Claire Vandervoort left her job in Los Angeles to become a designer. The first plug-in collection from Brussels, Voort Studio, has just been launched.
Los Angeles, the city of dreams, as the cliché goes. And that’s where Claire Vandervoort (28) had a dream job at Meltwater, the California tech giant. However, her dream lay elsewhere: she wanted to launch a fashion line, Voort Studio. “I grew up surrounded by elegant women, including my mother and my grandmothers: they taught me about quality and style”, she explains to us from Los Angeles.
“I’ve been drawing silhouettes since I was little, but I was always advised not to become a designer. After my business studies in Britain, I found myself in the world of start-ups, first in London and then in Los Angeles. During pandemic, I was fantasizing about my future: what would I like to be when I’m 30, 40 or 50? And I wanted to run my fashion design studio. So I set out to pursue this dream.”
As she has had no training in fashion, she learns the trade on her own, watching tutorials on YouTube. Next, she draws up a business plan. In fact, she wanted to be a small business owner, and not work for companies that lived on fundraising and venture capital. “In technology, we work on something that is still virtual: software, an application… Producing something concrete gives me a different kind of satisfaction.”
make it happen
“At 13, my parents sent me to the International School of Waterloo, educated in French and English. At 22, I got my first job at tech startup SuperAwesome. After four years in London, they asked me if I wanted going to New York. I wasn’t attracted to that city, unlike Los Angeles. Later, I went to work at Meltwater, a Norwegian company that develops media monitoring software.”
“At these two startups, I was a jack of all trades, in the positive sense of the term. I learned everything very quickly: website building, photoshop, and coding, so many skills that are very useful today. .My experience in the world of technology and Californian start-ups gave me a different vision of business.In Los Angeles, anything is possible: the motto is ‘Make it happen’.I would like to continue living and working here.Imagine Kim Kardashian sees my bag and carries it!”
In the United States, the designer also learned what ambition was. For his first collection of accessories he opted for the best quality. He works with Italian nappa leather and has produced his collection in workshops that collaborate with brands such as Dior, Jacquemus, Paul Smith and Chloé. “My goal was quality. It took me 300 emails before these companies agreed to work with me. Americans see ‘no’ as a roundabout way of saying ‘yes.’ here.”
The first Voort Studio collection is limited: it consists of the “Elise” bag, a keyring and a wallet. “Elise is my middle name. Ella is also my mother’s French name, Ilse. This bag is a tribute to the elegant women in my life,” she explains. “I also designed the accessories with California tech entrepreneurs in mind. In the world of London and Los Angeles startups, I have met many strong, confident women. These women wear ‘Elise’ to work, to take the plane and finally, to go out to dinner at night.
Meanwhile, Claire Vandervoort is working on a second collection. “With any luck, I’ll be able to launch a real fashion line in two years,” she dreams. However, she does not produce seasonal collections. “Hence the colors -dark blue and green-, which work all year round.”
At the moment, the accessories can only be ordered online, but they are available direct, both in Belgium and in the United States. “I still have to develop a distribution network, but the interest is clear,” she adds. “I just tested my prototype in a store in Los Angeles to see how people react. Anna Wintour visits this store often.” Did the devil wear “Elise”? “In Los Angeles, anything is possible!”