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Marchesa is launching its first accessories collection.

The company will debut handbags at its spring presentation, which takes place Sept. 16 at The Chelsea Art Museum in New York. The collection of 28 clutches and evening cases are as elaborate as the brand’s dresses, with such details as beading, pleating and corsetry.

This story first appeared in the September 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We had never done accessories,” said co-founder and designer Georgina Chapman, who founded Marchesa with Keren Craig. “So we thought, ‘Let’s approach it the way we approach a dress.’”

Chapman draped box clutches with swathes of silk to echo one of Marchesa’s signature motifs, a soft rosette. There’s also a long black satin clutch with symmetrical silk pleating resembling a turban. The interiors of the bags have grosgrain ribbon detail evoking a corset.

Key styles include a silver clutch with a profusion of beading and embroidery in an elongated oval shape and clutches with tassels. There are also exotic skins such as alligator, crocodile and lizard done in rich colors like aubergine and ochre. The bags will retail from $995 to $5,000 for an exotic skin.

There are elements of jewelry in the collection as well. The handles are beaded and incorporate crystals, and every bag in the line is topped off with a hand-cut rock crystal. All the beading is done in India, but the bags are made by hand in Italy.

Chapman, a lover of jewelry, is becoming knowledgeable about the jewelry-making process. Separately from Marchesa, she is working with Stephen Webster, creative director of Garrard, to develop a capsule collection of fine jewelry for the venerable British jeweler, to bow this fall.

The one restriction on the bags was that they had to fit a night out’s arsenal: a BlackBerry, cosmetics and keys.

“We were frustrated because we couldn’t find [an evening] bag to fit it all,” said Craig of the impetus to launch a collection. “These are timeless styles, and it was important that they be unique.”

The handbags coordinate with the mainline dresses (the company also has a lower-priced special occasion dress line called Notte by Marchesa), but Chapman said they could be worn from day to night.

“Some people don’t always have an occasion for a gown,” said Chapman. “You could wear these with jeans and a T-shirt.”

Edward Chapman, the firm’s chief executive officer and the designer’s brother, declined to project sales figures, but said he has been in touch with some retailers. The company plans to offer the handbag collection in eveningwear departments where its dresses are sold, as well as on the main floor in accessories departments. The bag collection will give Marchesa a presence on the main floor, which will help boost brand awareness. The dresses are sold in stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, which exclusively carries a small capsule collection of Marchesa bridal gowns.

The company has no plans to launch ancillary categories as of yet, but “We always keep our minds open,” Chapman said coyly. In the past, Marchesa has tapped Christian Louboutin to partner on shoes for presentations.

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