East Hampton, NY – The Leiber Collection is proud to present:

Judith and Gerson Leiber ~ Over The Top

“Judy shattered glass ceilings before glass ceilings were even a thing.” ~Gerson Leiber

Famous for her iconic and revolutionary designs that marry glamour and sophistication with humor and whimsy, Judith Leiber broke many barriers that stood in her way as she rose to the top of her field.

In 1939 Judith Leiber became the first female apprentice at Budapest’s premier handbag company, Pessel Handbags.  She was the first female member of the Hungarian Handbag Makers Guild, and the first female Master Handbag Designer in Budapest.

“There’s no mistaking her satisfaction at having broken the gender barrier. “I was the first girl apprentice in Hungary — until then they were all men.”  Yet her crowning gratification remains the soup-to-nuts skills she picked up as apprentice, journeyman and finally master.”  ~Laura Blum, Fashion Writer                                                                          

After WWII, Judith and Gerson came to New York City and Judith took the Fashion industry by storm, breaking taboos right and left, changing Fashion history forever. Judy was a phenomenon! New York was emerging as the new Fashion capital, and she was the only woman pattern maker in America. Her skills became highly sought after, and before long, she was hired by the finest lady’s couture designer in America, Nettie Rosenstein. Soon, Judith was running the entire Nettie Rosenstein handbag factory and designing the finest handbags made in America at the time. 

In 1963, when women were only just beginning to break down barriers to success in the workplace, Judith launched her own company, Judith Leiber Handbags, Inc.  Former Fashion Curator at The Museum of Arts and Design, Samantha De Tillio describes Judith as a “resilient, strong, ambitious Holocaust survivor, an immigrant entrepreneur: and a proto-feminist figure, because she was a go-getter businesswoman even before the women’s movement began.”

Judith became a successful entrepreneur, selling her handbags and minaudières in major department stores and fine boutiques across America.

Unlike many men of his time, Gerson said he was willing, even delighted to put his wife’s career first. He was a vital partner in the business, Judy’s “right hand”, while at the same time creating critically acclaimed prints and paintings using the Fashion World as his muse.  Gerson Leiber’s works of art are in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as well as other museums and private collections.

As one of the most incomparable and legendary handbag designers of all times, Judith Leiber inspired and empowered women with her iconic designs that are truly works of art. Her handbags were featured in the most esteemed fashion magazines such as Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily, Harper’s Bazaar, and others. In 1976 Judith won the COTY Award, the highest honor one could win in the field of fashion,  She was the first woman and the first accessories designer to ever win the award.

Laura Blum writes, “And the bag that earned Leiber her first Coty Fashion Award — cracking the male grip on fashion’s most prestigious prize — took a page from the Bauhaus. It’s as if Leiber painted with leather. And not just any hides would do: exotic species such as ostrich, alligator, karung snake and python regularly turn up in her menagerie.”      

Leiber was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1993.  It was again the first time the award was ever given to a handbag designer. Her bags are in the collections of some of the greatest museums in the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, to name a few. 

“With her ability to make handbags from start to finish, she truly revolutionized the meaning of handbag craftsmanship in the U.S. Just about everything on her bags was done by hand, with a level of craftsmanship that has rarely been matched in the fashion world.”  ~ Samantha De Tillio                                                                                 

Judith’s handbags have been declared objets d’art by Geoffrey Beene; and in the New York Times, Hilton Kramer, the paper’s former premier art critic, praised Gerson for his mastery and skill of composition and color. Harold Koda, former curator in charge of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote: “…there is a beautiful resonance of aesthetic interests between Judith and Gerson, especially in their mutual love of brilliant color and rigorous structure.”

In 2005, Judith and Gerson opened The Leiber Collection in Springs and the museum and gardens continue to share their legacy and their extraordinary works of Art and Fashion. The Leibers’ desire for their Sculpture Garden to be a nexus for Art, Music, Performance, and an exchange of creative ideas continues on through our outdoor exhibitions and event series.

The Leiber Collection is located at 446 Old Stone Highway in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs. For more information see the website at www.leibercollection.org, email info@leibercollection.org or call 631-329-3288.

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