Judith Leiber, whose legendary handbags have graced many red carpets over the years, passed away at age 97, just hours after her husband Gerson “Gus” Leiber (also 97) had also died. The Leibers had been married for 72 years, and both Leibers passed of natural causes at their Springs, New York, home.
Iconic Purse Designer Judith Leiber Dies At Age 97 In New York
Over the years, Judith Leiber combined elegance and whimsy to create mostly clutch purses in shapes that range from a bunch of asparagus to Hello Kitty. Vogue explains that Judith Leiber believed that humor was required as part of a successful life.
“You have to have a sense of humor.”
Judith Leiber created purses that appeared with first ladies and rock stars as well as all of Hollywood. Leiber’s bags are colorful, bejeweled mini works of art that are exclusively made in America. The clutches, often adorned with crystals, looked as beautiful in someone’s grasp as it did in a display case.
“I like to do things that look crazy yet are practical. My mania is to do a bag that looks as good empty as it does stuffed.”
Leiber explains that each bag requires weeks of handwork, which explains the steep price.
Born Judith Peto in Budapest, Hungary, Judith Leiber survived the Holocaust and married her husband, painter Gerson Leiber, while he was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps stationed in Europe in 1946. The two moved to Gerson Leiber’s native Brooklyn, New York, soon after.
Judith Leiber started designing purses for other labels for almost two decades before starting her own brand in 1963. Leiber took the skills she had learned working as an apprentice back in Hungary to make her own bags from start to finish.
Jeffrey Sussman, the biographer for the Leibers, said that Gerson Leiber told Judith Leiber on Friday night, “Sweetie, it’s time for both of us to go.”
People Magazine said that both Gerson and Judith Leiber died over the weekend of heart attacks and were buried together on Monday.
Judith And Gerson Leiber’s Love Story Started In Budapest After The War
Judith Leiber started making her own purses with limited materials in Budapest after the war, and her customers were largely U.S. soldiers. Judith explained that she met her husband on the streets of Budapest where she was selling her bags, and they struck up a conversation.
Gerson Leiber said that Judith mentioned to him that her family had a room to rent.
“She knew nothing about how the U.S. military made housing decisions. She did, however, speak excellent English. I couldn’t find her a tenant, but I did fall in love.”