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Judith Leiber: Celebrating 50 Years Of Handheld Beauty

Devon Aragona

Judith Leiber at Fetes the Costume Council of LACMA on Rodeo Drive (Photo:PatrickMcMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com)

Inspiring, world-renowned artist and designer Judith Leiber will be celebrating the 50-year anniversary of her designer handbag company, at the Leiber Collection gallery in East Hampton.

A retrospective exhibition, An American Journey: From Artisan To Fashion Icon, will honor Leiber's many achievements, creative genius and her skill as a craftsman by displaying a staggering 500 Leiber handbags that chronicles the company's foundation in 1963, up through the 21st century.

Leiber, born 1921 in Budapest Hungary, was the first female apprentice and master in the Hungarian Handbag Guild. She survived World War II in hiding at a Swiss safe house. With the liberation of Budapest came an American soldier who Leiber met and later married. Immigrating to the states, she worked as a pattern maker and then a foreman for several different handbag companies.

In 1963, Judith Leiber, with the support of her husband Gerson Leiber, started her own handbag company. The couple being the sole employees, Judith would design and craft the bags, while Gerson would deliver them to major department stores. The first company factory had four employees whom Mrs. Leiber worked alongside and taught.

Today, Judith Leiber handbags have been carried by first ladies, movie stars, and are viewed to many as status symbols. Her handbags not only forms of functionality, but also works of art. They are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Institution, The Victoria and Albert Museum and many other collections.

The exhibition will open on Saturday, May 25 with a reception and garden party from 2 to 5 p.m. The exhibition will run through the Labor Day weekend.

The Leiber Collection (446 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton, 631-329-3288, www.leibermuseum.org) is set amidst seven acres of gardens, all uniquely designed by Judith Leiber's husband, the modernist painter Gerson Leiber. The Collection and gardens are open to the public, free of charge, every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Saturdays and Sundays, from 1 to 4 p.m.

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