Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — The curtain will stay up for another month on the Judith Leiber retrospective at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a result of big crowds and brisk sales of the exhibition’s companion book, “The Artful Handbag.”
Dorothy Globus, director of the FIT museum, said that the show will run through March 11. It opened Nov. 15 and was originally scheduled to close Feb. 4.
Globus credited Leiber’s high recognition level among consumers as a reason for higher-than-usual attendance. The show has been averaging 500 visitors a day, which is 20 to 30 percent higher than most of FIT’s exhibitions.
“She is a craftsman that never compromises along the way,” Globus noted. “She seems to get such joy from creating each design, and that’s evident in the finished product.”
Ellen Goldstein, director and chairwoman of FIT’s accessories design department, credited the exhibition with providing not only an inspiration for burgeoning design students, but an opportunity to see how prolific Leiber has been in 30 years in business.
Following the opening of the FIT retrospective, retailing’s luxury leaders turned out for a private dinner for Leiber at the Four Seasons.
The store executives, which included Burt Tansky, chairman and chief executive officer of Neiman-Marcus; Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue; Michael Gould, chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s, and Dawn Mello, president, and Stephen Elkin, chairman and ceo, of Bergdorf Goodman, were there to celebrate Leiber’s 30-year milestone as well as her power at retail.
“Judith’s staying power comes from the fact that she makes classics with impeccable quality,” said Vicki Haupt, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for accessories at Bergdorf’s. “Now, by taking her bags from night into day, she has become a 24-hour bag resource.”
Haupt said Bergdorf’s has registered overall increases of more than 20 percent in Leiber’s collection this year, with some areas showing even greater gains.
“While evening is still the strength of the business, daytime bags are up by about 40 percent compared to last year, especially in the exotics,” Haupt noted. “The minaudières are extremely significant — running more than 10 percent ahead — with fabric evening styles like the antique quilts and embroideries up about 40 percent over last year.”
Sharen Turney, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for accessories at Neiman’s, said Leiber’s ongoing personal involvement in the business and remaining true to her own vision have been key to her longevity at retail.
“Mrs. Leiber knows what she is all about and has never tried to be all things to all people,” Turney noted. In the process, she has created “products that are so unique and different, no one else has been able to duplicate them as fashion statements or collectors’ items.”
Turney characterized this season’s sales as “outstanding,” and cited strong double-digit increases compared to last year. Although she declined to give specifics, Turney added that the store has a variety of Leiber events planned into next spring to continue the celebration, including a book signing.

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