Dee Hilfiger Debuts Judith Leiber Jewelry

Mary Alice Stephenson, Dee Hilfiger - Publicity - H 2019
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The label beloved for red carpet-ready evening bags is launching affordable costume jewels with stars Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Zendaya as fans.

French fries and champagne set the fun tone for Thursday night’s debut of Judith Leiber Jewelry, bolstering the sense of whimsy that Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger has brought to the brand since she stepped in as both the co-owner and creative director in 2017.

That spirit already has been reflected in the crystal-encrusted minaudières Hilfiger has conjured to inject a youthful edge into the collection, from a sparkly boom box to an oversized smiley-face emoji and even two evening bags resembling tall orders of French fries. She has acquired the desired fan base as a result, including Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner, as well as Zendaya, who commissioned a minaudière that resembles her oft-Instagrammed miniature schnauzer, Noon.

The jewelry collection likewise seeks to drive that idea, taking its cue from Hilfiger’s designs, as well as more classic Judith Leiber bags. "I wanted to do jewelry that was fun, bold and whimsical, because those are all qualities you find in the DNA of the brand," she said in the intimate Tribeca gallery space that hosted the preview (Hilfiger also dressed with gemstones in mind, wearing a black dress with a plunging neckline from Christopher Kane’s Spring 2019 collection, its lone accent a bib of colorful jewels on steroids). "Many pieces are inspired by the newer designs, but there are other details, like cabochon or emerald-cut stones, that were used as closures on more traditional bags. So there’s something for everyone."

That extends to the retail strategy as well. The collection, which launches on the Judith Leiber site in mid-May before expanding to department stores, features roughly 500 pieces, priced from $50 to $1,000. "That was intentional because we want everyone to feel like they could own a bit of Judith Leiber, but I don’t think we sacrificed design or quality for those price points," Hilfiger said. "I had been looking for some fun, chunky jewelry at an affordable price, so we’re trying to fill a void in the market. It wasn’t easy. We threw the first two sets of sketches out the window. What you see here is the third pass, when I felt we finally got it right."

A little more than two years into her stewardship of Judith Leiber, Hilfiger said she didn’t have to look far for a good business model; and indeed, there was Tommy Hilfiger, never far from his wife’s side Thursday night. "My husband definitely influences a lot of my decision-making, especially on the business side, which in turn affects design," Dee said. "For any brand that’s been around for a long time, it’s dangerous to rest on your laurels, and he’s inspired me to always look forward, to try to disrupt, and to design based on what’s current and what’s happening in our culture."

"When she first came in as partner and creative director, she already loved the brand, but she definitely wanted to evolve it and make the bags more modern and relevant for today," Tommy added. "And it’s worked; the minute they hit the store, they sell out. I think she’s having a lot of fun, because she keeps pushing it a little further every time."