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FINDINGS

KATE SPADE HIRE: Stacy Van Praagh has joined Kate Spade as vice president of sales. She will be responsible for all of domestic specialty and department store sales for handbags, small leather goods and stationery.<br><br>She replaces Jamie Bell, who...

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KATE SPADE HIRE: Stacy Van Praagh has joined Kate Spade as vice president of sales. She will be responsible for all of domestic specialty and department store sales for handbags, small leather goods and stationery.

She replaces Jamie Bell, who has left the company.

Van Praagh, who until recently went by her maiden name, Stacy Sharp, joins Spade after eight years at Chanel, where she most recently held the position of director of ready-to-wear, overseeing the rtw business for the U.S. market, which included sales, marketing and promotions for wholesale clients and retail boutiques.

She will report to Robin Marino, Kate Spade president and chief operating officer.

TIFFANY STORE SET: Tiffany & Co. plans to open a 5,600-square-foot store in The Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, Fla., in spring 2003. The store will carry a range of products, including engagement jewelry, watches, the designs of Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and Jean Schlumberger as well as accessories and china. Tiffany, which had sales last year of $1.61 billion, currently has 46 stores in the U.S., and about 120 worldwide.

ON THE LIGHT SIDE: Regine Basha wants to shed some light on the handbag business.

The accessories designer has come up with an unusual concept that allows for her handbags to light up in the dark: each leather and suede piece is trimmed with radiant piping that gives the bags a subtle, glow-in-the-dark feel. Outfitted with a compact battery, women can “light-up” their handbags at night, and some styles even incorporate the light inside the bag to simplify finding keys. Some handbags feature an evil-eye charm on the zipper pull to inspire good karma.

“When I tested the handbags in Los Angeles and New York, people swarmed around me to see how they work, and they all wanted to know where they could buy them,” Basha said, who is the daughter of Madison Avenue jeweler Aaron Basha, best known for the signature Baby Shoe line. “I see this handbag as the hot accessory in nightclubs and trendy spots such as St. Barth’s and Miami, where people like to have fun with their fashion.”

Basha, who works in her family’s jewelry business, projects first-year sales of about $150,000. The handbags are manufactured in New York using calfskin, suede and coated cotton. The Regine Basha Collection wholesales for $95 to $145 and will ship to select specialty stores this month.

LINE EXTENSION: Liz Palacios, known for her vintage-inspired line of Swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls, has expanded her line with a new, semiprecious collection.

The line features stones such as aventurine, carnelian, chrysoprase, green garnet, turquoise, quartz and coral, from rough-tumbled nuggets to cabochon-cut and faceted stones.

“The time is right for semiprecious stones,” the San Francisco-based designer said. “People are seeing the beauty of the colors of the stones, the rawness of them and their textures. It brings a whole different dimension and feel. You constantly have to evolve and change, and I love semiprecious stones.”

The semiprecious collection has pendant necklaces, charm-like bracelets, and earrings in hoop, chandelier and tassel styles. Each stone is set in antiqued brass and antiqued silver-plated brass wholesaling for $9 to $75.

Palacios said first-year sales projections for the line, which will be distributed to department and specialty stores, are $2 million.

LEIBER RETROSPECTIVE: Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art will exhibit “Fashioning Art: Handbags by Judith Leiber” from Oct. 12 until Dec. 30.

Featuring more than 50 bags, the exhibit celebrates Leiber’s artistic achievement and showcases her creations from nearly four decades, including the first crystal-adorned signature Minaudières, which made their debut in 1967, to more recent designs inspired by a variety of sources, including Asian culture, nature, Hollywood and museum objects. On show will be Chinese foo dog handbags, which feature traditional Asian motifs, and nature-inspired beaded bags with elaborate floral patterns.

Although Leiber herself retired from the business in 1999, the company continues to develop her vision, most notably with the newer Chatelaine minaudière.

BAGS TO RICHES: Authors Donald-Brian Johnson and Leslie Piña took a look at the history of evening bags in the book “Whiting & Davis Purses: The Perfect Mesh,” (Schiffer Publishing, $59.95) a tribute tome to the mesh handbag firm.

Whiting & Davis had its origins in 1876, when William H. Wade and Edward P. Davis founded Wade & Davis in Plainville, Mass. The company became Whiting & Davis when Charles Whiting became the sole owner in 1907.

The book chronicles the company’s designs and showcases over 600 photos, vintage ads, archive material and catalogue pages.

HOT KISS TIME: Junior sportswear brand Hot Kiss is getting into the watch business. The company has signed a licensing deal with Pacific Connections for a line of timepieces that will have a limited debut this holiday season, with a larger roll-out planned for the spring.

Pacific Connection, which also makes handbags, said it will work with watch consultant Tom Clarkson to develop and market the collection, which will be distributed to department stores. The initial line will include 24 watch styles with straps available in denim and leather. Retail prices will range from about $20 to $30.

Hot Kiss has been steadily expanding its product offering, and now has licenses for footwear, handbags, belts, eyewear and other categories.

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