Judith Leiber (born Judith Peto in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary) is a designer of luxury handbags.
Peto was the first woman to join the handbag-makers guild in Budapest. A Jew, she escaped the Holocaust of World War II to the safety of the Swiss house when her father was able to obtain a Swiss schutzpass, a document that gave the bearer safe passage. This pass is on view at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
After the war, she began making handbags at home and then at a friend's small factory. She met and married an American soldier, Gerson Leiber, and emigrated to the United States in 1948.
After working as a handbag designer for other companies, Leiber founded her own business in 1963. Sold at exclusive boutiques around the world, her handbags cost several thousand dollars and have become a status symbol for many women including several Presidential First Ladies. Leiber is most famous for her minaudieres, which are often covered in crystals. Animals are a recurring theme, and often the most expensive purses of the collection with prices on some animal shaped minaudieres exceeding $5000.
A Judith Leiber cupcake minaudiere was featured in the Sex and the City movie.
The Judith Leiber boutiques are exclusive as there are only four in the United States, located in Las Vegas (2 locations), Orange County, and New York City. A fifth location was located in Atlanta, but closed in 2008 due to leasing issues.
A biography of Leiber and her husband, modernist artist Gergson Leiber, was published in 2010. Entitled No Mere Bagatelles, it was written by Jeffrey Sussman. Mr. Sussman has also written the catalogue copy for numerous exhibitions at the Leiber Museum. Exhibitions for which he has written the catalogues include one for Judith Leiber's handbags, one for an exhibition of antique Chinese porcelains, and one for the print work of the American artist Will Barnet.
In 1994, Leiber received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers. Classic examples of her work can be found on permanent display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia has had a gallery of her work on display since it opened in 2008. She retired in 1998.
In September 2008, Leiber was rated the most prestigious luxury handbag brand for the second year running by the New York-based Luxury Institute.