Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 02/28/2011

Judith Leiber is extending its reach beyond Ladies Who Lunch to encompass girls who party, with the launch of Overture by Judith Leiber.

This story first appeared in the February 28, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 15-piece line, produced with licensee Accessory Network Group, will be sold in luxury department stores and Judith Leiber boutiques beginning in the fall, and will be priced between $200 and $700.

Overture handbags come in jewel tones like violet and blue, as well as a heavy dose of metallics and leopard print. Though manufactured in a different part of the world than Judith Leiber bags (China, as opposed to Italy) the accessibly priced collection displays an unmistakable Leiber thumbprint. Geometric minaudieres are plentiful and encrusted with crystals, studs and agate geometric designs, and come with cross-body straps, while larger suede day bags are accented with delicate studs.

“There was a lot of dialogue about, ‘What will this look like?’” said Mary Gleason, Judith Leiber Brand president, of envisioning the Overture line. “When people broaden their assortment, they always think about it as a diffusion line, they think about it as dumbing the core down, but that is not what this is at all. We see this really as a broadening of a customer base, not only [via] price point, but in trend and look.”

Gleason initially decided to launch Overture as a reaction to market realities. “We looked at the contemporary part of the business with two opportunities: broader design aesthetic…and price offering,” she said. In particular, Gleason aims to compete with the secondary markets of eBay and online retailers. “When you look on eBay and you look at the [Judith Leiber bags] being sold, they’re really in that $200-to-800 range. So, if there’s a customer out there who’s buying at that price point, why can’t I get it right up front?”

Additionally, there’s a generation of young women raised with Judith-Leiber-carrying mothers, who appreciate the brand but can’t afford its $1,500 to $12,000 price tag.

Gleason pointed to Kathy and Nicky Hilton and said, “Some of the girls who have grown up with their moms having Judith Leiber bags, they want their own. They’ll buy the real deal, but they’ll also look for a more contemporary expression of the brand for themselves.”

Abe Chehebar, chairman and chief executive officer of Accessory Network Group, agreed. “This is all about expanding the horizons of Judith Leiber and enabling a wider audience to be able to own a piece of Judith Leiber,” he said.

Chehebar continued, “Judith Leiber is very unique in what they do. They’re in their own satellite in the world of evening bags. [Overture] is more consistent with where the rest of the market is, in price point…and it’s also fashion relative, meaning, we’ll look at the top fashion trends and implement them into this business.”

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us in this category, and this is really just the start of it,” said Gleason, who also hinted at the possibility of Overture shoes and belts in the future.

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