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Bill Blass is aiming to bring effortless glamour to handbags.

Through a license signed in October with New York-based accessories maker Mondani Corp., the firm will launch designer bags under the Bill Blass Couture label and Bill Blass Collection handbags, for the better market. Blass women’s creative director Peter Som and Mondani’s team of designers created the collections.

This story first appeared in the April 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Bill Blass is a heritage brand and in America there are so few heritage brands that are still here,” Som said. “There’s such a legacy and so much meat to what Blass is about. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg.”

There have been discussions about opening Bill Blass stores, he said, declining to elaborate.

“The inspiration of these started from thinking about the Blass woman,” Som said. “I wanted to design bags that were crisp and clean and had a sense of easy luxury about them.”

The Couture collection of handbags incorporates exotic skins such as alligator, crocodile, stingray, python and ostrich. Manufactured in Italy, the bags range in retail price from $1,800 to $18,000 and will arrive at stores in August.

Several Couture bag styles, including an oversize clutch, were shown on the runway in February. This line includes self-frame satchels and evening cases.

“I wanted them to be really luxurious, timeless bags,” Som said. “The ultimate model is Hermès, whose bags are coveted for decades.”

There also is minimal hardware on the bags, so they don’t appear dated.

The Collection handbags will retail from $500 to $2,500 and are made with Italian materials such as embossed leather, lambskin, patent leather and metallic goatskin. Styles take inspiration from the Couture collection, such as a tall shoulder bag with self-frame closure and a patent leather clutch.

Blass, which is owned by NexCen Brands Inc., also licenses shoes, eyewear and fur.

“Handbags will have an extremely important role in defining and communicating the Bill Blass image,” said Robert D’Loren, president and chief executive officer of NexCen. “This has evolved into an aspirational product category with heightened consumer visibility. By working closely with Peter Som, Mondani Corp. has done an outstanding job of executing a premier quality handbag collection with the exquisite level of detail that defines the Bill Blass brand.”

The bags will be shown during market next month.

D’Loren declined to give sales projections for the bags, but said the company has an aggressive rollout strategy for additional categories under the Bill Blass umbrella and accessories are a major focus of that expansion.

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