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Article: Judith Leiber: The Designer who Survived the Holocaust and Became a World Sensation

Judith Leiber: The Designer

Judith Leiber: The Designer who Survived the Holocaust and Became a World Sensation

Judith Leiber was a Holocaust survivor lucky enough to flee the Nazi occupation and reach the US where she became a legend in the fashion business.

Needless to say that Judith Leiber jewelry will give any outfit a glamorous edge. The collections she created features stunning crystal cocktail rings, elegant cluster earrings, and enamel cuff bracelets.

But Judith Leiber is best known especially for her spectacular, blinged-out evening bags, which have been the go-to accessories of celebrities and even many First Ladies for decades.

Manufactured with a level of craftsmanship that has rarely been matched in the fashion world, her bags and minaudières - small decorative evening bags made out of metal and decorated with rhinestones and crystals - are sold all over the world and countless celebrities wear them with pride, among which we see Sarah Jesica Parker or Jennifer Lopez.

Judith Leiber's whimsical crystal minaudières, metal shells encrusted with beads to form shapes such as slices of watermelon or animals are real works of art. No wonder some of them are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others.
Judith Leiber Crystal Bow Fabergé Egg Minaudiere Clutch Bag
Judith Leiber Green Crystal Bow Egg Minaudiere Clutch Bag

In 2008, one of her minaudières was featured in the famous "Sex and the City" movie.

Judith Leiber Survived The Holocaust and Became a Celebrity

The designer who invented this famous brand, Judith Leiber, a Budapest native, was one of the lucky Jewish women who managed to escape being sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. Because she learned the stages of handbag manufacture in an artisan guild, so was put to work sewing military uniforms.
Judith Leiber Crystal Book Tassel Minaudiere Clutch Bag

Judith Leiber Crystal Book Tassel Minaudiere Clutch Bag

"Hitler put me in the handbag business," the artist recalled in Enid Nemy’s book, "Judith Leiber: The Artful Handbag".

Judith, her older sister Eva, and her mother survived the Nazi occupation of Budapest by staying in a building designated for Jews and after that in a house set aside for Swiss citizens. Her father, an Austro-Hungarian obtained a pass for himself and forged the words "and family," using the same typewriter used to issue the pass.

According to, during the war, Judith met Gerson (Gus) Leiber, a Brooklyn native, who was a Signal Corps sergeant in the United States Army serving in Eastern Europe. She married him in 1946 and they moved together to New York City in 1947.

It was Gerson who encouraged Judith Leiber to strike out on her own in 1963 after she had worked for various handbag manufacturers. Her company, situated in midtown Manhattan, began with a handful of employees and has since grown to two hundred strong.

After only six years in business, she received the Swarovski Great Designer award for artistic use of the company’s rhinestones. She was also the first in her field to win the Coty American Fashion Critics Award (1973).

In 1980, she won the Neiman Marcus Winged Statue for Excellence in Design, and in 1991, the Silver Slipper Award from the Costume Institute of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

In 1994, she accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, wearing a striking blue evening gown and one of her minaudières around her neck as a pendant.

The Briliant Juditith Leiber Minaudières

Judith Leiber is probably best known for her exquisite minaudières.

Made out of metal and decorated with Swarovski crystals, her stunning minaudières have taken funny shapes, including musical instruments, baby pigs, teddy bears, various fruits and vegetables.
Almost every first lady since Mamie Eisenhower has been the owner of at least one of the Judith Leiber minaudières. Jacqueline Kennedy took hers to the Inaugural Ball, while Hillary Clinton carried her Socks the cat pocketbook when dressed in evening gowns.

Her mesmerizing jeweled creations make Juditith Leiber the "Fabergé of today".

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