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Designer Judith Leiber dies aged 97

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

1 May 2018

Accessories designer Judith Leiber, known for her whimsical handbag creations, has passed away at the age of 97 over the weekend at her home in Springs, New York in East Hampton.

“It is with deep sadness that we observe the passion of our brand founder, Judith Leiber,” said the brand across its social media channels.

The designer died just hours after the death of her husband of 72 years, Gerson Leiber, also aged 97. Both Leibers reportedly died of natural causes.

Best known for her bejewelled minaudières, which were often referenced as pieces of art, her designs have been carried by everyone from Greta Garbo to Elizabeth Taylor and Sarah Jessica Parker, and even first ladies Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton, who the designer famously crafted bags for them both in the form of their first pets.

Born in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary, Leiber was a Holocaust survivor, who moved to America at the end of World War II, following her marriage to Gus Leiber, who was a sergeant in the US Army Signal Corps.

Leiber launched her namesake brand in 1963, after working for several fashion houses and handbag manufacturers in New York, most notably fashion designer Nettie Rosenstein, the woman who is credited with creating the little black dress, according to the late designer’s bio on the Leiber Collection Museum’s website.

In 1993, Leiber sold her company to a British company, Time Products for a reported 16 million dollars, staying with the label as creative director until her retirement in 1997. Following her exit from the brand, the Judith Leiber label was acquired by Authentic Brands Group, who last year named Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger co-owner and creative director.

Leiber was honoured numerous times over the years for her fashion designs, in the seventies she was the first accessories designer and woman to win a Coty award, and in 1993, she was award with the Lifetime Achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, marking the first time the award was given to a handbag designer.

In 2005, The Leiber Collection Museum opened in East Hampton, New York, showcasing both the works of Judith and Gerson Leiber, who was an abstract painter. Leiber’s handbag designs can also been seen on display at The Smithsonian and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.