SPRING'S BEST BUY

Brooches and necklaces may be all the accessories rage, but this hasn’t stopped luxury goods houses from wishing to zero in on the must-have handbag — the kind that makes a woman’s heart beat faster, a boyfriend or husband run to the stores and a leather goods executive laugh all the way to the bank.

From Giorgio Armani to Valentino and Jil Sander, designers have been busy strengthening their accessories assortment. For spring, several contenders for the must-have handbag have emerged, and they are the handbags to watch in 2005.

Louis Vuitton continued its collaboration with Takashi Murakami and offered a delightful monogram bag with a cherry print, but the house’s pièce de résistance is arguably the Monogram Denim Neo Speedy bag, made of stonewashed denim with red alligator trim and brass handles, for $5,709 at retail.

Christian Dior whipped editors into a frenzy at its spring runway presentation with its new top-handle Detective bags. They are available in cream, red and black and are inspired by Seventies and Eighties murder mystery shows. They range in retail price from $1,440 to $2,790.

Other contenders include Chanel, which is adding a new twist to its Ligne Cambon collection with leather and python combinations, from $775 to $3,095, while Tod’s Venghe shoulder bag comes with distinct wooden hardware, from $950 to $1,150. — Marc Karimzadeh

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS' COUTURE MOMENT

From brooches neatly pinned onto cashmere sweaters to long layered necklaces dangling from swan-like necks, statement-making jewelry is experiencing a fashion moment. Its momentum and visibility is likely to increase next year as fashion designers continue to turn out pretty, feminine looks that call for jeweled adornments.

Clearly, fashion and fine jewelry have never been closer. Jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels is exploring this notion with Couture, its latest haute joaillerie collection of dazzling one-of-a-kind pieces to be launched at a private dinner in New York on Sunday.

Since being acquired by Compagnie Financière Richemont AG in 1999, Van Cleef & Arpels has adopted a strategy that includes launching a high jewelry collection every year. Two years ago, it introduced the The Century Collection based on 530 colored diamonds bought from a private European collector. Last year, the venerable jeweler added Midsummer Night’s Dream, which focused on themes of the ancient world.

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