Whenever I have visitors in town, I take them on a loop around downtown where we always pass by Viv & Ingrid after hours and I whine to my guests, “ugh, they’re so cute, I wish they were open!”. Just a half a block away from UC Berkeley’s westside entrance lies Viv & Ingrid, this week’s Cute Shop, located in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. The owner, curator, and designer, Ingrid Chen, might be psychic or just really, really savvy. Five years ago, when the shop opened it’s doors, Ingrid knew that the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive would be opening it’s doors across the street and with that, bring more visitors to the area. Sure enough, the new BAMPFA opened its doors and brought in a new electricity to the store.
After making and selling their delicate jewels as wholesale to other retailers (their Rolodex includes Fred Segal, Nordstrom, and an appearance on The Today Show), the duo decided to open a brick and mortar shop to give their customers a space to assemble. The UC Berkeley alums opened the shop at the height of the recession, but knew that they wanted to sell wares that were carefully crafted, had a backstory, and were meaningful to their customers. Chen is beyond friendly, warm and welcoming and always makes it a point to say hi to whoever walks into her shop, whether they’re just browsing or in need of directions.
With the aim to push against fast fashion, Viv & Ingrid designs are always delicate, dainty (most of the time), made in-house and in small batches. Expect to find tiny post earrings with stones in turquoise, forest green and hot pink. Hoop earrings adorned with beads the size of a sewing pin come in hues that range across color spectrum.
Chen recently remodeled and opened the back portion of her shop to host designer collectives where local makers can showcase their wares alongside other vendors and specially-designed Viv & Ingrid pieces for each event’s theme.