The cult of the individual reigns supreme at Adelaide vintage retailer Claire Inc, and word is spreading as far away as America and the UK.
With clients including pop stars Lily Allen and MIA, as well as celebrities like Natalie Portman and Melissa George, Claire Inc’s penchant for one-off collectable pieces from inaccessible fashion labels has seen the online-only store skyrocket in popularity in 2012. Even bigger things are in store in the New Year, according to owner Belinda Humphris.
“We’re just gearing up to do a new collection in 2013, probably sometime in March,” she says. “We’ll be doing a media launch for it as well as an official launch somewhere in February and March, so we’re looking forward to having the collection finalised. The idea behind it is very 90s-based and it’s focused on the origins of branding and slogans, so that’s pretty much the theme. It’s never exactly easy to predict what the next big thing is going to be in terms of trends – nothing that ever comes out is truly a brand new trend, everything is always influenced by the past. However, at this stage it’s looking like the trend is going to be continuing with the 90s, which is massive right now and has been for a while. I can’t actually see it going away for quite a while.”
The current trend, in fact, still focuses on the 80s almost just as much as the 90s, according to Humphris... So what is it about those specific eras that have had such an impact not only on the fashion industry but on your average consumer? The boldness and brashness that defined the two decades, says Humphris, the mass appeal is in bright, over-the-top colours and exaggerated, bizarre patterns.
“Those eras are pretty unique in that they were so bold and brash. The clothes were so over-the-top – especially in the 80s more so than the 90s – and I think a lot of people like that kind of thing, including myself. It’s no-holds-barred dressing and it’s easy to see why a lot of the trends from that time have carried through to today. Fashion goes in cycles, so you get vintage but with a modern twist.”
According to Humphris, UK rapper MIA in particular has an “amazing taste” in hard-to-find vintage Versace designs, and can often be spotted in Claire Inc pieces during her Australian tours.
“I’ve seen MIA wear something on stage and I was like, ‘That’s mine!’ I’ve seen a few pieces on Melissa George as well, though I didn’t sell it to her, I think her stylist must have bought it for her. Same with a famous LA stylist who looks after Natalie Portman... Usually it’s pretty easy to spot because our stuff is so rare. Another customer is Lily Allen who has decided to leave singing for fashion. It’s a bizarre career decision to leave music and become a fashion retailer but she’s got great taste for beautiful vintage design and old amazing stuff. She’s bought a lot of stuff from me when she started designing her retail store Lucy In Disguise.”
While Humphris’ biggest customer base still remains in Australia, increasingly demand is coming from overseas, including places like the UK and even South Africa.
“About 70 percent of them are Australian-based, many in Sydney and Melbourne, but a lot of them are in the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, South Africa, some pretty obscure places too. We’re still Adelaide-based but Adelaide is not a huge retail town, there isn’t a huge market place here, that’s why we’re online-only. The advantage is that it means we’re open 24/7 and not constricted by time and place. The disadvantage of that is that people can’t come in and try things on. There’s nothing quite like seeing the joy on people’s faces and having that feedback and seeing them jump up and down in excitement when they’ve found that perfect piece. We do have open days sometimes but retail is going through a tough time at the moment, so it’s probably not the best time to expand just yet. It would be amazing to do it a bit later, maybe even interstate just because most of our clientele are over there, though I’d rather not move because Adelaide is a fantastic place.”