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August 27, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Obsession, Def Leppard and Zappos combine to spell success for businesswoman

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Christopher DeVargas

Local fashion designer Clair Vranian works out of her home studio, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013.

Fashions by Clair Vranian

Local fashion designer Clair Vranian works out of her home studio, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Obsessions aren’t always bad.

Claire Jane Vranian’s obsession with fashion and feathers, combined with an innate need to be creative, led to an association with Joe Elliott, lead singer for the iconic '80s rock band Def Leppard.

Elliott asked Vranian to design a T-shirt. She did, and Elliott wears them during concerts.

The singer’s visibility helps Vranian sell the T-shirts on her website, ICJUK.com, and helps boost her visibility on Zappos.com, where she sells handmade purses adorned with feathers, along with hair pieces called Fascinators. She also sells her creations in the Fremont Street clothing store, Coterie.

Vranian’s wares were showcased a week ago at downtown’s Stitch Factory for an assemblage of fashion industry folks in town for the MAGIC convention.

“People gravitate to them because of the color and the uniqueness,” said Jen Taler, one of the Stitch Factory operators.

At her home in the central valley, Vranian has one room filled with purses, metallic deaths-head and guitar adornments, which will be fastened to the purses, and a glue gun.

“I spend hours in here,” she says, her husband, Chris, nodding.

Before trying her hand at fashion, Vranian worked for 17 years as a special makeup effects coordinator, starting at Britain’s Pinewood Studios. Her lengthy list of movie credits includes several horror films, such as “Blade”, “Sleepy Hollow” and some of the “Hellraiser” movies.

She wanted to follow her own path, though. Vranian left the industry a few years after she and her husband moved to Las Vegas in 2005; he had been tied to the world of rock ‘n’ roll for decades. He did concert reports in the 1980s for a radio station in Richmond, Va., and today owns Artist Intersect, a music/entertainment tech company, and Rock and Roll Gallery, an online music photography art gallery.

Vranian met Def Leppard through her husband.

“Then she took it and ran with it,” Chris said. “I think it was in her blood and she just had to get it out.”

Indeed, her sister, Amanda Deacon, is partner in the company, Show Creators, that has created a new character, the Showbot, for the Blue Man Group.

Claire Jane Vranian said Elliott introduced her to his wife; Vranian made some handbags for her, prompting Elliott to ask if Vranian could make a shirt for him to wear on stage. Vranian did and Elliott has been seen wearing her designs for about three years. (Def Leppard is starting an extended three-week stay later this month at the Hard Rock.)

“Whenever he’s on tour, sales are good,” Vranian said.

Vranian’s tie-in to Zappos came by happenstance, when she opened an email that talked about the company’s Emerging Designer’s program. She sent photos of her handbags to the company. “I didn’t think twice about it,” she said. But a short time later she made the cut.

About mid-2012, her handbags, and now her Fascinators, began selling through the site.

“They’re something wild and dramatic and theatrical, which is part of who I am,” she said of the Fascinators.

Vranian doesn’t call what she does an obsession as much as it is following her dreams.

“I really wanted to express myself and didn’t want to work for somebody else,” she said. “Following my passion. That’s all I’m really doing.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. Nice little story. Unlike some celebrities that only license their name for fashion products, this woman actually gets her hands dirty and really does design things herself. I say good for her.