Beautiful Brazilian model and couture handbag designer, Camila Alves, is perhaps most widely known for romping around in Malibu with her movie star partner of four years, Matthew McConaughey, and their two children, Levi and Vida. Paparazzi love to capture images of the laid back pair, McConaughey shirtless and Alves looking the picture of earthy-sensuality in a flowing beach tunic.
When Camila Alves is not tending to her family or making her way down red carpets, she is hard at work on her exquisite Muxo handbag line. Muxo bags feature hand-distressed leather variations that range from vintage and artistically inspired designs to fashion forward boho, and designs inspired by Alves’ native Brazil. Muxo is a labor of love for both Alves and her mother, a formally educated designer whose work Alves diligently observed while growing up.
Handmade one-of-a-kind bags are an expensive commodity as the personal craftsmanship and attention to fine detail tends to drive up retail price points. While the couture Muxo handbag line resides on the shoulders of some of Hollywood’s elite and on the shelves of Nordstrom and high-end boutiques, Camila Alves was longing to connect with legions of women who crave fashion at more affordable prices. When QVC approached Camila Alves and her mother to bring Muxo to the mass market, Alves was thrilled to be able to reach the handbag consumer who requires a more down-to-earth price tag, but refuses to compromise on the quality of their purchase. The QVC line, Muxo by Camila Alves, was born.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Tell me about the collaboration between you and your mom on your Muxo handbag line?
Camila Alves: It’s very special. The relationship that I have with my mother, we do everything together. Of course, it’s mother and daughter so we always kind of butt heads a little bit, but we have a very good way of working. She’s been doing this for over thirty-five years now. She has three degrees in design and she is really the expert. Everything I learned, I learned from her. I didn’t go to school for sketching and measurements, certain things that you have to go to school for. She comes with that part of it, but the whole creative part and the inspiration, everything we do together. We always start together and finish together.
PR.com: When you say that the bags are handmade by the two of you, you’re actually cutting the leather?
Camila Alves: We do, it depends. Some of the bags we do. A lot of the handbags, we have a certain process that we created ourselves, and it’s not out in the market. We mix a lot of different elements and artwork into the leather. A lot of the final products you see from our couture line, the leather came to us in a completely different color, completely different situation, and we changed the whole leather; the touch and the distress work. And those methods that we created, we don’t teach anybody. So we still work on the bags ourselves.
PR.com: You don’t want your trade secrets getting out.
Camila Alves: Yes. It’s a family secret. We don’t teach anybody. That’s why we do have to go on the road and take it on the road. It’s like Coca-Cola (laughs).
PR.com: (Laughs). Your secret recipe.
Camila Alves: But sometimes we do have people who help us and we have a manufacturer. We have the couture line that is all handmade, and then we have a mid-tier line and the mid-tier line, we have a manufacturer that does it. We do touch some of them, maybe we do half of the handbag and then the manufacturer will finish it up. Then the QVC line is a different line, and we still work on all of that too (laughs). We’re very hands on in the whole process. What I want people to understand about the line is that it’s not just someone who is in the media who then decided to do a brand (referring to the media coverage of her relationship with fiance, Matthew McConaughey). The brand existed way before I was ever in the media. We’ve been doing this for over eight years now with the idea and belief that we had from the beginning.
PR.com: That being said, before you were recognizable in the media was it harder for you to open doors for your Muxo handbag line?
Camila Alves: No, because we were doing it before. It’s actually harder for me now to take care of [business], because I have two kids. Before it was 100% my main focus, you know? Now I have to work on the handbags and I have two kids. If anything, we could have been in more doors than we are now. But part of me is like, “I can’t do that, because my mother and I are so hands on in the process and if we are in more doors I won’t be able to be so hands on. I’m going to have to give things to other people to do, and I’m not ready to do that yet.
PR.com: I can relate. And when you have to make a choice between your career or your kids, you tend to lean towards your kids.
Camila Alves: One hundred percent. But we do have so much love for the bags. The QVC handbags are such a special thing, the whole process of designing the handbags and creating a product for the women of today and their needs. I’ve gotten to learn about the QVC customer. I got to learn who they are, I have talked to them, and I read their emails about what they like and what they don’t like. We really have created a product with our flavor and with our designs. There is nothing else that looks like what we’re doing. And I can say that because we have researched it. But it still fits a certain customer and still meets their needs, price-wise and quality-wise. It has all of these hidden pockets and hidden things that you can do with the handbag. We put so much love into creating the product. The QVC customer is really great, because they let you know! And if you look at QVC reviews for our products, you couldn’t pay someone to give such detailed reviews.
PR.com: I didn’t see the reviews but I did see two on-air demonstrations that you did, and I was extremely impressed with the detailing and craftsmanship of the QVC bags. Since having my son I’m less likely to spend very large sums on a handbag, but I would spend $300.00 on a good bag. And I love how you said that you refused to compromise on quality when it came to the QVC line.
Camila Alves: Yes, that was the main thing because we’re so proud of the quality of our leather on the couture line. When the opportunity came up with QVC, I said, “Ok, I would love to do that, but only if we can keep our standards, only if we can keep our flavor, and only if we can keep doing something unique. Part of it is also showing the QVC customer something completely different; something where they didn’t think they would turn on the TV and see that on-air.
PR.com: I love that your bags are not homogenized. Your designs are more artistic, off- beat and they seem to have some Brazilian flavor to them. Is your Brazilian culture a heavy influence?
Camila Alves: Yes, well, me and my mom are, of course, Brazilian. We get inspired by the places we’ve been. The line started as being Brazil, California and New York [inspired]. Now I have extended it to everywhere we go. Sometimes we take road trips and we’re at the Grand Canyon, and even when my mother is not with me I’m taking pictures and I’m describing to her what I’m seeing and experiencing. And then that is put into the handbags. Handbags have a life to them, because we are sharing with customers a beautiful experience that we had.
PR.com: You use a lot of fringe on your bags. Where does that come from?
Camila Alves: That’s a little bit of Brazil in there. Fringe has been around forever. It’s never going to go out of style. Any woman can wear fringe, it’s just about how you do it. We have a bag we are showing in Fashion Week for QVC. It’s still a fringe, but a very subtle fringe. We’re trying to introduce fringe in many different ways. The beauty of the fringe and what we adapt the fringe into is how women move, and how we have a certain flow or certain movement, and how we can have that in the handbag that we wear. When you look at the handbag that’s all fringe, the most beautiful thing about it is when you’re walking. When you put it on your body and walk around…
PR.com: It’s fluid, it moves with you.
Camila Alves: When we are designing we think about the anatomic curves of the body, and how the bag is going to fit the body; how it is going to move and flow with the body. But we incorporate a modern, contemporary twist to it.
PR.com: Who are some of the celebrity fans of Muxo handbags?
Camila Alves: You know, that is always a touchy question for me because I don’t advertise who wears our bags. A lot of the people who have our bags, some of them purchase, some of them the stylist got it, some of them got it out of the trunk of my car because a lot of them are friends. I would never come out and say who has the bag and who does not have the bag.
PR.com: You know I have to ask that question, but you’re not offending me if you don’t want to answer it.
Camila Alves: Unfortunately, that’s what people look at these days. That’s what people want to know, and that’s how the business works. Eventually it gets out of my control because this or that person is wearing the bags out and the paparazzi takes a photo, and then it’s in a magazine. We have no control over that. But I would never put on our website, pictures of so and so wearing the bags.
PR.com: Right, you’re protecting your relationships, which make sense.
Camila Alves: And also I want women to get something because they think it is going to work great for them, not because they saw this person wearing it and they now think that’s the hip thing. Our product is not based on what’s “hot” right now or what’s hip right now. Our product has a long shelf life. We have handbags for every style of woman. We’re in Nordstrom right now, so I want them to either go to a Nordstrom store, or look on the website, or watch QVC and really connect to what we have designed for them, and have them choose the style that speaks to them.
PR.com: I actually agree with you. I don’t entirely understand why people will blindly follow a celebrity trend as opposed to thinking for themselves when it comes to style.
Camila Alves: Don’t get me wrong, we are always going to look up to people’s styles, but it’s gone too far these days. Instead of just looking up to people’s style they are copying it one hundred percent. Every woman is unique and every woman dresses different and has a little something different about them. I don’t want to see women losing that, you know?
PR.com: It’s great to look to people for inspiration and then put your own unique spin on it. That’s what I tend to do.
Camila Alves: Exactly. But especially the younger generation, I see a lot of young women forgetting to wear what works for them. You’ll see a woman walk into a room and you think, “They look cool, but they don’t look as good as they could be looking.” Because maybe they’re wearing something that doesn’t fit their body the way it should.
PR.com: Are you still modeling, or is that chapter of your life closed?
Camila Alves: I have to always choose what I do because usually everything comes around at the same time. If I have to do a trip to New York for QVC to go on the air, I’ll get a call that I have a modeling job in Spain or Brazil or somewhere, and Matthew will then get a call that he has to go to work. Things always happen at the same time. One thing I have learned in my life is to put the weight into what I need to do. My main priority right now is my family and that includes when Matthew is working. We all go on the road together.
PR.com: I was just going to ask you about that. So when Matthew has to pick up and go to a location, you and the kids always pick up and go with him. You don’t separate.
Camila Alves: No, we don’t. We really try to keep as a unit. If he’s working, the whole family goes together. That means we all move, we all get on the road. I know I have to go to QVC certain times during the year; I know I have development meetings; I know I have designing work. When I know that I am already getting away from my family so much, being a mother and a wife-to-be, I can’t take the modeling jobs because I will be gone for too long.
PR.com: Right now, are you going crazy over being a bride-to-be or are you just going with the flow since you and Matthew already have two kids?
Camila Alves: I am really taking it easy. I’m just enjoying being engaged.
PR.com: Does it feel different to you?
Camila Alves: It does. But I don’t know if I want to say anything yet. I’m not ready to share those details yet. But it’s definitely very special.
PR.com: Being that you are born and raised in Brazil and Matthew is all-American from Texas, are there any comical relationship issues that arise?
Camila Alves: English is not my first language so I am always saying things in a different way (laughs). And my kids all of a sudden start speaking with an accent here and there, and we’re like, “What are you doing speaking with an accent? Mommy speaks with an accent, you don’t.” (Laughs). It’s just little things. Like in Brazil, where I come from, we do this thing where before you go to bed or any time you come into a room where you’re coming across an elder person that’s part of your family you grab that person’s hand and you tell that person that you’re basically asking for their blessing. It’s when you see that person for the first time of the day or before you go to bed. You’re basically showing them respect. So you say the word and then you kiss their hand and they then kiss your hand. I still do it to this day with my mother. So our kids, I teach them to do that. It’s funny because sometimes my [kids] will go to the American side of their family and they’ll do that. The first time it was funny because [Matthew’s family] is like, “What is he doing, rubbing my hand and kissing my hand?” But we speak to them and we tell them, “This is what they say and then this is what you say back, and when you answer, you basically say ‘God bless you.’”
PR.com: Let’s talk about yours and Matthew’s foundation, the j.k. livin Foundation.
Camila Alves: We had a very exciting year last year. We’re opening in more schools and getting more kids into the program. The kids are so into it. We started this about three and a half years ago. You don’t know how much you are actually changing people’s lives until you go there and you spend time with them and hear their stories. They write to you, and their parents come to you and say how much their kid has changed, and how much they have changed because of what their kids are teaching them.
PR.com: The j.k. livin foundation teaches health, nutrition, fitness and community awareness to inner city kids, correct?
Camila Alves: That is correct, but we teach nutrition on a budget because these kids, they don’t have big budgets for healthy eating. We teach them exercise and healthy habits. We always have a speaker of the month who comes in and talks to them about their own life experience and work experience. Those are very neat because every time we have somebody who has an amazing story, the kids really, really take a lot of that to heart and it inspires them. We have a gratitude circle every day of the program. They have to sit around and say something they are thankful for. In the beginning they were all very shy and they wouldn’t say much. Now they are full-on and they really understand the meaning of saying “thank you” for something. It actually makes you realize that your day wasn’t really all that bad, if you’re having a tough day. We also encourage them to do community service. We give to them, and they give back to somebody else. Sometimes we’ll make packages for the soldiers that are out there in the war, and another time we’ll go pick up trash on the beach. Every time it’s something different that we do. The [kids] are so dedicated. Kids who have graduated from the j.k. livin program, they come back to help because it changed them so much. We’re trying to make sure that these kids stay out of trouble and that they become the best men and women they can be.
PR.com: When I watched some of the footage from the j.k. livin program, what impressed me the most was the gratitude circle. Who came up with that idea?
Camila Alves: That came from Matthew. It’s something that we do at home; every time we eat we would pray. When people come to our house, maybe they don’t have a belief or they have a different belief, so we just started doing the same thing that we do at home. It doesn’t matter what your belief, just say something that you are thankful for.
PR.com: Every evening you and Matthew and the kids sit around and say what you are thankful for about your day?
Camila Alves: Yes, every time we eat, whether it’s lunch or if it’s dinner. We really practice that.
Visit mymuxo.com to view Camila’s couture handbag line, and QVC.com to view Muxo by Camila Alves for QVC handbags.
Muxo by Camila Alves handbags will be featured on QVC’s Live From Fashion Week special airing Saturday, February 11th, at 10 PM EST.
Visit jklivinfoundation.org to learn more about Camila Alves and Matthew McConaughey’s charitable foundation, the j.k. livin Foundation.