Meet Linz Shelton, CEO of Cuffz by Linz
If you are looking for a handbag that's fun, sexy, and worn by some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities, you just might want a Cuffz by Linz handbag. The CEO, designer, and creative mind behind these glam bags is Linz Shelton, a young women with a head start in world the fashion, having traveled to fashion capitals like Paris, Florence, and Milan -- as well having experience as the head buyer for several high-end boutiques in the San-Francisco Bay area. With a degree in English Literature and Theatre from UCLA, Linz has an edge in fashion that stems from the rich inspirations and flair that accompanies the dramatic arts.
Well-versed in the intricacies of fashion and appearance of the upscale social scene, Linz saw the need for a fashionable, yet functional bag that women could use in place of an often cumbersome clutch. The result? Cuffz by Linz was born. Without further ado, hear from Linz Shelton, who took time from her hectic schedule to answer LoveToKnow's questions about her acclaimed handbag line.
Inspirations and Influences
LoveToKnow (LTK): Your design influences appear rich and varied - from your education to your travels to your fashion and merchandising experience. What would you say has had the greatest impact on your designs overall?
Linz Shelton (LS): It's really a combination of a lot of different influences, and it changes constantly. Getting started, it was very much just my personal taste that determined the look and feel of all of the designs: rough, edgy, rocker, studded, chains/skulls, etc. I was my own target customer. Then, when Paris started stockpiling the bags and the magazines kept toting the Barfly as her favorite bag, there was such a demand for the "Paris Hilton Purse" that I softened the edgy feel quite a bit to make it more palatable to the Lisa Kline/Robertson crowd: metallic leather, softer colors - I girled it up a bit.
The "Duchess Clutch" is designed for and named after my best friend and college roommate from London, she's "polished, classy, demure . . ." just like the bag. The "Jailbait" was designed for and named by another of my best gal-pals. The "Barfly"? . . . Well, that one was a joke about ME from my under-aged San-Francisco days, but we don't need to go into that. Also, I'm lucky enough to have a boyfriend who's stylish enough to put my own wardrobe to shame (and ironically enough has NOTHING to do with the fashion industry)! He's a great, fresh perspective to run my ideas and designs by. It helps me keep a balance between "this will sell" and "I would laugh at a girl wearing that!" It's easy to be tempted by marketability, but it's more important to be true to your own style.
Celebrities in Cuffz: From Paris to Fergie
With a unique, winning combination of sass and class, Cuffz by Linz bags are sported by a wide variety of celebrities, from Paris Hilton to Fergie. Celebrities who love Cuffz bags include Mischa Barton, Pamela Anderson, Courtney Love, Rachel Hunter, Kelly Hu, Rosanna Arquette, Nicolette Sheridan, Tara Reid, and Adrianne Curry, among others. Cuffz have also appeared on many media venues, including The OC, The Simple Life, Desperate Housewives, MTV's The Real World, E News Live, Fox News, and Access Hollywood.
LTK: You have a large celebrity following, and you bags have been featured on major television and media venues. What do you think is the most appealing aspect of the bags for celebrities and consumers?
LS: I feel like we've been able to strike a balance with the WAY we incorporate the handcuffs into the designs - they can be sexy without begin trashy, they can have an edgy rock vibe without looking too "Hot Topic" and they can be high fashion/high quality without being unaffordable or unattainable. Sure there's a sexual/bondage element to the line - they're handcuffs! But I think they're included in a way that allows the bags to be accessible to a broader audience than the fashionista dominatrices (one can only imagine that would be a narrow market segment). The sexual elements work as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the "forbidden" - it's not so "in your face" that a classy, sassy, sexy, chic woman has to be embarrassed to wear it. Our customer rocks Christian Louboutin stilettos with a ratty vintage Sex Pistols t-shirt. She wears Vivienne Westwood if she dresses up, and has perfectly manicured black fingernails.
With Paris (even though I had no idea who she was when I started the line!) it was a perfect fit. We couldn't have asked for a better celeb as a face for our brand. She's all trouble and controversy, but she misbehaves in head-to-toe Cavalli. Same goes for Adrianne Curry - she's America's Top Model, with a mouth like a sailor. Great combo, I love that girl! When celebs like Kirsten Dunst, or Fergie, or Mandy Moore started sporting the bags, it was really surprising! I didn't know the bags would have such a broad appeal.
Cuffz Appeal: Spanning Styles and Ages
LTK: Your designs are edgy and completely original - a unique mix of functionality fashion. With their combination of sexiness, sassiness, and glamour, are Cuffz bags better received by a younger, more progressive fashion crowd, or is there a wide variety of types of women who buy the bags?
LS: It's really a wide variety of women - young, old, edgy, sophisticated . . . I'm usually surprised by the women that get really excited about the line. I can tell you my uber-preppy little sister (she's 13, and has more Polo shirts than Zach Morris!) is one of my best spokesmodels. So is my 83 year old grandmother - she wears her Barfly bag to church choir practice. My 90-something-year-old step-grandma is one of the chic-est, most stylish women around - here's a pic of her rocking the 'Oh Bondage' in gold snake. As far as everyone in between, I've met some of the most interesting, brilliant, hopelessly stylish women who adore and collect the bags.
One of my fav Cuffz-o-philes, Gabrielle, is an NYPD plain-cloths investigator, and she actually got to incorporate her Cuffz bag into her attire for an investigation with the FBI. Of course, she also carries her own cuffs as well. She's beautiful, brilliant, and bada** - who could be more perfect to represent the bags?! I meet the coolest chicks doing what I do, it's great.
Popular Bags… and Linz's Favorites
LTK: What is the most popular Cuffz bag style? Do you have a personal favorite bag?
LS: I can easily say that the Barfly "Martini" (silver) bag has outsold anything else we've ever produced - it's the one everyone knows as "the Paris bag". The black Barfly and black 'Oh Bondage' are both close seconds in all-time sales. However, since we've launched the "Tattoo Collection" and "Swarovski Collection" the sales stats are starting to shift. The "Cuffz Rockz" tattoo collection, which we launched during LA Fashion Week, has been a top seller ever since.
All the Swarovski bags are doing phenomenally well, with the Champagne & Taupe crystal combo at the top of the list. My personal favorite bag has always been the black "Oh Bondage" bag, one of the very first bags we ever did. That's the one I've worn everywhere for years. However, it's been sitting in my closet a little more these days since I've finished the Studded Collection (launching Fall/Holiday 2007) - I'm LIVING in the Studded Tote in black.
Wearing Cuffz Handbags: Fashion Tips from Linz
In a new era of fashion, individuality rules...
LTK: Do you have any advice when it comes to clothing fashions and wearing Cuffz bags? Should women let the bag be the focal point of their outfit, or wear clothing that matches the intensity of the individual bag's design?
LS: Less is never more - MORE is more. And don't dress around the bag, just wear it. I personally don't believe in getting ultra-matchy with your shoes/bag combo, or dressing around your accessories. I get just as many compliments on my "outfit" or on my "look" when I wear the bag with flip-flops and sweats to the grocery store as I do when I wear it all dolled-up out in Hollywood. The reality of the situation: when you're wearing handcuffs as a fashion accessory, no one's looking at your skirt or your earrings!
LTK: What types of trends in handbags do you see for this year? Do you think there will be more of a return to smaller bags?
LS: Giant pyramid studs - and it's about d**** time! I'm so excited every time the punky/funky studding trends hit shelves again. And metallic leathers aren't going anywhere. The champagnes, soft silvers, and bronzes that have me drooling all over my shoes in the Chanel and Marc Jacobs windows are all over the new Cuffz collections. Also, somewhat unexpectedly, I'm ready for the bright color come-back (the Cuffz girls are calling it "Vitamin Color" - I think that's hilarious). We certainly didn't skimp on color this season, even amidst the hard rocker studded styles. We've jumped all over 18K gold hardware on Crayola toned leathers - so much fun ;-).
Future Plans for the Cuffz by Linz Brand
LTK: What plans do you have for the future of Cuffz?
LS: Well, the biggest item on the "to do" list for the imminent future is opening a Cuffs Boutique in Los Angeles. We opened our first store in Tokyo in February of this year, and it's doing amazingly well - I couldn't be happier! I'm confident that we're ready to do the same here in the US. We're just in the planning stages at this point, but I'm already getting very excited and prematurely picking out fixtures and color schemes.
In the more immediate sense, I'm ecstatic about the release of the new "Studded Collection". It's "Non-Cuffs-Cuffz" - a collection of bags that does NOT include the infamous police-grade handcuff, but is still very much in sync with the Cuffz vibe, and has small handcuff embellishments (zipper pulls, charms, etc.) in excess. I feel like that's a huge step forward from a branding standpoint, that we've really built something that will last long beyond the novelty of handcuffing your bag to your wrist. Don't worry, the real cuffs aren't going anywhere, but it's exciting to know that from that we can build a lasting brand with such a unique aesthetic that it outlast the "OMG, are those handcuffs?" buzz.
For More about Linz and Cuffz Handbags
Visit her website at cuffzbylinz.com.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Linz Shelton for taking the time for this interview and sharing with our readers more about her original handbag line. We wish Linz success in all her future endeavors and the Cuffz by Linz line!
by Amy Finley