By  on February 25, 2002

ACCESSORIES MAKERS ARE GIVING HANDBAG INTERIORS A FACELIFT WITH QUIRKY LININGS AND GADGET-FRIENDLY COMPARTMENTS.

For many women, the following scenario is all too common: It's late, the glass or so of champagne has kicked in and a frantic shuffle through a handbag searching for a cell phone or pair of house key ensues.

For years, handbag makers have heard similar stories from frustrated consumers searching for a way to keep their belongings tidy and organized, not to mention easy to locate in poorly lit environments. Not surprisingly, after such rifling, the handbag's interior often looks like it was shaken and stirred.

But such tales of woe have not gone unheeded. Accessories designers at both ends of the price-point spectrum are paying closer attention to the handbag's inner sanctum: its interior. They are adding fashionable and functional features, including lining with lively contrasting colors -- which make it easier than the traditional black lining to find items -- and inside pockets designed for modern must-haves, such as cell phones and personal digital assistants.

"When we started our collection in 1998, we found that women were always searching for ringing phones, scratching their sunglasses, or digging for keys for their cars, so we wanted to really organize the inside," said John Truex, partner at upscale accessories line Lambertson Truex.

The New York-based company has acquired a following of on-the-go accessories aficionados for its well-constructed handbags, many of which feature a clip for keys, cardholders to store transit passes or other similar items and cell-phone pockets that may also be used to hold sunglasses.

At Maxx New York, about 90 percent of the assortment features details including pockets for cell phones and PDAs, as well as linings with paisley, gingham or optical geometric prints.

"It's a great way to get a trend out there without being too loud about it," said creative director Robert Rokoff. "If baroque paisley patterns or brocades are popular, you can throw it in, rather than put it on the outside."

Vendors said intricate interiors, featuring distinct linings and multiple compartments, help distinguish lines from one another -- an important aspect in the increasingly competitive accessories category. Vendors added that consumers are now demanding pieces that offer both form and function.

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