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Judith Leiber: "Hitler put me in the Handbag business"

As a young woman, Judit Pető, was sent to Kings College London to study chemistry, but World War 2 intervened. She was quoted to have said “If the Nazis hadn’t occupied Budapest, I would have become a chemist.”

Back home in Budapest, she became an apprentice in a handbag company. Her training began with sweeping the floors, but by the time she had completed her guild training, she became the first woman to join the Hungarian Handbag Guild.

She knew all the stages of handbag manufacture, but there was no place to use this knowledge because Jews were being sent to concentration camps. Fortunately, she and her family escaped that fate thanks to a forged Swiss diplomatic pass. She spent the war in a small apartment with 26 other people.

After liberation she met Gerson (Gus) Leiber, an artist in his own right. He took her to his home town of New York where she worked assembling handbags. In 1963, her husband helped her launch her own line of designer bags. They both had full, rich, artistic lives and died within hours of each other from heart attacks at ages 96 and 97. (I don't know about you, but I get tearied eyed just writing this)

See you next Fashion Friday, and as always feel free to comment below and share with friends. denise

Gerson and Judith Leiber in 1991. Judith is holding a handbag inspired by one of husband's paintings.

Judith Leiber often blurred the lines between box and bag.

Leiber's crystal Koi Fish Evening bag

I'm going through looking for photos of her most iconic bags, but I am so distracted by the images of her. There's a quality that shines through in every photograph. This Judith in 1973, 10 years after the Leiber's launched her handbag line.

Here's a cluster of her crazy crystal clutches. Say that ten times fast.

I couldn't resist showing you this... especially after last Friday's post about the in influence of surrealism in head wear.

I am forcing myself to stop at this handbag! How could you possibly choose a favorite Judith Leiber!? If you want to have some fun, just put Judith Leiber in an image search and it's an endless feast for the eyes.

Leaving you with a collage of this sweet couple and their art work. It is clear how much they adored each other.

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