feel special, including extras like the packaging. Customers say that the brand is happy and refreshing—they love that it feels special without being exorbitantly expensive. You can tell our products are hand-touched and hand-designed; they have a soul.”

Categories: Stylemakers