By  on December 7, 2005

NEW YORK — The well-heeled women of Houston adore their exotic-skin handbags, and designer Carolina Herrera showed them just how wearable they could be at a public appearance at the CH Carolina Herrera store there on Thursday.

This marks the introduction of exotic-skin handbags for the diffusion collection, which is sold exclusively through the brand's four stores in the U.S. — in Coral Gables, Fla.; Manhasset, N.Y.; Houston, and Las Vegas.

"Exotic skins are very interesting to work with," Herrera said in a phone interview. "It's so much fun to mix the [different skins], and now there are so many bags around that you need to come out with something quite different."

The 38 styles of bags incorporate brightly colored crocodile, ostrich, python, stingray and mink embossed with the CH logo and range in price from $1,600 to $13,900.

The Mercer, an east-west-style shoulder bag with patch pockets and brushed-nickel buckle enclosures, comes in red crocodile, retails for $6,020 and is the designer's personal favorite. Another design, the Montaigne, is a bowling-style bag, with the CH canvas monogram print; leather, suede and python trim, and wooden and leather top handles.

Houston social fixtures such as Becca Cason Thrash, Anne Carl and Laura Casey came to get a look at the handbags, which come in five silhouettes and a variety of combinations of exotic skins and other materials, such as monogram canvas and needlepoint.

The store sold $23,000 worth of the bags on Thursday.

"It seems to be, this whole thing with exotic skins is that they've always been around," said Carolina Herrera Jr., creative consultant for CH Carolina Herrera. "What makes them new is the mixing of them. The bags are super strong and, speaking from Spain, where they have already been launched, they're super successful."

The company plans to open six more stores next year, including Dallas and Costa Mesa, Calif.

"CH is like a lifestyle," said the designer. "It has a lot [to offer] men, women and children."

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