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The History & Background of Judith Leiber

If you are familiar with Judith Leiber, you likely think of handcrafted novelty clutches when you hear the name. That is because Judith Leiber is an iconic handbag brand that often makes its way onto the red carpet. Many big-name celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Blake Lively carry these clutches when in full view of the paparazzi. 

However, the Judith Leiber brand goes back a long time. Where now, you might think of phone-shaped crystal clutches and sparkling pill boxes; in the past, Judith Leiber bags looked quite different! 

How Judith Leiber Began 

Judith Leiber was born in 1921, and from there, she grew up in Budapest, Hungary. During that time, she learned all about pattern making and the craftmanship of bags, as she spent a lot of her time as an intern at various handbag companies. However, when the second world war started in 1939, she had the flee the Nazi occupation. She then moved to New York City in 1947. 

After the war, Judith Leiber worked for a range of handbag brands, where her interest in fashion skyrocketed. That was the beginning of the master craftswoman known and beloved worldwide today. After many years of experience, she finally started her own handbag company in 1963. 

From Green Leather to Rhinestones 

It’s hard to imagine the Judith Leiber bags without the iconic shapes and crystal clutches. However, when she first began the company in 1963, Judith Leiber only created green leather handbags made from calfskin. Even then, she was a master craftswoman, creating iconic bags that wowed everyone who saw them. 

The shift from green leather to rhinestones only occurred because of a mistake. One of her handbags was stained, and Judith Leiber needed to fix it immediately. The bag was covered with Rhinestones, a quick-thinking act that changed the brand’s trajectory forever. Once Judith Leiber saw how iconic rhinestones could be, she started incorporating the shiny stones into her designs for the long term. The iconic fashion designer found a new image! 

Judith Leiber: A Symbol of Luxury

Over the years, Judith Leiber handbags have been a huge hit with first ladies. Many have worn them, including Hillary Clinton, Mamie Eisenhower, and Barbara Bush. Judith Leiber wasn’t a brand for just about anyone. Instead, the bags symbolized status and affluence. Only the rich and elite could afford to own an extensive collection of these iconic handbags. 

Due to their creative designs and iconic brand, Judith Leiber received many awards over the years, including: 

  • Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1994)
  • A Lifetime Achievement Award
  • A Visionary Woman Award 

The Novelty Bags 

Judith Leiber further altered her brand by designing eclectic and quirky novelty clutches. You can still find these novelty clutches in the Judith Leiber collection today; it includes a mixture of exciting shapes, including footballs, brick phones, lipsticks, and cupcakes. She even has the iconic French Fries Rainbow Clutch!

While the iconic leather handbags certainly held their symbol of prosperity, it was these unique bags that drew even more attention to the Judith Leiber brand. The bags stood out from the crowd, and Judith Leiber became a handbag designer on everyone’s lips!

A Celebrity Favorite

As well as being a hit with the first ladies, Judith Leiber has also appealed to many celebrities, with the likes of Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Sienna Miller, and Jennifer Lopez all adorning Judith Leiber at some point. Some even go a step further and have their own Judith Leiber collection! For example, Kris Jenner has a large Judith Leiber collection in her home. In fact, the entire Jenner/Kardashian family has a strong bond with Judith Leiber handbags, with many of the sisters teaming up with the brand to produce their collection. Today, you will still spot the iconic bags being held by celebrities on the red carpet. 

Judith Leiber’s Legacy

Judith Leiber officially retired in 1998 when Judith Leiber sold the company and unfortunately, Judith Leiber died in 2018, merely hours after her husband. However, since the change in ownership and the loss of the iconic designer, the Judith Leiber brand has lived on. 

You can find many of Judith Leiber’s Minaudieres in museums worldwide! You’ll find some of the best of the Judith Leiber collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Albert Museum in London, and many more. The Leiber Museum, which the Leibers originally founded, is still up and running, too. 

What Bags Can You Buy from the Judith Leiber Collection Today?

Judith Leiber still has many incredible bags on sale for fashion-focused individuals around the world. While you can’t find the original green leather bag from calfskin that was made initially, you can find a similar bag in the Soho Emerald Snakeskin Clutch

As well as that, the Leiber collection includes lots of beautiful, quirky bags that stand out from the crowd, including: 

  • The Rainbow Sweet Candy Clutch: The rainbow sweet candy clutch maintains Judith Leiber’s iconic novelty style, creating a multi-colored sweet that looks good enough to eat!
  • The Beverage Can Amore Extra: Where else can you get a sparkling crystal clutch in the shape of a beverage can? This one is another iconic novelty clutch from the Judith Leiber collection and retails at $3,995. It shows off pink, white, and gold-toned crystals with exquisite detailing to complete the look.
  • The Prescription Bottle Pillbox Pill Popper: Literally a ‘pillbox,’ this eclectic, colorful miniature shows the word ‘Happy Pills’ on the front, creating a unique accessory for anyone. For those with a Judith Leiber collection, it is a hard one to miss!

Judith Leiber: A Fashion Designer that Will Go Down in History

Judith Leiber handbags will stand the test of time. With over 60 years of the brand going strong, it is hard to see it slowing down anytime soon! The only question is, what unique bags can you expect from now on? The only thing known is that any handbag from the Judith Leiber collection is always sure to wow.


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