Today we’d like to introduce you to Claire Vess.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always been interested in clothing! At a very young age, I learned how to sew in a 4H program in the small town where I grew up. It consisted of picking out patterns and material, putting the piece of clothing together and then finally a fashion show at the county fair.
Into High School, I really thought fashion design is what I would be studying in college. I was deconstructing old clothing and turning them into pieces that my friends would then wear to school.
Upon entering college at TCU, I began studying Fashion Merchandising which eventually changed to Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Fine Art. I decided to broaden my field of study without of course sacrificing an outlet to be creative.
After graduating, I immediately got a job in sales at the World Trade Center in Dallas where I was a sales rep for 13 different contemporary clothing lines. I worked markets in Dallas, Atlanta and New York and also traveled on the road from places like Laredo, TX to Nashville, TN. Besides traveling, we were in charge of set-up and take-down showrooms in various locations, shipping inventory, customer service, and just about everything else it takes to run a showroom, This was truly my dream job at the time, but certainly lots of hard work.
Two years after beginning my job at the World Trade Center, I met my husband and decided to take a break from traveling. I worked other sales positions, from retail to medical sales and then finally had two beautiful little boys with whom I decided stop working and to care for full-time.
When my oldest son turned two, I was quite honestly trying to find my identity as Claire again, and not just as “Mom”. I was missing the creative outlet and “flow” if you will, that once made me feel inspired and energized. August of 2018 was my turning point. I knew the most about the clothing industry and was able to muster the new-found courage, thanks to motherhood, to set me on the track of what is now Fringe Gifts.
Fringe Gifts originally began as a TCU, game-day specific pop-up boutique, where I primarily sold purple game day clothing. It quickly expanded into general women’s clothing and I recently began carrying girl’s clothing and gifts. I continue to do pop-ups, but I am also inside two brick-and-mortar locations as well as online.
Has it been a smooth road?
It seems so easy to spit out all of the fun details and facts, but the behind-the-scenes of running a business while raising two children and supporting a husband, who is also a business owner, isn’t without its setbacks and struggles. I started Fringe Gifts, knowing a lot about fashion and logistics, but very little about business. With growth, you are forced to learn new things, even if it seems like it’s being done backward. Taking time to learn is a luxury with children. Learning must be done during nap times, late at night and the times you used to spend getting your nails done or taking a hot bath. But, when you hear your store app cha-ching during the day, or you see a customer proudly wearing something they bought from you in family photos or for Thanksgiving dinner; that’s what makes it worth it!
I have found something I love! It has been such an amazing ride, meeting other entrepreneurs and being completely blown away, as well as absolutely humbled by the enveloping support of other women in this community! That is what makes the mountain of running a small business worth the climb!
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Fringe Gifts has evolved from TCU game day clothing to a bit higher-end “occasion” clothing boutique. I say “occasion” because I would say most of my clothing is for a special occasion, or a bit dressier. For example, date-night, parties, holidays, etc. You won’t typically find me carrying t-shirts and loungewear.
I like clothing that says, “I’m bold, but not fussy” and “I like to have fun, but I’m also sophisticated.” As a woman, there is nothing more powerful than feeling confident in a well put-together outfit that commands attention when you walk into a room.
As of now, I am a one-woman-band. I do everything from buying to website design to shipping and receiving and customer service. I do have a fabulous photographer that helps me capture amazing photos of the clothing.
The thing I’m most proud of is that even when I have doubted myself, I have stayed 100% authentic to my style. I of course keep customers in mind when buying, but I have never once bought something just for the sake of a trend. I buy clothing that I love and that I think will look beautiful on my customers, not because it’s what all of the other boutiques are carrying.
I think Fort Worth is amazingly inclusive, but I’m also proud of the influencers and businesses I have been able to collaborate with since starting Fringe Gifts.
What sets me apart from most in this industry, especially the world of pop-up fashion, is that I believe that women should wear the highest quality clothing they can afford versus buying something you will wear once and then dispose of. (I don’t mean spend all of your money hah!) I just mean the confidence that comes from wearing nice clothing that fits well and hangs right is facilitative in achieving your goals and putting your best foot forward.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Absolutely!! Fort Worth is a dream city to live in if you are starting a small business! The support I have received has been incredible and I’m so proud to live and work here.
- Website: www.FringeGifts.com
- Instagram: @fringegifts
Canon Elizabeth Photography