Having the opportunity to learn more about a female-founded brand is always the highlight of my day, but having the opportunity to chat with the founder of the brand (via Zoom) from her home in Italy was one of the highlights of the year for me. Alexandra de Curtis founded her namesake brand in 2015 after spending 25 years in the corporate world in London. After a move back to Italy she began researching factories determined to keep all of the handbags and shoes made in Italy from prototype to finished product.
In this interview, Alexandra shares an inside look into what first sparked the idea for the brand, which of the bags she uses on a daily basis, the perfect way to spend a day out in Rome and a sneak peek into what’s coming next for the brand.
When were you first inspired to found your namesake brand?
I started with the idea of having my own brand while I was living in London about 25 years ago. I started by looking for products in Italy that I could bring into the UK and sell. At first, I was selling them from my home and I would private parties with friends. I previously worked in a corporate office, and we were always looking for shoes and bags for our outfits.
So it began as a side business to my marketing job and then 20 years ago I moved back to Italy and then really started researching factories and then I really wanted to start with my own designs. My first bag was a leather diaper bag and at that time there weren’t many available on the market except for the big brands. So I was one of the first, and that did really well.
When the recession of 2008 hit, I had to rethink that business because it was quite niched. In 2015 I set up my namesake brand and it’s been an evolution since then to what it’s become today.
At what point during the process of founding your brand did you decide to keep the entire process from sourcing materials to create the bags and ballet flats solely in Italy?
That was from the very beginning. When I was in London the lack of quality was what really hit me in my experience from the shops over there. So I really felt like I wanted to create a quality product that I could represent. Once I came to Italy I started learning about the history behind the craftsmanship and being half Italian, it was really important to me, and also being part of the slow fashion movement and promoting craftsmanship. It was about working with companies/factories that had been creating products for generations and it’s a very small family kind of feeling when working with artisans who create both handbags and shoes.
I often get contacted by factories all over the world, but I want to keep my products made in Italy from start to finish. This is what we stand for, and I don’t that’s ever going to change.
How long does it take to create one of your handbags from prototype to final product?
That depends if I get the initial design the way I want it to be the first time around. In the beginning, it used to make me a bit longer. Every bag you design is different depending on the material you want to make it in.
I’ve become like family to the owner of the factory. that we work with, and hes’ the expert for the technical aspect of things, where I’m more about the design ideas.
I’d always wanted a handbag that would take weight off my shoulder and not add to it, a simple design that is effortlessly stylish and luxuriously chic.
— Alexandra de Curtis
Which of the bags do you find yourself reaching for on a daily basis?
When I’m in a work mode and I need to carry my laptop and other work items I usually go for the Loren Tote. As far as an everyday bag that I just grab and go, it’s the mini bucket for me.
Bellagio Mini Backpack
How closely do you work with the team of skilled artisans who bring your bags to ‘life’?
Very close. We have a very close relationship and I’ve been working with them for 20 years. So we’ve become like family to each other and we encourage each other. I think that that is really what has made the brand. From the very beginning, we had a really good relationship between the owner and myself. Mauro and Andrea run our handbag workshop in Rome. The factory was first founded by their parents in 1959, and since then Mauro’s daughter has also joined the family bussiness. He was willing to test things out for the different designs and I would without a good relationship with the family who owns the workshop it wouldn’t have worked out the way that it has.
What is your favorite way to style one of your handbags?
In the winter I’m more of jeans and sweater kind of person with flats because I don’t wear heels anymore. Once you have kids, they’re gone. So I like to go with something quite classic like a cashmere sweater, jeans and a nice pair of shoes. I like the fact that with my bags even if you’re wearing classic colors, the bags are quite colorful and they elevate any outfit that you’re wearing.
In the summer I find myself wearing my handbags with dresses a lot more and I usually go for the smaller bag. I’ll change them up depending on what color I’m wearing and I would say that the color options of the handbags definitely help since you can style them with anything you like from jeans to a nice dress for a wedding.
Tell me about the perfect day out in Rome.
I usually like to go for a walk. Driving in Rome can be chaotic, so I like to go into the center of town and just walk around. Lunch somewhere outside and doing a bit of people watching at one of my favorite restaurants and just walking around the city. I’m always finding new things tucked behind gates in the city and making new discoveries around the city. Obviously going out for gelato is always a good idea.
What is the most important part of maintaining a successful working relationship with the Italian factory you work with in Rome?
Communication. Sometimes the system breaks down when they don’t know what to expect from me. So whether I’m designing a prototype or it’s looking at production. They obviously have a setup that if you don’t stick to the timeline throughout the year, it’s easy for things to fall out of place. So, communication is definitely #1.
“La bella figura“— which means to make ‘a good impression’, is an aphorism to live life stylishly, at all times, and in all ways. Any item you acquire from an Italian artisan is an item born from this mindset.
Alexandra de Curtis
Bella Bucket Bag
Are you planning to release new color options in 2021?
Yes. I’m always looking at new textures and colors. We’re actually looking to partner with a Washington, D.C based company and they might even go with some exclusive/limited edition colors so I’m working with them at the moment to come up with something exciting for fall.
You released a new Livia ballet flat this week. How long was the process from designing the shoe until it was ready to release to your customers?
It took quite a while since I was working with a different factory at the beginning, but due to COVID, etc, it didn’t work out. Thankfully I was lucky enough to find a factory at the beginning of 2021 and I had to test them out. So we worked on a sample together even though we weren’t able to see each other in person, it was all done via phone/Zoom. I was emailing back and forth with my contact who was making the sample of the shoe and that process took about a month. We just launched the shoe this week, and from design to final product, the process took about three weeks.
The Milano Tote
Stay tuned for my first styled look with the Midi Loren Tote in Blush coming to The Avid Pen next week!
Shop Alexandra de Curtis and get 15% off with the code: CHRISTA15
Follow along for new releases and to keep up with all the latest via Instagram @alexandradecurtis