I love collecting vintage, but I especially love collecting vintage Chanel. Belinda Humphris of online boutique Claire Inc. has been my number one source for such treasures (and many others) for a number of years now. Not only does she curate a stand out collection of rare and unique vintage pieces from the likes of Chanel, Issey Miyake, Sonia Rykiel, Moschino and Comme Des Garcons, Belinda offers an amazing level of customer service.
I have always admired Belinda and so thought it was high time I chatted with her about her business.
Emma: How did Claire Inc. begin?
Belinda: Claire Inc. began as an eBay store to make a little extra money while I was at uni. I’d always loved the extravagance of the 1980’s so began specialising predominantly in this era. Claire Inc. branched out a few years later as many of our buyers were interested in designer vintage but just couldn’t find it. We saw a big gap in the global market for late era (80’s and 90’s) designer vintage that needed to be filled. Our obsession with it began there and resulted in the current incarnation of claireinc.com (and our supporting blog).
E: Where does the name come from?
B: The name came from a trip to Vietnam. My friend and I visited a rundown shop where an old man was hand-making rubber stamps. He showed us a box of stamps that people had ordered but never collected. Inside the box was a stamp of a girl standing arms outstretched inside a spinning circle. Around the edges were the words Claire Incorruptible. I just loved the image of the strong woman and the name stuck. Claire Inc. fits her character and the cyclical nature of vintage in general.
E: Where do you source your pieces?
B: Predominantly we buy on trips to the USA, Europe and Japan. We also have established connections with international online buyers who know our taste and keep us up to date with exciting stock. Auction sites are a great way to pickup quality vintage too. Just ensure to check for reputable sellers and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can.
E: What do you enjoy most about your business?
B: I love the historical side of vintage. So much of today’s design is inspired by the genius of the past and I feel it’s important to see the origins of design. When we first started there were not many others doing what we do (particularly online). I wanted to dispel tired stereotypes of “vintage” and show it as an important component of modern dressing. Our collections are about promoting unique, individualistic dressing. Each piece is chosen to meet modern sensibilities and to be mixed with today’s designers & good quality basics. I believe that vintage informs the new and the new gives an evolutionary nod to the past. The best results come when the old and the new co-exist.”
E: Claire Inc. is a sideline for you. What else do you do?
B: Many things! I do a lot of Freelance Styling for both fashion and non-fashion clients alike. I have worked in stockbroking for many years too. You could say it is a little schizophrenic but I like to be busy and it keeps things interesting.
E: You are based in Adelaide, what is the fashion scene like there?
B: The beauty of being an online store means you can be based anywhere. I love Adelaide and supplement my time here with buying trips overseas. The Adelaide fashion scene is small but with some great talent and our loyal clientele is worldwide. We’ve had multiple pop-up stores in Sydney (The Corner Shop) and Melbourne (Alice Euphemia) so you do see our bricks incarnation popping up in real life. It’s amazing to see people appreciate the finds in the flesh
My partner is a filmmaker and the film industry is well supported in South Australia. We have a home here and work collaboratively on creative projects (eg.Claire Inc. fashion film’s). Claire Inc. engages with our customers through the site and social media. I find it liberating to not be defined by geography.
E: Do you have many local customers? Where is your biggest customer base?
B: Our customer base in Australia has grown. These days we sell approximately 50% locally and 50% overseas
E: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
B: Hmmm this is a toughie. The dream is to use the skills and knowledge I’ve learned through Claire Inc. to expand into other realms. A work in progress you might say… watch this space!
Check out more beautiful vintage pieces from Claire Inc. in our photo editorial story Outback Parisienne.