No brand is too small for activism


The founder of cult brand Clare V on how brands can bring their principles to their products.

Clare Vivier was always bound to get involved in social justice. Her parents were political activists, and she grew up going to protests. So, when the fashion designer started her brand, Clare V, in 2008, it was only a matter of time before she started giving back.  

At the Fast Company Innovation Festival this September, Vivier talked about those early days starting a business from a room in her house, and the importance social justice has played as she grew her brand. “When I went into fashion, it felt like I always had it in the back of my mind,” Vivier told Fast Company senior writer Liz Segran. “In my personal life, I would still advocate for things that I wanted to stand up for or go to protests, but I knew also that if my company was in a position to do so, I would want to give back.”

From left: Liz Segran, senior writer, Fast CompanyClare Vivier, founder, CEO, and creative director, Clare V.; and Christy Turlington Burns, founder and president, Every Mother Counts [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

At the festival, Vivier was joined by Christy Turlington Burns, founder and president of Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit organization that works to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Every Mother Counts is one of many organizations Clare V has partnered with, including Planned Parenthood, Giffords, Everytown for Gun Safety, and most recently, the Hawai’i Community Foundation.

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

As Vivier recounted, she met Burns eight years ago, and the two immediately clicked. “We had a conversation and we talked about what we could do,” she said. “And for us, we make products; so we can make a product for you, we can sell it, and we can give back. And that’s what we’ve been doing since 2015.”

The partnership made sense for both women. For Burns, it was about finding someone who is aligned with her own values. “I want to make sure that the person at the very top believes and cares deeply about our mission, and sometimes that’s evident, and sometimes it takes time to realize that they are or they aren’t,” said Burns, noting that a call from a marketing director instead of the CEO is a common red flag.

[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

For Vivier, the key was to get involved in a cause she deeply cares about. “The most important advice to give any kind of founder is, if you’re going to get involved with something, make sure it’s something that you feel passionately about and want to do something about,” she said.

Today, Clare V has gained a cult following and a fan base that includes Jessica Alba, Sophia Bush, and Rashida Jones. But Vivier emphasized that any brand, no matter the size, can make a difference. She remembers the company’s early days with a blog as her main marketing tool. “I think what the blog did for me is it created a community, but that’s exactly what happens right now with Instagram and TikTok,” she said.

The idea of a community is that it doesn’t necessarily need financial support to have a ripple effect. Instead, you can use your platform to educate, raise awareness, and have important conversations, like the fact that Black woman are four times more likely to die in childbirth, or that abortion is healthcare. “Knowledge is power,” said Vivier. “So I think we should never think that we’re too small to give back.”

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