Q & A WITH DESIGNER CLARE V.
Written by Emma McDonnell
From collaborations with Melissa McCarthy to sunglasses being worn by the likes of Emma Roberts, Clare V. is a stylish and functional fashion staple with global inspiration. Following the opening of her pop-up in Montecito Country Mart, we spoke with Clare about her brand, her start, her favorite thing about Santa Barbara, and much, much more.
1. Tell us about Clare V.
Clare V. is a handbag and apparel brand that is LA-based and almost entirely LA-made. We're a local brand with a global presence, but so much about what makes Clare V. special is its true roots in Southern California. We've been proud of the footprint we've been able to build and what we've been able to develop—equal parts Parisian charm and California cool. We're made by women, for women. And if we can deliver a little bit of happiness and brightness to women (and men), we'll consider our job accomplished.
2. How did you come to start Clare V.?
I was living in San Francisco, working as a journalist for French TV and needed a cute laptop bag to keep with me as I was working around the city. I couldn't find anything that I liked and since I knew how to sew, I made my own. That was the very, very beginning. Next I began making simple clutches, which resonated with people. I knew I was on to something and ventured into my first handbag a few short years later.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere—travels, street signs, colors, culture, the women I work with.
4. Tell us about your French background.
I'm actually Mexican-American, but I'm French by marriage. We met when I was living in Paris, working after college, and eventually we moved back to the states together. We've been in California ever since.
5. Giving back on both a local and global scale is important to Clare V. What causes do you care most about and why?
I always wanted to be in a position to be able to give back and we're at a point in the company where we can contribute to causes that matter to us, which feels more important now than ever. We have a long partnership with Every Mother Counts, which is near and dear to me both as a mother, and since my sister is a nurse in Labor & Delivery, and there is such a crisis in maternal health around the world. We also work with Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety, both of which have become increasingly important over the past few years. And leading into the November election, we've been proud to partner with—and give back to—both I AM A VOTER. and When We All Vote, both organizations addressing voting rights and equal access to the polls.
6. What are your handbag essentials?
These days it looks a little bit different than it has in the past: car keys on a CV keychain if I'm lucky enough to be going somewhere, a lipstick to feel put together in an instant, a CV trucker hat to hide from the sun if I'm taking a meeting or call outside, a pair of our CV x Garrett Leight Nouvelle sunglasses which have been in heavy rotation this summer, and just like everyone else, my phone and ear buds are omnipresent.
7. What has been your biggest hurdle in developing Clare V.?
It's always been important to us to keep our production local in Los Angeles in order to support, and create jobs in the communities around us. As prices have increased and COVID has created production challenges, this option hasn't been easy, and we've had to pivot to make things work, but it is worth it.
8. If you could go back and do something different in creating Clare V. what would it be?
I've learned from mistakes and have had so much opportunity and a really good time over the past 12 years, so I don't think I'd change a thing.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received?
To keep blinders on and remain focused on what motivates you and what you're doing. If you become distracted by what else is out there, it's incredibly easy to pivot from your intentions, simply follow trends, bend to criticism, or become self-defeated. The most rewarding work is the work you do because you love it.
10. What made you choose to open a pop-up at Montecito Country Mart?
We were given the chance to work again with one of our favorite developers on this space in Montecito and we jumped at the opportunity. We love the community and are excited to meet new and existing customers here.
11. What is your favorite thing about Santa Barbara?
I adore Montecito (and SB) for its clean air, fragrant eucalyptus trees, and plush, verdant landscape. I absolutely love the quiet of the beaches and would spend any and every afternoon wandering around Lotusland if I could.
12. What are your future plans for Clare V.?
Our plans have shifted because of COVID but for right now, we're excited for some upcoming partnerships we have planned for 2021, hopefully growing our retail footprint, and expanding into additional CV categories, now that we know our apparel and new Francoise dresses have been so well received. We want to continue to be a brand people come to for chic, high quality apparel and handbags that make people feel good!