Whilst studying to be a graphic designer, Claire Thomas-Morgan was inspired by the first series of Project Runway. Not feeling creatively satisfied with a graphics design course she was attending, Claire decided to enrol on the Parsons School of Design summer program in fashion and loved it so much that not long after Claire transferred to Washington University in St Louis where she achieved a BA in Fashion Design and not long after, due to wanting to learn more about the business side, Claire took an MA in Fashion Merchandising.
After having her first child Lyra, eight years ago, Vivi Design Studio was born. Created as a homage to her grandmother, Vivian, who taught her all about living life not only fashionably, but fully, Vivi Design Studio empowers children through fashion, helping them create their own characters as they discover themselves.
Created using sophisticated silhouettes and creative takes on classic pieces, the new collection for SS21 ATARI is inspired by Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. The collection for 3-14-year-olds features elevated, comfort-driven pieces, with elements of ruching and snapping which help create pieces that are adjustable and perfect all season long. Faithful pieces, just like man’s best friend.
Scroll down to read our interview with Claire and to view the New SS21 collection.
Vivi design was created as a homage to your grandmother, Vivian. How did she inspire you? What was your favourite memory of her?
Vivian (Grandma Viv) was a great inspiration to me, for both womanhood and fashion. She was progressive in her time, working full-time outside the home while raising three daughters. As her granddaughter, some of my fondest memories are with her— playing Skip-bo, dressing up in her square-dancing dresses and playing in her makeup, and the special way she served ice cream (cherry at the bottom of the cone as a surprise!). One of my favourite times of year was the annual birthday shopping trip that we did. We would go to the tea room for lunch and then go shopping to pick out a special birthday outfit. Those were always some of my favourite pieces.
When she passed in 2013, many of the stories told at her funeral were about her tough spirit and fashion sense. She loved to shop and dress up, and the smell of Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds always reminds me of her. Vivian was kind and caring, family was everything to her, and she always held strong on her convictions. I was never able to meet my paternal grandmother but my father says she was very similar, as is my mother. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by strong, loving, and modern women and those they raised.
You launched in 2014 with 4 toddler dresses, can you tell us a little about the Vivi Design Studio journey?
Vivi launched in 2014 with 4 toddler dresses that were variations on pieces I was making for my daughter. I did a few seasons of just toddler dresses, then started to experiment with new concepts. In late 2017, I emerged from a postpartum slump re-inspired and driven to do more with the brand. I went back to the drawing board and created our Spring 2018 collection that featured more elevated fabrics and designs, options for boys and girls, and expanded sizing. The brand was reborn then and has been developing in new ways ever since.
Through this, we have been able to share our story in new ways and connect with customers, for example, fashion shows and virtual events. Last fall I was fortunate to win a business and design competition, Fashion Anarchy, which has given me access to wonderful mentors that have been an amazing boost to help grow the brand to a whole new level.
Where do you source your design inspiration from?
I love reading and being swept away in characters, stories, and other worlds and times. Books are one of my main sources of inspiration, and I love reading children’s and YA books with my kids. There’s such an inspiring level of imagination in them. I also look to film and art, which embodies similar ideas of characters, stories, and magic.
What is the most important element when you are designing clothing for children?
When I start designing, I do lots of sketching to work out silhouette ideas that evoke the characters and inspiration. I start researching fabrics and playing with seaming, volume, and asymmetrical elements. Once I have rough ideas, I start to filter and adapt to make it really work the best it can for kids. It has to be comfortable; kids don’t really tolerate things that are itchy, tight, or uncomfortable to wear. I also strive to make everything machine washable, durable for play, and easy for kids to dress themselves. I love adding in elements that make the clothes do more— adjustable fit or styling, multiple ways to wear or layer, things like that— and can be gender-neutral without being creatively compromised.
Do you find yourself following trends or setting your own path?
A bit of both. I definitely keep track of trends and what’s going on in the industry, but I don’t feel tied to following and producing things just because they are trendy. The Vivi kid takes their own path, and that’s the mindset we keep too. We’re more about creating pieces that help inspire magic, imagination, telling stories, and helping kids find themselves.
Can you talk to us about some of your favourite pieces in the new collection for this season?
I love the metallic pieces in the spring collection, ATARI. There’s a quilted metallic vegan suede jacket that is my favourite, and a silver knit dress and top. The fabric has a wonderful texture and shine and is still really soft on the inside and comfortable to wear. I also really love our Brave & Kind T-Shirt, which has an inspiring message and is benefiting non-profit StompOUT Bullying.
What is the future of Vivi Design Studio? Where do you see the brand in five years time?
We have lots of big plans for this year! We will be launching an accessories collection later this spring. In the fall we are launching our new line, Together, which is an adult’s line that will coordinate with the children’s wear products. After that we’re looking to grow each product category, adding in swimwear with more complex accessories, like shoes.
Let’s talk about social media. Specifically, the ‘gram. Love it, hate it, or both? Explain. What are your favourite three accounts of the moment?
Love it! I’m a visual person, so I love scrolling through photos to find great ideas, images, and style. I’m liking the new Reels element for styling videos, too! My favourite accounts right now are: @pepper.pics, @mayaglitters, and @zoe.b3an
Who are style icons both past and present?
I’ve probably had all the style icon phases— Claudia from Babysitter Club, Cher from Clueless, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Catherine Hepburn, Jenna Lyons, etc. Right now, especially in terms of kid’s fashion, I love young people that really find their own voice. Kiernan Shipka, Rowan Blanchard, Harry Styles. Personally, I’m drawn to easy dressing in excellent fabrics. Things that have an architectural and tailored nod in the design, but aren’t stuffy. I love the work of Rosetta Getty, Simone Rocha, Rosie Assoulin, and Raf Simons.
How would you describe your personal style?
Fairly similar to how I design, actually. I want things that are comfortable, easy to wear, machine washable, but also look elevated and put together. I tend to stick to black, navy, grey, and white but love to have a really great pop of colour, like a marigold yellow coat or oversized lavender earrings. I’m drawn to interesting necklines and like to play with proportions or textures within a look. I also love for my accessories to sparkle. I have lots of ear piercings and a nose ring and sometimes end up looking like a magpie with all my shiny, sparkly jewellery. I love to play with my hairstyle and experiment with different cuts, undercuts, and accent colours.
What are your favourite cultural magazines/publications? How about podcasts? What is currently on repeat in your home tv/film/music-wise?
I love the styling and visual storytelling in Tangerine Magazine and the positive messaging in Bravery Magazine. I’m currently listening to the Clothing Coulture and Business of Fashion podcasts, and love listening to audiobooks on my morning walk. We have a dance mix we love to listen to at home— a mix of stuff from my husband and my childhoods, catchy pop songs, and anything we can jump and dance to! While I’m working, I listen to Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift, The Bleachers, Billie Eilish, and Lizzo. My husband and I like to watch comedy specials, especially John Mulaney, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. My daughter and I watch Babysitters Club and His Dark Materials together. We do Friday night movie night, and I’ve loved watching Wolf Walkers, The Sandlot, Coraline, and Raya and the Last Dragon with them.
Visit Vivi Design Studio and Shop the current collection HERE.
Keep up to date with Vivi Design Studio on Instagram HERE.
To visit Vivi Design Studio website, click HERE.
If you enjoyed reading the interview with Claire from Vivi Design Studio you can view more Chit Chat Tuesday Interviews on the blog HERE.
Photography supplied by Vivi Design Studio – All rights reserved.
All posts copyright Junior Style Sales Ltd.
Please do not reproduce without permission.