BAG LADY

Byline: Teena Hammond

LOS ANGELES — It sounds like the opener of a dirty joke.
“So, did you hear, Monica Lewinsky is selling handbags…”
Strange but true. That Woman has turned herself into an accessories designer.
On Aug. 30, Lewinsky launched The Real Monica Inc., a company that sells her handbag designs over the Internet.
“A great thing about the Internet is you can be based wherever you want, so I’ll be moving to New York in the fall,” said Lewinsky, during an interview with WWD this week. Lewinsky, now 26, was chatty and excited about showing off the handbags while at a friend’s home in the hills north of Sunset Boulevard. She didn’t want her picture taken because “I’ve never started a business before and it’s not done wonders for my skin.”
Monica, however, is not alone in this venture. She has business partners but refuses to name them. All she’ll say is that her backers are just friends who wanted to help her out. It was during the impeachment scandal, when Monica was holed up in her Washington apartment and prosecutors forbade her to communicate with anyone by phone or e-mail, that Lewinsky began her designing career.
It was, she says, a way for her to fill her days.
“My stepmom had taught me to knit last year during the difficult times. I needed a knitting bag, so I started to sew again,” says Lewinsky. “I had done a lot of costume design and theater in high school. I worked with my hands and colors and things a lot, and had sort of departed from that.”
One of the first things Monica made was a tote bag to carry her knitting supplies. After girlfriends clamored for their own, she gave them out as holiday gifts. Each of those bags bore a tag that read, “Made especially for you by Monica.”
Lewinsky has included the same slogan in her new line of bags, which includes eight items — four purses and four totes.
The made-to-order accessories, which cost between $70 and $130, are only available online and require a six-to-eight-week delivery time. Contractors across the U.S. are manufacturing them, using upholstery fabric that Lewinsky is purchasing at retail — yes, retail — at F&S Home, a fabric store in Los Angeles.
A dollar from each sale will be donated to charity. Lewinsky talked to designer Todd Oldham to get his opinion on the bags and to find out what charities to include.
“I wanted to get a sense from Todd which charities he supported and help him do that as well as thank him for his assistance,” Lewinsky said. “I’ve always been interested in ways that I can help people and I think that it’s been hard to do that in some circumstances in the past year.”
Those circumstances have led some people to try and capitalize on her name in the past few months. So how hard was it for the real Monica to come up with a web address of her own?
“Unfortunately, most of the web sites that have my name were already taken and were purchased by other people,” said Monica. She settled on Therealmonicainc.com after deciding not to buy out a previously registered name.
“I couldn’t bring myself to do that,” she said.