A mere seven years after its one-product launch, Clare Vivier’s accessories label is a full line that’s equal parts stylish, effortless, and covetable—who doesn’t love those fold-over clutches? It’s in keeping with Clare’s personal style: Though she was raised in Indiana, there’s something undeniably French about her, favoring a perfect red lipstick and clothes that feel more classic than trendy (perhaps it’s no accident that she married a French journalist, Thierry Vivier, in 2002). And, as if you needed more reasons to be inspired by Clare V., she also champions women in business and works hard to keep the manufacturing of her collection not just in the United States but local. We caught up with Clare in Silver Lake, the Los Angeles suburb where she lives and works, to ask about her beauty musts and what it’s like to build a fashion business from the ground up.
The Wink: Your design philosophy is chic, unfussy, high-quality. How do you approach skin care and makeup?
Clare Vivier: I try to be streamlined and simple with my routine. It’s simply a face wash and a cream, and for makeup it’s four things: hydration with a touch of color, a cream blush, mascara, and I’ll always have a lipstick in my bag.
TW: What about fragrance a.k.a. the invisible accessory? Should we switch up our perfumes like we switch up our bags?
CV: I love fragrances, but my husband is quite sensitive to them, so I actually keep them at work and apply them throughout the day. I’m not loyal to a particular one, but all the scents I like mix fresh, crisp notes with ones that are smoky and earthy.
TW: Speaking of work, you didn’t come into fashion design with a ton of corporate experience, yet nothing stopped you.
CV: I believed in the product; beyond that, I believed in the idea that if I didn’t know how to run a business, I could learn, and I could surround myself with [other] smart people. There was never a sense of “maybe I can’t do that.” It was always very can-do.
“I love fragrances—I actually keep them at work and apply them throughout the day. I like scents that mix fresh, crisp notes with ones that are smoky and earthy.”
TW: It’s important to you that your collection is made here in the U.S., yes? And you keep the manufacturing close to you in L.A.—though a lot of labels say domestic production is prohibitively expensive.
CV: Production in the U.S. is expensive, so I knew I had to make my designs simple, but chic and interesting. I did that by sourcing the most beautiful leathers I could find and then adding a twist—a green bag with a navy zipper, for example.
TW: That local aspect also has a different type of impact.
CV: We see how the factory we use grows because of the work we give them. I remember talking to my dad one day, and he said, “You’re creating jobs in your own community.” He has since passed away, and that has really stuck with me.
TW: You’re also a big believer in supporting women in business.
CV: It’s incredibly important to me. Out of 40 people in our company, we have two men (so we definitely need to hire more men). But that’s how it often is in fashion. And if I have the opportunity to mentor other women, I jump at it.
TW: How does growing the company smartly and carefully, as you’ve done, contribute to your success?
CV: It’s all been very careful—I didn’t want to grow too big, too fast. Better than anything else, you have to know your limitations. Now, we’re about to open our fifth store, in Brooklyn. We’ll open two stores a year for the next two years, and there’s also the possibility of opening one abroad. A store in Europe would be really exciting.
TW: Ultimately, what advice would you give to women thinking about launching their own business?
CV: Intern with a bigger company, because you will learn so much about what positions are needed and when. At what point do you need a PR company? At what point do you need a showroom? I also like to tell people: Never think you’re bigger than you are, and never bite off more than you can chew. At the same time, there’s a certain amount of entrepreneurial spirit that you have to have. Trust yourself. I definitely thought, if I build it, I bet they’re going to come. Sometimes you just have to jump in, even if there’s no safety net.