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Judith Leiber

by Academy of Achievement

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Judith Leiber is the world's foremost designer of elegant ladies' handbags. Born Judith Peto in Budapest, Hungary, she trained as a handbag maker in a traditional European guild system, learning every aspect of her craft from tanning the skins, to designing the frames and clasps, to painstakingly applying rhinestones with the tiniest tweezers imaginable. At age 18, she was the first woman to join the handbag makers guild. After World War II, she met an American soldier, Gerson Leiber; the couple were married and moved to New York City in 1947. Judith Leiber joined a major New York handbag firm as a designer but was dismayed by the low standards of craftsmanship in the American industry. In 1963, she and her husband took $5,000 they had save, started a firm of their own, Judith Leiber, Inc., to produce luxury handbags and accessories. Her creations are prized by women around the world for their imaginative designs and meticulous craftsmanship. Among her most famous creations are a "magical menagerie" of handbags shaped like various animals. She drew inspiration for her fanciful creations from the worlds of fashion, art, architecture, painting, sculpture, and from an extensive personal library. Her creations are sold in the world's most elegant department stores and in Judith Leiber boutiques from Manhattan to Beverly Hills. Leiber handbags have been carried by the most famous women in the world, and are featured in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Judith Leiber and her husband retired from the firm in 1998. In this podcast, recorded at the Academy of Achievement's 1992 Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, she discusses the difficulties of growing up in a Jewish family under Hungary's anti-Semitic dictatorship of the 1930s and '40s. She urges the Academy's student delegates to nourish their imaginations and pursue experiences outside their chosen specialties.

Judith Leiber
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  • Free
  • Category: Management
  • Language: English

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