Designer Judith Leiber passes away aged 97

Accessories designer Judith Leiber has passed away at her home in New York on Saturday. Leiber was 97 years old.


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Known for her fanciful minaudières, Leiber died only hours after the death of her husband of 72 years, artist Gerson (Gus) Leiber, also aged 97. The couple reportedly died of natural causes.

The designer's luxury handbags were known for the bejewelled style and as quasi-works of art, attracting the eye of First Ladies and celebrities alike.

Fans of her work included Greta Garbo, Diana Ross and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Born in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary, Leiber was a survivor of the Holocaust. She moved to the United States at the end of World War II, following her marriage to Gus Leiber. 

Still in her native homeland, she cut her design teeth making bags for members of the armed forces in Hungary, before working for several handbag manufacturers in New York.

In 1953, she created a pink rhinestone bag at Nettie Rosenstein for Mamie Eisenhower to carry to her husband’s presidential inauguration; her first spot in the public eye as a designer. This prompted the designer to launch her own namesake brand some ten years later in 1963.

In the seventies, she was awarded the Coty award -- being both the first woman and first accessories designer to win.

Leiber was given the Lifetime Achievement award in 1993 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), again being the first handbag designer to receive the accolade.

Leiber retired in 1998, after admitting to making approximately 4,000 bags in her career. Following her retirement, Authentic Brands Group later acquired the brand, with the firm naming Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger co-owner and creative director in 2017.
 

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