Last Updated September 4, 2017
Judith Leiber, born Judith Peto January 11, 1921 in Budapest, Hungary is an American fashion designer and businesswoman. After working as a handbag designer for other companies, Leiber founded her own business in 1963.
Leiber is famous for her crystal minaudières, evening purses made of a metal shell often encrusted with Swarovski crystals, plated with silver or gold and with various forms, such as baby pigs, slices of watermelon, cupcakes, peacocks, penguins, and snakes. Sold at exclusive boutiques around the world, her purses may cost up to several thousand dollars and have become a status symbol for many women, including several Presidential First Ladies, to which she has given them as a present, from Mamie Eisenhower to Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. Animals are a recurring theme in her designed, and often the most expensive purses of the collection with prices on some animal shaped minaudières exceeding US$7,000. They have become a sought-after fashion item, being collected by wealthy women. Bernice Norman, an arts patron in New Orleans, owns close to 300 of the Leiber bags.
In 1994, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers. Classic examples of her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia has had a gallery of her work on display since it opened in 2008. She retired in 1998. In September 2008, she was rated the most prestigious luxury handbag brand for the second year running by the New York-based Luxury Institute. In 2010, Leiber received a Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art & Design.Recently, Leiber has started buying back her purses to have them all displayed at a museum, the Leiber Museum, located on Long Island, which she has been preparing and curating.
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