Clère Paris: The Parisian woman’s bag

Originally published on Paradigme Mode

In 2020, Pauline had finished her studies in communication and graphic design. Just one year later, she was already designing the prototype of her first bag. From communication and graphic design to creating a new line of accessories. From freelance to business woman. Get to know the full story behind the brand Clere Paris and its founder, Pauline Leclere.

From 2020, out of school, she started working as a freelance, which is already like owning your own small business. Working with her clients and in her everyday life, she realized that her bag wasn’t adapted enough to her true needs.

Not enough space for her laptop and work material, not resistant enough for holding her items, impossible to put on her back if needed…

The market offered two big options: one, a super chic, delicate bag, not useful for true work. Or two, a hideous backpack, super useful but not suitable for an everyday use at work. Two extreme options that don’t fit a modern woman’s needs. A woman that takes public transport, the bike, that goes to the gym, that works with her laptop…

The market seemed to not adapted to working women. And that seemed to have no solution, nor in her wardrobe, nor in any store could she find what she was looking for. So, she choose a new path: to create it.

She needed a complete polyvalent bag, for use from morning to night, for all different life activities, from office hours to culture, drinks, sports… A product that it’s, most of all, reliable and always ready and adaptable.

Sustainable woman bag

We live in Paris, we take the metro, the bike, the train… we don’t have time to change bags. This is a commitment to working women, a bag that lasts a long time and that you can personalize with accessories for all different occasions that may come up in your life.

So how it happened? She had no formal training on fashion design, but a very artisan family history did the best for her project. With a metal sculptor father and a painter as a mother, manual crafts and entrepreneurship were nothing new to Pauline.

She had the idea of what she needed, with great drawings, fair concepts and a clear vision. So, with some paper and scissors, she started building up at home a first prototype, departing from the many drawings she had created up to that date.

Elegant, functional, modular. The three key words for her project. A stylish bag with enough space and protection, that can be transformed into a backpack with quick gesture.

During the summer of 2021, he presented the project and prototypes to the incubator Creative Valley. Then, she started to meet businesses, to find partners in fashion, to visit trade shows like Première Vision… Her dream was on the way of becoming true.

Sustainable woman bag

And around her project, the concept of sustainability comes around easily. A unique bag is necessarily a sustainable idea. A bag that stays in your life for longer, that it’s not replaced, that adapts to most of your needs. This philosophy of products is so necessary nowadays.

When talking about the development of her project, it came the biggest hurdle for her. The minimum quantity per order that the manufacturers were demanding, a whopping 100 pieces. Unluckily, this is something pretty common in the fashion industry, and one of the biggest obstacles that creatives must face.

To be able to make the orders, she started a crowdfunding campaign in June 2022, on the platform Ulule, so she could show also leverage for a loan.

Once her project was financed and on the way, she had to decide on the right material, a hard question when talking about bags. So we had an enriching conversation about something controversial today: leather.

Sustainable woman bag

Why ultimately leather and not a vegan replacement?

Leather is in fact the most durable in the long term, it can be cleaned, repaired, maintained, etc.

She positions herself with the long term opinion that leather may come from animals, but it’s less polluting if it’s kept a long time in use. A big part of leather would be wasted if not used for fashion, as it’s often a leftover in the alimentary industry.

The question of leather in fashion is quite complex. In all options there are positives and negative points. We could write and we’ll possibly do an entire article about leather and all the vegan alternatives existing today.

Pauline has chosen Italian leather that has the leather working group certification, that assures animal welfare, avoiding deforestation and loose of biodiversity. This organization has many sub groups focused on every possible impact in the production of leather, among:

LWG Animal Welfare Group, surveying animal welfare on the sourcing of leather.

LWG Environmental Impact Working Group, providing education and research to help reduce the impact of the leather supply chain

LWG Tannery of the Future, doing audits in production sites for environmental impact

WG Traceability Working Group, tracking the supply chain of leather in its factories

This decision, with the good factory to produce her bag was hard to make. For example, at the beginning, a salesperson had said that they were going to have the certification, but ultimately didn’t nor they were applying. Others changed the references of many types of leather so in the end she couldn’t have the colours she desired for her project.

Finally, she found the right factory in Tunisia, with a prototyping workshop in Paris. This has been very useful for the brand, as it’s usual to send many different prototypes and do little changes before the final product is finished. It avoids a lot of travel.

The lining comes from Italy, and the decision was that it will be synthetic, as it is easier to clean, being a surface that we will use on a daily basis.

Sustainable woman bag

For the accessories, she wanted to use stainless steel, but it was very difficult to find. So, for the moment she is using brass accessories made in the Ardennes region in France, where she’s from, pushing the local business in the area.

Lately, the question came on why not making the whole manufacture in France. The main answer was for the price.

I am well read in all levels, I have researched everything. Of course, it’s not the ideal product, but it’s the best product I can launch today. The best on my scale and with the values that I have as a base.

At the end of this a year and a half travel, she found a good compromise. For her values, her goals, what she wanted to communicate. A victory for her project, a new brand creating value for working and active people.

And her last words, about entrepreneurship:

We can do anything today. Finally, you learn everything when you are an entrepreneur, more than in a master’s degree or on any another field.

She had no choice but to learn it all.

And she did.

Here she is with a special souvenir, the first bag ever she fabricated. And at its side, the promised bag after years of a project. The dream come true.