Interview: Clare Vivier is trés chic in L.A.
In the raggedly bohemian, character-filled suburb of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena stands out for the modern, light-filled studio standing on it. Inside, designer Clare Vivier is discussing plans to introduce travel luggage to her eponymous leather goods line.
“It can be done,” says the soft-spoken Vivier with conviction, empathetic emphasis on the can. “You can make a really pretty weekender/overnighter on wheels.”
It’s the tone of someone utterly confident in reaching their goal - all that’s left are the practicalities. But Vivier is not being cocky - her unpretentious, down-to-earth nature is the antithesis of this. Rather, her steely self-assuredness comes from experience: after all, her now cult-status luxury leather goods label was only born when the former French television journalist figured out how to turn her vision of a line of simple, practical and yet stylish laptop bags into reality.
It’s a reality that has since blossomed: the team have since moved studios and the same location will turn into a store filled with Vivier’s made-in-L.A. buttery leather goods, each characterised by their bright colour accents and simple, chic silhouettes. She’s also planning to expand into men’s accessories soon, while adding new twists to old favourite - the best-selling Tropezienne tote in cherry pink, for example. Quelle élégance, non?
And the travel goods? They’re not reality yet, and with the number of projects in line for the company, it might be a while until they are. But will they be reality? Given Vivier’s track record, it would be almost foolish not to think so.
What do you like about L.A.?
I love the weather and I love that there’s a big creative community around, people doing creative things and anything is possible is here. Like any ideas that you have, you can make them happen here, I don’t know why.
So have there been any ideas you’ve made happen? Obviously this…
How did it start?
It started when I was making my own bags and then I looked around for factories - and that’s another thing about Los Angeles, there’s a lot of production here. I didn’t know anyone in the business so I just had to ask around.
So I found production and then I started to design and thinking I could design anything I wanted now that other people were sewing my bags. But then I discovered production in the US, it’s very expensive. So you have to work within the confines of that price structure. Like, you’re not going to… I realized that my first bag I made was very complicated and it turned out to be a very expensive bag and then I didn’t have a name yet so I couldn’t really justify charging a lot. Stores weren’t interested in a bag line that was unknown and charging 600 dollars for a bag and competing with the big brands.
What was the first bag like?
It was a work bag. It was a laptop bag but it just had canvas and leather and a lot of pockets and piping and structure to it. It was complicated to make.
Okay. But do you think it’s worked in your favour? Because part of what’s appealing about your line is that it is simple.
Yeah, it definitely has worked in my favour. I had to just make it work. I remember one day I had some leather, the Trop leather, and I thought, I want to do something with this leather, how can I make it work?
So I put it on the ground to see the way it formed and I folded it into a bag and I thought, I could do something really simple. And I made these leather strips, and even mocked up a handle and just stared at it for a while and then I placed some hardware, like where the hardware was going to be, and just stared at it, seeing if I could get a visual of what it was going to look like and I thought, that’s good.
What piece would you say represents you the most?
Oh gosh, I don’t even know. I would say the Trop but I don’t even carry the Trop much anymore.
…I can’t really name one. There’s the canvas tote I’ve been carrying lately… I think they all do in a way because they’re all simple and classic and what I like to think of as very chic.
Are there are any designers that you like, like your favourite labels or artists?
Hmmm. A lot of the Frenchies, Isabel Marant and, um, Céline I like. A.P.C. I love; I don’t wear many of their clothes but I love the aesthetic.
I love A.P.C. They don’t quite do sizes that fit me though…
No. I mean you’re quite small… And I like Steven Alan.
I know you did a collaboration with them, what’s been your favourite collaboration?
Hmm. Probably with Steven Alan, it was the easiest.
And right now we’re doing a collection with Wren, with Melissa Coker and her line, that’s always very easy and fun to do.
Are you excited about where the store is going? When you first started, did you ever think it would be like this?
No. I hope it would. We wanted it to be. And I want it to keep growing, I don’t take anything for granted, I take it day by day because I know the fashion business is so fickle and you just have to keep going and keep making yourself relevant and keep making designs that people want to carry and keep it interesting… it’s a lot of work.
But you love it?