So, I admit I have a love – hate thing with Judith Leiber bags. I either love them, especially her 1970s clutches or it just doesn’t do it for me. That said, I kind of feel that this is due to custom nature of the designs, it is meant to be that way- a bag sort of speaks to you or doesn’t. One of my favorites designs features a snake as seen below. Examples of the 70s styles include both crystal and exotic skin bags. Judith Leiber was a pioneer in terms of women designing bags, as the first woman accepted into the handbag guild. She has been creating these accessories for first ladies and the red carpet since 1953 (Her company was officially founded in 1963). Now in her 90s, and a survivor of the holocaust, she is an inspiration. Judith moved to New York with her husband and focused on her dreams. I personally remember learning about her time working with one of my favorite accessories designers- Nettie Rosenstein. Her bags are now in various museum collections like the Met, as well as her own official one located in East Hampton. The Judith Leiber museum contains over 900 bags. Since many designs were limited or couture, the museum must be still searching some of the rarer ones to add to that archive.
As of more recent years something which bridges fashion accessories and the Judith Leiber vintage designs seems to be happening. Who could forget the cupcake bag via Sex and the City…..Well, that was just the beginning of a sort of renewed interest in the designs. Today, in part this is due to the appointment of Ana Matheson as creative director.
This rejuvenated interest in her bags, includes a whole new young client base, and you can see this in the choice of designs as of late. Per this bag, front and center on the website- called the BELA LAUGOSI Skull bag. The company seems to be producing some fashion forward couture bags which bridge the gap between past and present.
The newest endeavor for S/S 15 is pure fashion fun. Harley Viera Newton, a New York DJ, model by trade and a new fashion favorite worked with the iconic bag company to create a couture collection. She describes her discovery of Judith Leiber in the recent Elle magazine interview.
Vintage accessories lovers can relate to her enthusiasm and most have at least one of Leiber’s bags in their collection. ModaOperandi.com has the Harley collaboration for preorder now exclusively. One thing you will notice is what a bargain the 70s snake bag may seem to be! However, the Harley collection does feature thousands of quality crystals and 24K gilt on some of the bags.
In terms of reviewing the designs, her creations for Judith Leiber are really a great merge of her interests in Egyptology and the brand’s own Egyptian revival/deco influenced styles of the past. I think a serious collector or red carpet maven could do no wrong having one.
My anthropology background also relates to her interest in ancient Egypt. I think she has a whimsical, yet chic approach to the couture bags she’s created. My favorites bags are the river snake (which actually has a pretty head shape when seen from above), the silver pyramid and the hieroglyph clutch. It features Egyptian hieroglyphics which spell out Judith Leiber as well as Harley. The camel gets an honorable mention for its whimsy! Honestly the winged scarab box clutch isn’t too shabby either! Not to mention the scarab is a sign of rebirth- referring to the Egyptian god which pushed the sun across the sky to be reborn each day. So, it is fitting that this collection highlights a sort of resurgence of interest in Judith Leiber bags.