Chatting with Alexa Mateen of LA LA LÉXA
For Alexa Mateen, fashion is art. That’s why she decided to experiment with unconventional materials in her quest to create the most unique (but still functional) handbag. We met up with Alexa to learn more about her design process and her experience so far as one of the hottest new LA brands.
Melissa: How would you describe your latest collection and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Alexa: From myself. My life. I feel my bags are an extension of me and what I’m feeling at the time and I mix that with what I believe is classic and fully functional. It’s an expression. It’s my way of sharing myself with the world. My latest collection is very transparent. I feel like you don’t understand someone just by looking at their style, so why not elaborate? By having these transparent bags, you get to share more about yourself and what you like.
Melissa: How did you decide to do handbags? Was it something you always loved?
Alexa: I had zero idea that I wanted to do anything in fashion. I always loved self-expression through clothing and accessories, but I never ever imagined I would get involved. After my last job at Tinder, I wasn’t working for 8 months. I had about a year with nothing and I was so confused. Then, one day, I was at an estate sale for a house that a family member of mine bought. I went with one of my cousins who’s very square and non-stylish. I saw this bag and I told her I wanted to buy it. She was like “Oh my God…that’s so weird, don’t wear that!” I told her “How about this? I’m gonna wear it tonight. If I get five or more compliments, I’m going to make a line. So, she said, “Yeah, you do that!”. I got way more than 5 compliments and many of them were from guys! It became a bit of a joke. Every time I got one, I was like “got another one!” And then I made a line. It looks nothing like it, but it was that fuel pushing me forward.
Melissa: How did you come up with the name?
Alexa: Well, my name is Alexa, but my mom calls me ‘La La’. I wanted to start making stuff in Los Angeles because how often do you find a brand that’s born and raised in LA?
Melissa: How do you describe your personal style?
Alexa: I think my style is classic meets daring. I like to take risks and mix them with basics. I like to stand out, but I’m not over the top.
Melissa: How did you decide to use lucite rather than say, leather or canvas?
Alexa: I actually wanted to start with metal. All I knew was that I wanted to create something that makes a person feel different but still comfortable. I didn’t want to make something that you can just find at any of the top Rodeo retailers. I thought, what can I do that’s different? The material caught my eye because I thought it was very clean and artistic. I love to make things that look good on a hanger or a shelf.
Melissa: Can you walk us through your design process?
Alexa: I was looking for metal for the original idea I had. I wanted a very specific thing and I was having no luck. I told [my fiancé at the time] “I really want a transparent, airy bag. I want art that functions as a handbag.” He said, “I know a guy who frames art…I don’t think he makes handbags, but I know he works with acrylic.” I went to the guy and asked if he could make a bevelled design on acrylic. He told me he didn’t know, so I said, “let me come back to you with sketches”. We went back and forth many times. I finally picked the colors and put it into production. I turned down lots of retailers because I didn’t want them to brand me just yet. I wanted to see what was selling. I’ve had some really good feedback. I think just two weeks into it, I had Natalie Portman wear one.
Melissa: How did you come up with the names?
Melissa: If we were to raid your closet, which accessory do you have the most of?
Alexa: Three things: a lot of bags, a lot of shoes and a lot of toiletries…sometimes I have 4 of the same item and I don’t even know I already bought it.
Melissa: What’s your go-to accessory?
Alexa: My hat! A good hat can make a very boring outfit look great! On a day when you don’t look so pretty, you don’t need any makeup, you just put on a big hat!
Melissa: What was the most surprising part of starting this business and the most challenging?
Alexa: Most surprising was that you can really make something out of nothing. I like to relate it to cooking. I like to cook for other people more than for myself because I like seeing people enjoying it. I launched only a few months ago, but right away I was receiving feedback from people saying “I love your bag! I want your bag!” I always had confidence in my taste, but that was still surprising to me. I was thinking, I’m not a brand yet! The most challenging part is that some days are so positive and sometimes it’s a rollercoaster. Some days there’s not so much to do and you want to keep that creativity going. Also, just being able to live your life. It hasn’t been a problem yet, but I anticipate that being a challenge.
Melissa: You’ve sold out already 3 times. How long does it take to produce the bags?
Alexa: In LA it definitely takes longer. I wanted to be here at least to start my business. Right now, the best thing I can do is give off waves of myself, the name, where it’s from. I don’t want it to be baseless. I think it takes about 2 months. From idea to sample, probably one or two months, then another few weeks for tweaking. It depends on the manufacturer. I’ve only worked with one manufacturer so far, and that’s how long it took.