American luxury brand Judith Leiber made its way to the Calcutta exhibition circuit for the first time at Bon Vivant. A chat with Sangeeta Assomull (in picture), CEO of Judith Leiber in India.
How did your association with Judith Leiber happen?
I lived in London as a child and when I was 16, the first bag my father ever gifted me was a Judith Leiber classic. This gave me an emotional connect with the brand. Over the years, the only constant in my closet is my collection of Judith Leiber clutches — the other bags would be dumped a few years or seasons later! I then decided that I wanted the brand to be exposed to India and took the initiative of opening a Judith Leiber franchise in 2007 at DLF Emporio in Delhi.
How has India responded to the brand?
From its inception five years ago, the response has been phenomenal. Each year, the label has seen a growth of 30 per cent in sales. I feel Judith Leiber, just like jewels, is a mother-daughter generation game, something you can pass on for generations. You can pair it up with both Indian and western wear and it will never go out of style. The first bag we launched in India was the Ganesh bag, the sales were unimaginable! Soon after, we launched the Peacock clutch in honour of Maharani Padmini Devi of Jaipur. People always have this notion that the stock sold in India is always a few seasons old but at Judith Leiber, that is not the case. We just launched our Overture collection in New York two days ago and Calcutta (after Delhi) is the second city in India to witness the collection.
Did the Suneet Verma collaboration help seal the India connect?
Of course. It is always necessary to collaborate a new brand with an established one for it to gain recognition and success. Judith Leiber was new to India, so it needed some sort of identity boost. Collaborating with Suneet led to a huge surge in our sales. We needed people to be aware of the Judith Leiber label and that did the trick!
What is the latest addition to the brand?
We have launched this new collection called Customised Couture. We call it the Children’s art bag. Our clients can give us drawings or sketches or art pieces that we will represent on the classic minaudieres. I have got one made for myself — something my son had made for me years ago (in picture right). It’s extremely dear to my heart.
How has Calcutta taken to the brand?
It’s quite simple. For each trunk show, we take 50 units. I always tell my sales girls: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t make any sales, just make sure you get 50 names of potential clients who we can sell the products to later!” Two hours into the exhibition, we had sold 15 bags. That itself explains Calcutta’s response!
After World War II, Judith Leiber migrated to the US from Hungary with her husband and worked for various handbag manufacturers in New York. With the support of her artistic husband, she launched her own label in 1963. The Judith Leiber handbags are now part of the permanent design collection at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington and other prestigious places.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nearly every US First Lady dating back to 1953 carries Judith Leiber custom-made bags to the US Presidential inauguration ceremonies.
The label gained worldwide fame with its Hollywood debut in the 2008 film Sex and The City. Remember how Lily (picture above), Charlotte’s daughter, takes Big’s call on Carrie’s cell phone and then places the phone in her Judith Leiber cupcake minaudiere!
Pictures by Bhubaneswarananda Halder