NEW YORK — Has Christina Aguilera become a handbag designer?

This story first appeared in the March 24, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Not quite, but today Henri Bendel is kicking off spring with its first Accessory Week — and to mark the occasion, the specialty store asked Aguilera and 30 other celebrities, designers, writers and New York socialites to personalize a blank canvas tote.

The results are on display on Bendel’s fourth floor Atrium Gallery and will be part of a silent auction that is open for bids until Saturday. The proceeds of the auction will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Besides Aguilera, contributors include Anna Sui, whose “Dolly on the Go” tote is lined with small red pom-poms and features her signature Dolly drawing; Iman, who had illustrator Alvaro paint an image of her across the front of her “Summer Frolic” tote, and gossip scribe Liz Smith, who handpainted “I am a Gossip” in graffiti style across the bag of the same name.

The totes, which were originally donated by handbags firm Mella Inc., are filled with items picked by the designers. Judi Nathan’s “Quintessential New York” tote, for instance, includes a Yankees hat signed by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as well as a weekend stay at The Regent Hotel Wall Street, while Mary Quant’s “Personal Luxury Getaway Bag” contains color cosmetics, nail products, cosmetic pouches and totes.

“It was a cute tote to start out with, but these designers and celebrities have managed to take it to a whole new level,” said Teril Turner, Bendel’s marketing director.

The specialty retailer’s Accessory Week is held in association with the Accessories Council, and in addition to the display and silent auction, the specialty retailer will host special events with accessories designer appearances, line previews and launch parties.

“These retail weeks really work,” said Sheila Block, executive director of the Accessories Council. “Every store does an accessories week that reflects their image. Each is different, but the common denominator is that they increase sales.”

As for the tote project, other participants include Vanessa Williams, Diane Von Furstenberg, Stephen Burrows, Carlos Falchi, Rafé New York, Kenneth Jay Lane, Alek Wek, BeneFit, Cynthia Rowley and Irene Rosenzweig for Swell, Serena Rees for Agent Provocateur and Tiffany Dubin.

“I am going to bid on the Carlos Falchi and Rafé totes,” Block confessed.

“There’s going to be quite a bidding war,” Turner added. “We better keep our preferences a secret.”

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