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Findings: Book Bags…New Hires Strongwater Showroom…Fina Honored

<b>BOOK BAGS:</b> Now, travelers can carry their favorite books in their books.<br><br>An unlikely entry in the accessories market, Italian publishing house Salani has taken reproductions of its Fifties book covers and converted them into...

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BOOK BAGS: Now, travelers can carry their favorite books in their books.

An unlikely entry in the accessories market, Italian publishing house Salani has taken reproductions of its Fifties book covers and converted them into minihandbags. The cover of a romance novel adorns one side, while a kitschy ad for other titles geared toward women makes up the other panel.

Measuring about 9 inches by 6 inches, the bag can’t hold much more than a set of keys, a cell phone and a change purse. Salani said the bag is coated in a special waterproof enamel to make it more durable. The “Borsalibro” sells for $28.48, or 25 euros in local currency, and hits Italian bookstores and the Web site parcolibri.it in September.

NEW HIRES: There have some executive changes recently at accessories and jewelry firms. Blanche Napoleon has been named executive vice president of accessories at Oscar de la Renta Ltd. replacing Yvonne Guest, who has left the company after less than a year. Napoleon joins de la Renta from Via Spiga, where she was president, and reports to designer and chairman Oscar de la Renta and Rachel Barnett, chief operating officer.

De la Renta launched accessories for fall 2001 in-house. The accessories offerings include handbags, shoes and belts, and company executives have described it as the fastest-growing division of the business.

Meanwhile, Carlos Saavedra has joined British accessories firm Lulu Guinness Inc. as creative director for the brand worldwide. Saavedra joins from scarf and accessories firm Collection XIIX, Ltd. where he was head designer for seven years. In the newly created position, Saavedra oversees the design for the label’s whimsical handbags, as well as the company’s growing number of licensed line extensions, which to date include shoes, fragrance, hosiery, scarves and sunglasses. The company is launching sunglasses in a license with New York-based manufacturer Tura next month, although further information was not available.

In addition, former fashion journalist Holly Brubach has joined Mayor’s Jewelers Inc. as creative director, a new position at the retailer. She will oversee product development and direct merchandising strategies and visual presentation for Mayor’s, as well as Birks, the Canadian chain that took control of Mayor’s last August.

Brubach, who has worked for publications such as Vogue and The New York Times, will also serve as product spokesperson for the Sunrise, Fla.-based company, which now has 28 units.

STRONGWATER SHOWROOM: Home accessories firm Jay Strongwater has opened a showroom at 11 East 26th Street in Manhattan. The 8,000-square-foot space includes a spacious showroom area, as well as a design center and corporate offices.

“Our lease was up, and we just wanted more space and to be in this location,” said Strongwater, who noted that the area where the new showroom is located has more home and gift firms, while its old location on 36th Street had more accessories firms.

The company’s jeweled frames, home and beauty items are sold in such stores as Neiman Marcus, and the firm also just opened its first freestanding store at Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops in Las Vegas. It’s also building some of its newer categories, such as compacts and small beauty items. Wholesale prices for its offerings start at $40, with the average price point at about $400.

“We are also really focusing on growing our international business,” said Mona Hirson, president of Jay Strongwater, who noted that the company recently began selling in Harrods in London and is also building its business in Japan.

FINA HONORED: Manhattan retailer Michael C. Fina has been named Jeweler of the Year by the New York State Jewelers Association.

The 68-year-old company has been steadily adding more jewelry and watches, and last year opened a ring gallery devoted to designer bridal rings, and enlarged its watch area to carry more luxury brands. Located at 47th Street and Fifth Avenue, the 20,000-square-foot store also carries a wide variety of tabletop items, china and gifts. Fina, which is still owned and operated by members of the Fina family, was selected by the membership of the NYSJA, which is an organization founded to promote retail jewelers operating stores in New York state.

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