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Findings: Project Handbags… Jessica Simpson’s Jewelry…

Diane von Furstenberg staged an accessories competition to help women in developing nations advance their businesses.



PROJECT HANDBAGS: Diane von Furstenberg is giving back. In partnership with Vital Voices Global Partnership, an organization that trains emerging female leaders around the world, the designer staged an accessories competition to enable women in developing nations to advance their businesses.

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Applicants from Haiti, Guatemala, Nigeria and Cambodia were challenged to create a handbag based on a DVF pattern that reflected their country’s local traditions. The winning collection was created by Haitian designer Phelicia Dell. An homage to Ayizan, goddess of marketplace and commerce, Dell’s hand-painted burlap bags will be available at DVF boutiques and on dvf.com beginning March 9, International Women’s Day.

“Women never cease to amaze me with what they can accomplish when faced with challenges,” von Furstenberg said. “To be part of this project and Vital Voices reaffirms my belief that a woman’s ability to succeed is endless.”

JESSICA’S JEWELS: Jessica Simpson is going for the jewels. In partnership with Trebbianno Inc., the pop singer, reality TV veteran and clothing designer is expanding her empire with a line of fashion jewelry, launching for spring.

The central collection, called the Cactus Flower, features a mix of Swarovski stones and colorful charm bracelets inspired by the atmosphere of Saint-Tropez. Other pieces include chains and bracelets with peace sign insignias, as well as classic layering pieces. Retailing from $18 to $25, the line will be available at department stores nationwide, including Macy’s and Dillards.

Simpson already has a handbag collection, as well as fragrance, scarves, hats and hosiery, footwear, swimwear, eyewear, outerwear, a clip-in hair extension line, and a bath and body care line.

BENDEL’S CREATES COMPETITION: Henri Bendel is sponsoring a handbag design competition, the Henri Bendel Accessory Award, in partnership with Parsons The New School for Design in Manhattan.

In December, 35 Parsons seniors submitted sketches and story boards to the contest’s judging panel, which whittled applicants down to five finalists. Upon graduation, the winner will receive $10,000, a six-week internship at Bendel’s and the opportunity to sell the bag through the store. Two runners-up will each receive $2,500.

“We’ve always had an affection for the category and we understand its importance in the world of fashion and to customers, but we found that in a lot of renowned fashion schools, the access to that curriculum isn’t there,” said Ed Bucciarelli, Henri Bendel president and chief executive officer. “So we tried to figure out how to make some inroads and champion the category.”