About 15 years ago, the designer Clare Vivier started the accessories brand Clare V., and her leather goods — classic silhouettes rendered in unexpected color combinations with winking details and middle-of-the-road price points — soon attracted a loyal following.
In 2014, the brand held its first sample sale in the parking lot near Clare V.’s offices, then in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. The annual event has since expanded with the company, requiring larger spaces and longer wait times for fans hoping to get their hands on discounted merchandise and limited-edition pieces made from excess materials.
In response to interest from across the country, the brand introduced a sweepstakes in 2019 to fly two winners to Los Angeles to shop the sale with a credit. This year, more than 9,000 people entered.
Ms. Vivier credits the appeal of the designs to access, quality and a unique perspective. “I started the brand during an economic downturn, and it was kind of a great time for me to do it because it was something that felt special without being extremely expensive, and I feel like that’s exactly still the case,” she said.
On Friday morning at Row DTLA, a retail and workspace complex in downtown Los Angeles, fans started queuing up at 4:45 a.m. When doors opened at 8 a.m., the line stretched the length of the building and well into a sun-drenched parking lot.
The two-day sale, the brand’s biggest by every measure to date, saw an estimated 3,800 attendees, 20,000 pieces sold and wait times of more than three hours. Some shoppers traveled from Illinois, Missouri and Texas. But despite the size, many remarked that the event felt like a friendly community gathering. Strangers befriended each other in line; Clare V. employees, some well-known from Instagram, handed out water; and Ms. Vivier herself brought in pieces from her closet when stock got low.
In the frenzied scene inside, shoppers — many of whom arrived wearing iterations of the brand’s popular Grande Fanny crossbody bag — held up styles for friends on FaceTime and slung dozens of purse options over their arms. (There have been requests to hold the sale in New York, but Ms. Vivier wants the event to remain in its hometown.)
In the edited interviews below, devoted shoppers discussed what drew them to the sale.
Do you come every year?
Yes. I really do love the clothes and the aesthetic. I feel like I wear something of Clare V.’s almost every day.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a maximalist but doesn’t know where to start?
Start small. Start with one really bright thing — I always say shoes. If you can do a monochromatic thing on top and then a pop at the bottom, I think that works.
Who are you shopping for?
I’m shopping for myself, my cousin who lives here and is on a plane to Utah, and my best friend who lives in New York. I’m way too nice.
Did you take today off?
I didn’t — the courts are closed today. So I literally finished a full two-week trial yesterday, the jury is out deliberating, and I’m done. My husband’s like — go have fun.
Have you gone to a lot of sample sales?
Yes, and it’s absurd that I’m now a middle-aged mother in Los Angeles, standing the same way I used to on West 20th Street in New York 20 years ago.
What brings you out in spite of that?
It’s funny, I got out of my car, saw the line and I turned around and almost left. I physically drove to the exit, and then I made a U-turn and went back in.
Sidney Aiono, Lauren Adamson
and Sara Christensen
Wardrobe stylist; Mother; Marketing analyst
So was it worth getting here at 5:30 a.m.?
Sara Christensen: Yeah, for sure! It’s part of the fun of living in Los Angeles. I’ve come four times now.
Tracina Leone, Kylee Connelly, Simone Darsana and Marisa Policastro
Writer; Teacher; Therapist; Business owner
What was it like inside today?
Simone Darsana: It’s like Christmas for middle-aged moms.
Kylee Connelly: We’re going to brunch now.
Marisa Policastro: We’re having a whole day — we kind of say it’s like our Super Bowl. The best day of the whole year.
Talisa Long and Lisa Bryant
Senior product manager; Executive consultant
What compelled you to come on a Friday?
Lisa Bryant: Well, I have to work out at the gym tomorrow at 7 a.m., so I have to set my priorities. My daughter is actually working — she has her laptop.
Talisa Long: I’m bringing my boss a shirt, so she knows and it’s fine.
Liz Chapman and Jocelyn Ricks
Have you come to this sale before?
Jocelyn Ricks: No, I’m from Salt Lake City, and Liz is from Austin. We’re best friends and have always admired the Clare V. sample sale from afar. When we entered and didn’t win the brand’s sweepstakes to attend, this was Plan B: Let’s just book it!
What are people wearing in line that’s caught your eye?
I like all the crossbody bags — people can talk about all these styles for a long time — that’s what I did last year while I waited. I used to live in New York, and you know the famous Barney’s sale, where people are in there and it’s crazy? People are much nicer here. In New York it’s like: Get out of the way! Here, you just silently follow people around, hoping they put the bag down.
Vikky Lee and Jenny Kong
Mental health professional; Training coordinator in dental technology
Where are you from?
Jenny Kong: Diamond Bar. It’s about 25 miles from here, and I knew if I left the house at 4:15 a.m., I could get here by 4:45 a.m. Only the security guard was here, and I thought she was first in line. I said, “Are you here for the sample sale?” and she answered yes, so I said, “OK, great, I’ll stand behind you.” And she goes, “Why? I’m working.”
What was the environment like inside?
The staff are amazing, they’re so nice, so helpful. Like this bag, for example, I wanted it and couldn’t find it. But when I saw someone holding one, I’d ask them about it. Eventually, a saleslady heard me going to the tables where people were deciding which bags to put back, and she found me the bag and sought me out!
Is this his first Clare V. sale?
Grace Morrissey (Jagger’s mother): No, he was 6 days old when I brought him last year. It was definitely easier than bringing him this year.
You came here from Baltimore?
Yes, with my friends from Seattle and D.C. We thought it would be a great bonding experience because we all love Clare V.
What are you on the hunt for?
A little bit of everything — I’m kind of hoping that some good stuff is left, and whatever is there is meant to be. If it’s not there, it’s not meant to be. And my husband will be thrilled if it’s not.