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Pure Envy

The flirty Miss Davenporte partners with seductive Coach for a limited run of luxury handbags -- only 100 -- geared to Hollywood's cocktail set.

January 20, 2008|Emili Vesilind | Times Staff Writer

YOU can hardly round a street corner these days without spotting a Coach handbag. The $2.8-billion accessory company has hit it big with the Everywoman, and now it's vying for a more rarefied consumer: Hollywood's high-fashion shopper.

The company couldn't have picked more fitting accomplices to infiltrate L.A.'s cocktail set: celebrity stylists and designers Estee Stanley and Cristina Ehrlich. The high-profile duo dresses Penelope Cruz, Jessica Biel, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Eva Mendes, among others, and designs the flirty, 1950s-inspired Miss Davenporte fashion brand (named after an imaginary, sharply dressed character the stylist conjured).

The collaborative Miss Davenporte Coach Collection is a limited-edition group of bags (100 pieces) that uses fabric and design elements from Miss Davenporte's fall '07 collection. The ultra-feminine shoulder bags are being sold exclusively at Ron Herman boutiques, where the stylists' line debuted in 2006.

Priced from $498 to $1,200, the collection features two silhouettes: a rounded, daytime tote in chocolate-hued leather (a lovely, pragmatic piece that could easily double as a weekender bag) and an evening bag with a ball-clasp and chunky chain-link shoulder straps that's offered in five fabrications, including metallic leathers, lace-over-leather and dark, shimmering sequins. In the more simple, unadorned fabrics, the evening bag is unconventional and chic, but it might be best to leave the busy lace-and-sequin models to Mary Kate.

Stanley and Ehrlich recently hosted an intimate but bustling luncheon at Ago restaurant in West Hollywood to celebrate the launch of the collection, and style-savvy celebrities turned out in droves, including Debra Messing, Sophia Bush, Milla Jovovich, Maria Menounos, Mandy Moore, Felicity Huffman and Amber Tamblyn (who insisted on giving Ehrlich a peck on the cheek, even though the stylist warned her she had a bad cold).

Sniffles aside (Ehrlich was treating her cold with a glass of whiskey), the effervescent stylists flitted across the restaurant like smartly dressed butterflies, greeting each new celebrity pal with a bear hug. The pair said they lunged at the opportunity to work with the venerable Coach label -- and the man widely credited for putting it back on the map during the last 10 years, president and creative director Reed Krakoff. "He's the most stylish man in the world," said Ehrlich. "I felt like I was this little girl in the Willy Wonka factory when I was in his office."

The alliance began with Ehrlich and Stanley poring over archival Coach bags, and distilling elements that jibe with their own design sensibilities. Ehrlich added that Coach's mass appeal made the collaboration particularly attractive, considering the stylist's "dream of dreams" is to find a corporate backer for their boutique brand. "Plus, we're both obsessed with bags," she said.

Though the modest Ehrlich joked that she thinks Krakoff "was lying" when he said he knew who the two stylists were, Krakoff said he first heard about the pair when they launched their own label. "I loved their combination of glamour and modern effortlessness," he said.

Actress Maria Menounos, for one, said she liked the idea of having an evening bag with a shoulder strap, noting, "When you have a clutch, you always want to put it down."

Mandy Moore, who stopped by with her ex-boyfriend, Wilmer Valderrama, said the stylists' penchant for classic pieces melds seamlessly with the Coach brand.

The bags are available at Ron Herman stores and at the retailer's website. But once the 100 pieces are gone, they're gone. And Coach is moving quickly with collaborations: A capsule collection of hats with designer Eugenia Kim, and a trench coat co-designed by Phillip Lim, will debut later this year.

"I always try to bring something new to each collection," Krakoff said. "Whether it's a concept or materials. So working with up-and-coming designers is a great source of inspiration."


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