Understated Elegance Defines San Francisco Designer Claire Borel's First Accessories Collection

Designer Claire Borel

Inspired by the tradition of elegant traveling, Bay Area native Claire Borel has founded House of Borel, a luxury fashion house tailored to a new jet-set generation. The line made its debut in April at New York Fashion Week and officially launches this month. Designed locally and handcrafted in Milan, the collection features architectural forms clad in luxe materials and accented with palladium and rose gold hardware. Notes Borel, “The collection exists at an elegant intersection of style and functionality.”

What inspired you to start the House?
As a child, I remember my mother wishing she could go to her closet and find one luxury travel collection that would be ready to go at all times. My own travels also inspired me to create a line that would be sophisticated, effortless and edgy.

How did you develop the debut collection?
We started out thinking about the cities we loved and then built them into the shapes and colors of the collection. We then found amazing artisans in Italy who have been in the industry for generations, and whose level of craftsmanship is phenomenal. They truly understood what we were trying to create.

Borel’s Cairo bag in Nero.

What is the line’s core sensibility?
We developed the pieces to move chicly and effortlessly from one location, climate and situation to another—whether you’re going to a business meeting, a black tie event, the beach, wine country or the city.

What inspired the bags’ signature lining—the jolt of vibrant blue suede?
I was sitting at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the South of France looking out at the water, and the colors were stunning. We decided that we wanted that bright blue to be our signature color. Then while traveling in Italy, we came across a blue suede that we had never seen before and fell in love with it. We wanted it to make a statement. The rest is history!

The Maiden Lane satchel.

How would you describe California style?
It is sophisticated, relaxed, elegant, chic and comfortable. The colors here are rich and the textures are lovely—our inspiration ranges from the redwoods and gray beaches up north to the blue beaches down south.

What impact would you like to have on California style?
As a native of the Bay Area, I feel like there was a time when people really “dressed,” whether it was for dinner, an event or even getting on a plane. It was a different atmosphere. There are still people who dress every day, but I think some of that conversation has been lost and we’d really like to bring it back!

A version of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Style Icon: Claire Borel.