By  on September 2, 2010

Jones Apparel Group has named two executives to lead the company’s handbag division, ramping up a push in accessories.

Dina Battipaglia was tapped as group president for handbags and Rafé Totengco will fill the new post of creative director for handbags. They will initially focus on Jones brands Nine West and Vintage America, said Richard Dickson, Jones president and chief executive officer of branded business. The appointments are effective immediately.

“This industry is a blend of gut and science,” Dickson said. “A lot of gut instinct is leaning towards it being, ‘the year of bags’…we’re starting to see some bright spots in the bag category. It’s an affordable luxury, and fit isn’t an issue. Bags provide a refresh to a wardrobe, and outlast some apparel trends. They’re a functional investment, [and the trend is] just getting stronger.”

Battipaglia comes to Jones with extensive handbag experience as former senior vice president of merchandising for Henri Bendel and president of Liz Claiborne accessories.

Totengco has designed handbags under his namesake label since 1997, and will continue to do so. At Jones, he will function as a “conductor, who will orchestrate our brands in the design process,” Dickson said.

In addition to Nine West and Vintage America, brands under the Jones umbrella include Jones New York, Stuart Weitzman and Robert Rodriguez, as well as accessories licenses for fashion labels such as Rachel Roy, among others.

“This division has become more important for us and is highlighted for growth,” Dickson said, adding that Battipaglia is “merchant-savvy” and Totengco has a “gift for world-class design.”

Jones has been on an acquisition spree, particularly with regard to accessories. In February, the company bought Moda Nicola International LLC, which owns the Robert Rodriguez Collection. Jones acquired a majority stake in footwear brand Stuart Weitzman in May, and this week signed a licensing agreement with footwear designer Brian Atwood.

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