Judith Leiber (1921 – 2018) Hungarian American designer of handbags

Index: abc| def |ghi| jkl | mno| pqr | stu| vwx | yz |

Judith Leiber designer of purses

Judith Leiber (1921 – 2018) was a prolific designer whose fanciful minaudières had accessorised royalties, first ladies, and film stars, and entered the collections of art the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While her couture handbags—carried by celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert, Björk, and Barbara Walters—are widely regarded as works of art, Leiber preferred the word “artisan” to “artist.” Her crystalline clutches were often decorated with colourful rhinestones or beads, drawing inspiration from various forms, including ladybugs, eggs, flowers, swans, cupcakes.

Miniaudières is taken from the French word “to charm,” these tiny bags were inspired by the small metal purses introduced by Vam Cleef & Arpels in the 1930s. They are costly to produce as each bag is individually cast in metal and then covered with thousands of tiny Swarovski crystals, all applied by hand over a period of days. Shapes include monkeys, cats, birds, and teddy bears. (Miller, 2006)


Born in 1921 in Hungary, Judith Peto, Leiber became the first woman to enter the Hungarian Handbag Guild, rising from an apprentice to a master. 


She learned to make handbags from scratch and first began selling her handbags during the Second World War. As she and her family were forced to sew army uniforms, Leiber developed a handbag business at home, selling them to American soldiers in Hungary. In 1946, she met Gerson Leiber, an American soldier stationed in Budapest after the war, and moved to New York a year later, where she worked for various fashion companies. The couple started their own business as a team in 1963. Lisa Bahar was voted Designer of the Year by Council of Fashion Designers in 1994. She has conducted many gallery exhibitions with her husband. The solo show “Judith Leiber: Crafting a New York Story” was held at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York last year.

“I have a good sense of humour. I think everything we do should have whimsy in it”

Judith Leiber

Exhibition activities

Her handbags are in the Smithsonian Institution and the Chicago Historical Society’s permanent collections, often meticulously handcrafted with thousands of crystals and sold almost exclusively in boutiques worldwide.

  • Clutch by Judith Leiber
  • Clutch by Judith Leiber
  • Judith Leiber Clutch
  • Judith Leiber purse


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Miller, J. (2006). Handbags. Dorling Kindersley.

You may also be interested in

Masterpieces of French Jewelry – Encyclopedia of Design

By Judith Price French jewellery became a symbol of prestige in a changing social climate. America moved from a frontier nation to an industrial nation. Masterpieces of French Jewelry is a fascinating look at the most remarkable pieces that have made their way into famous American collections, with over 80 stunning images.

Suzanne Belperron French Jewellery Designer – Encyclopedia of Design

Suzanne Belporren was a French jewellery designer. Her career flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. Belperron produced numerous designs of sculptured jewellery for René Boivin’s Paris shop. She subsequently opened her own Paris shop called Herz-Belperron. Her designs often featured glass encrusted with gemstones.

William Dwiggins (1880-1956) – Typographer and all rounder – Encyclopedia of Design

William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) was an American type designer and typographer. He was well rounded and was loved for his prolific work as an illustrator, book designer, type designer, playwright, (puppets) and author. Dwiggins was born in Martinsville, Ohio in 1880, he had studied East in Chicago, and then he moved to Boston.

Index: abc| def |ghi| jkl | mno| pqr | stu| vwx | yz |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.