When I saw a recent invitation from the Costume Council of LACMA reading “On behalf of Judith Leiber, we are reaching out about a very special event on Wednesday, May 18TH in Los Angeles” … I believe my response was … “you had me at Leiber!”
Like many of my friends from Los Angeles, I was spoon-fed Judith Leiber as a child; every time my mom got a Judith Leiber bag from Neiman Marcus or Saks (they did not have their own store in Rodeo Drive in those days), she would buy for me a miniature Judith Leiber coin purse, which came in any animal style and resembled a miniature version of the trademark jewel-encrusted bags. Most women in this town, no matter their age, seem to also have a significant emotional tie to Judith Leiber.
Proof of that was the packed house at Judith Leiber’s rare Los Angeles appearance for a Q & A with Cameron Silver (L.A.’s go-to-guy for anything fashion) held by the Costume Council at LACMA last week in conjunction with a brunch and a charity event the night before at their Rodeo Drive boutique.
Chair of PR & Communications for LACMA’s Costume Council, Elizabeth Matthews brought the two-part event to LACMA after meeting Erica Roseman, owner of Company Agenda, who handles Judith Leiber’s P.R. As Matthews describes, “Judith Leiber and her husband, Gerson Leiber, have lived the American dream through hard work and tenacity – and are role models for us all. It was an honor for the Costume Council to create an event celebrating a true icon of American fashion.”
Judith Leiber is a holocaust survivor and spoke of it during the Q&A. She met her husband, Gerson Leiber while he was an American soldier stationed in Budapest. Their first date was going to the opera which they still enjoy doing today. In the beginning, Mr. Leiber was the messenger — delivered boxes of bags to retailers including Bonwit Teller, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.
The Costume Council was chosen as Judith Leiber’s West Coast Charity of 2011 (they choose one East Coast and one West Coast charity each year) and honored them with an event called “100 for $100”. The Costume Council uses donations for acquisitions for the Costume & Textiles department of LACMA – as well as exciting monthly programs for Costume Council members – from presentations and celebrations by well-known designers, luminaries, curators and authors, to cocktail receptions, fashion shows, in-store previews, book-signings and film premieres.
The Tuesday night before the luncheon, Judith Leiber graciously put on display 100 bags priced at $100 for all the members of the Costume Council at their Rodeo Drive boutique – and donated the $10,000 raised to the Costume Council. The Costume Council ladies being a rather well-heeled and polite group returned the favor by purchasing a good amount of bags at full price too …
Here are the highlights!
- It was Mr. and Mrs. Leiber’s first trip to LA in over fifteen years.
- They stayed at the Beverly Wilshire where they stayed in the past.
- Mrs. Leiber personally selected the handbags on display including the Pearl Teddy Bear, Mondrian-inspired bag, Natural Nautilus Shell (gold plated lid),and Asparagus bag. In keeping with current fashion tastes, many were from the 70′s. The handbags will be on display at the Judith Leiber store on Rodeo Drive for 2 weeks.
- Moderator, Cameron Silver, wore a purple Judith Leiber tie made for him especially for the occasion (purple with purple crystals.)
- Prior to learning handbag making, Mrs, Leiber studied chemistry in London.
- Mrs. Leiber recalled making her first crystal encrusted bag, The Chatelaine. It was a happy accident — a metal bag arrived from production in Italy and was deemed by Mrs. Leiber worthy of the collection. The rectified the problem by covering it in crystals! The style continues to be a best seller.
- Guests learned Mrs. Leiber is a Holocaust survivor. She talked about 26 people living in 1 room.
- She is 90! Her skin is flawless!
- Mrs. Leiber coined the term MILK (Money, ID, Lipstick and Keys.) for what should go in a woman’s purse.
- Cameron Silver’s parents, Jack and Margot Silver, were in the audience.
- After the event, the Leibers were given a private tour of the contemporary wing of the LACMA. This was particularly exciting for Gerson Leiber who is a contemporary artist
- That evening, they met Wolfgang Puck at his restaurant, Spago, whose wife is a huge fan.
Launched in 1963, Judith Leiber’s distinct heritage, exquisite craftsmanship and timeless appeal has defined American luxury—past and present. Judith Leiber handbags are part of permanent collections at museums including LACMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2008, Judith Leiber became part of the Schottenstein Luxury Group, which also owns Steuben Glass. It is one of America’s 250 largest privately held enterprises. www.judithleiber.com
THE COSTUME COUNCIL
Supporting LACMA’s internationally recognized Costume and Textiles Department, the Costume Council is the largest of LACMA’s ten Art Councils. Established in 1954, the Costume Council’s mission to expand public awareness of fashion, design, costume and textiles as art, is realized through intriguing, behind-the-scenes events for its exclusive membership – from presentations and celebrations by well-known designers, luminaries, curators and authors, to cocktail receptions, fashion shows, in-store previews, book-signings and film premieres. Continuing to increase the breadth and depth of LACMA’s world-class Costume and Textiles collection, the Costume Council creates exceptional programming honoring such industry icons as Valentino, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Karl Lagerfeld – 2011 events with Chanel, Judith Leiber, Vivienne Westwood and Cirque du Soleil are not to be missed. www.costumecouncil.org