We had the good fortune of connecting with Claire Thomas Morgan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Claire, what principle do you value most?
As a designer, I really value inclusion and the ability to freely express yourself however makes you comfortable. Fashion and clothing are such an intimate part of who we are, how comfortable we are, and how we express ourselves. Design, in essence, is both form and function. As designers, we must continually challenge ourself to create things that are both beautiful and function on a deeper level, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual.
As a children’s wear company, Vivi Design Studio supports children of any race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. We start with design and create many of our pieces to be gender neutral without being creatively compromised. We showcase pieces on both boys and girls, and are currently seeking additional gender identities and expressions to model for us. We want kids to feel comfortable in what they wear, both inside and out, and learn how to use fashion as a form of self expression.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art comes in the form of fashion design through my children’s wear line, Vivi Design Studio. I started in fashion over 15 years ago, receiving my BFA in fashion design from Washington University in St. Louis. I worked as a designer and buyer for a small company, and then as a visual merchandiser while receiving my MFA in fashion merchandising from Academy of Art University in San Fransisco.
Shortly after graduating I had my first child, and I started making things for my daughter. When I was starting to think about creating my own line, my grandmother passed. She was always an influential person to me, especially when it came to enjoying life and fashion. I decided to create the line in her name and make it centered around creating clothes that brought joy and helped empower kids through fashion.
I launched in 2014 with 4 toddler dresses. I took things slow, trying out some different ideas, expanded the size range, and started to offer a few boys pieces. In the beginning I was struggling to find my voice and perspective, as well as the steep uphill climb of learning how to run my own business. When my second child was born, I stepped back and it ended up being a nice time to reconsider everything, realize what I missed about the design process, and start fresh.
In 2018, I started doing runway shows and really focusing on making the business a brand. I still discover or try something new each season, and have been much more calculated on how evolve the brand and what the longevity looks like. This past fall, I won a fashion business competition, Fashion Anarchy, which has given me access to the most amazing mentors and opportunities to really grow in the right way. My mentors have challenged me in new ways to define on a deeper level who the brand is, the vision, the message, and all of the strategic business elements.
Having a great support system, both from my mentors and my family, has been key to getting through any challenge. Being able to talk through ideas, pros and cons, and having a hug available when things are rough is essential to survive, and finding your people is important.
I’m really excited to launch coordinating adult clothes this fall. I was getting more and more questions from adults about extended sizing, and with my new mentor’s help and new connections it feels like the right time. We also recently launched accessories, which has brought a new level of design, story telling, and styling to the brand.
Vivi Design Studio aims to elevate children’s wear to a realm of thought-provoking, creatively classic, and everlasting design, while fostering discovery, acceptance, and expression of self. Our goals are to open children’s fashion to a more emotionally connected, intelligent, and artistic environment that allows healthy self exploration and expression. Our vision is to have children fashioned in the magic of character, as we are continually inspired by art, movies, literature, and human connection.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Saint Louis is a really great place to visit!! It is family-friendly, affordable, and great for food and art lovers.
Treehouse for vegetarian/vegan
Mission Taco for tacos/Mexican/SW style
Pastaria for pasta
Salt & Smoke for BBQ
The Annex for coffee and breakfast
Brasserie by Niche for relaxed but nice French
Union Loafers for sandwiches
Hi-Pointe Drive In for burgers
Poolside at the Chase Park Plaza (or next to their giant outdoor fireplace if its cold!)
Louie’s Wine Dive
Robust (the wine flights are a must!)
St. Louis Art Museum (FREE!!!)
Contemporary Art Museum and the Pulitzer Museum (also FREE!!)
Jazz at the Bistro
Laumeier Sculpture Garden (again, FREE!!)
MO Botanical Gardens
Union Station and Aquarium
The Moto Museum
Don Robinson State Park
The Pageant and Delmar Hall for concerts
Union Studio for all St. Louis based artisan goods
Cherokee Street and The Green Shag Market for antiques/home goods
May’s Place for vintage clothing
Happy Up for games and toys
The Novel Neighbor for books and gifts
AUDRA, Civil Alchemy, and Descendant for clothing
Lark Shop for beauty
Angad Arts Hotel
Chase Park Plaza
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents, first and foremost. They’ve supported me endlessly in whatever creative venture I’ve wanted to take on. When I wanted to be an architect, they took me to Falling Water and got me drafting tools. When I wanted to be a writer, they fought to have me in a better English class where I could be challenged. And when I said I wanted to go study fashion in NYC for a summer, they hopped on board and helped me achieve that dream. They’ve helped me find the right schools, the right people to collaborate with, talked me through decisions and ideas, and share every post on social media.
My partner deserves his own special shoutout for always stepping in and taking on extra duties when I need more time or energy to focus on my dreams. He listens and talks with me through everything, and provides a supportive but rational minded approach.
Other: TikTok: @vividesignstudio Pinterest: @vividesignstudio
Photographer: Patrick Lanham Hair & Makeup: Julie Dietrich