Friday, July 29, 2016

Special Post! The Vintage Purse Gallery Interviews Great-Grandson of the Incredible Ida Jolles

The Vintage Purse Gallery was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Aaron Blumenkranz, descendent of Ida Jolles, an entrepreneurial legend in the history of 20th century purse manufacturing.

Jolles Studios business card
 
Vintage Purse Gallery: How are you related to Ida Jolles?
Aaron Blumenkranz: I am her great-grandson and my two daughters, of course, are her great-great-granddaughters.  My wife was always interested in Ida’s story and Jolles Original.


1955 Jolles petit-point booklet

VPG:  Who started the Jolles Original company?  
AB: Ida Jolles started it in the early twentieth century. Later, as the Viennese business became successful and grew, she brought in her husband to help manage it. 

 Jolles needlework billfold and petit-point purse


VPG: What is her personal story?
AB: Despite being born in Europe in 1897—a time and place where women were not welcome in commerce—she grew up to build a large international company employing 20,000 people.  Fluent in many languages, she traveled extensively.  She had enormous business savvy, and used what we consider to be twenty-first century business techniques—such as outsourcing and allowing/encouraging employees to work at home—well before her time. Perhaps even more important to her success, this elegant lady also had exquisite taste and an eye for beauty. But her main focus was always her family.



 Jolles Plas-Ti-Cato and Plastic-Rol clutch purses.


VPG: How did she come to start her needlepoint business in 1923 in Austria?
AB: Ahh! Now that’s a story! We tell some of it on our website, www.jollesoriginal.com.

 Jolles basket bag with heavily embellished top

VPG: Was she able to get out of Europe during WWII? Where did she go?
AB: Yes—and she got her kids, husband and business out as well! The harrowing story of outfoxing the Nazi soldier who had seized her husband and her business—and went on to open studios in New York, Brussels, and Shanghai—is a tale as riveting as a spy movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In fact, my aunt is working on a book, “The Lady and the Kommissar” that details this, and much more. We will be sure to get an early copy to The Vintage Purse Gallery!

Trio of whimsical Jolles totes

VPG: After the war, how was she integral in rebuilding Austria’s economy?
AB: Madame Jolles was the first U.S. civilian sent under the Marshall Plan to help rehabilitate the Austrian economy after World War II.

 Jolles penguin handbag created by Ida's daughter, Stella

VPG: Please share with us some of the commendations she received as a world leader.
AB: She received the Austrian Cross of Honor for helping the Viennese economy after World War I, and, as mentioned above, was the first civilian sent by the U.S. government under the Marshall Plan to help again after World War II. At that time she also became very active in helping improve medical conditions in Taiwan, endowing hospitals and medical laboratories. She knew Chiang Kai Shek, and got medals from his government for this humanitarian work. 


 Poodle purse, highly collectible, also created by Stella Jolles

VPG: In The Vintage Purse Gallery’s collection, we have Jolles Original needlepoint and petit point purses, and Jolles Plastic-Rol and Plas-Ti-Cato purses, as well as some 1960s cage purses, embellished corduroy totes and even ones with poodle, penguin and marlin motifs. These are highly desired by collectors! Do you know how the company evolved to make these engaging designs?
AB: Ida Jolles always sought new ideas, new techniques, and new art forms. In fact she held patents for some of her designs. Her younger daughter Stella was a madly creative designer, so Madame Jolles brought her in to the business. Stella created the poodle, penguin and marlin motifs. Her specialty was whimsical, trendy purses made with materials like felt, sequins and beads. These were marketed as “Ego Bags.” However, Madame Jolles remained responsible for the petit point bags and the more conservative beaded and leather creations.  Elegant simplicity was her trademark.

 Trio of Stella Jolles' cage purses

VPG: Are there any craftspersons still around who made some of these bags, and are you in touch with them? Have you ever visited Austria?
AB: The craftspersons are long gone. But my mother and aunt were frequent visitors at the studio in New York’s Garment District.  This was an amazing place—a full floor in the building. My aunt, who was younger, was usually parked in the work area, by piles and bins of beads and felt. My mother got to see the formal showroom, where the professional buyers were served tea, and models would “wear the bags” and stop to show the inside of the bags. Both my mother and aunt also visited the Austrian studio. They remember the workers in both places “oohing and aahing” over The Boss’s grandkids.

Needlepoint and beaded German shepherd purse by Jolles Original


VPG: Please tell us about your goals in re-launching the Jolles Original brand.
AB: Our motivation in re-launching my great-grandmother’s brand is our attempt to resurrect her as a beacon and role model for my daughters. We hope to use the Jolles Original brand as a living platform to tell her inspiring story.  

 Needlepoint and embellished flowers bag by Jolles

VPG: Anything else you’d like to add?
AB: It’s thrilling to see that Jolles Original creations are still admired, still sought after on places like eBay, Etsy, and—of course!—The Vintage Purse Gallery. Thank you!!!

 Jolles three-dimensional flower pot bag

A HUGE THANK YOU to Mr. Blumenkranz for sharing Madame Jolles’ story with us. For more information, please visit www.jollesoriginal.com

Jolles bags in photos above are from The Vintage Purse Gallery’s collection.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Vintage Purse Gallery New Info

Hey Vintage Purse People!

While I will still periodically post to this blog, you have new and exciting and viewing options.

First, I want to express how much I appreciate your support of this blog over the years. It's still a dream to own a real brick-and-mortar museum, and we (including my very tolerant and incredibly patient husband) are constantly exploring options.

Meantime, The Vintage Purse Gallery is a FREE online-only museum, and we welcome visitors every day from all over the world. No entrance fee, no crowds!

You can go directly to www.VintagePurseGallery.com and click on the menu for our sub-sites, or you can directly visit our sister blog, which showcases our ever-growing purse collection via photos and tags. The blog's URL is www.VintagePurseGallery.blogspot.com.

We're also on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/vintagepursegallery. I've met so many great people through Facebook and I welcome your questions and comments.

I am also on Twitter, @VintagePurseGal, although I haven't yet quite gotten the hang of Instagram. I might have to have my five-year-old grandson explain it to me!

Yours in Vintage (literally; see the photo below),
Wendy

December 4, 2015 at Aubergine Emporium's (Simi Valley, CA) holiday open house. Fashion rundown: shiny silver 1970s clutch purse, ivory Dalton cashmere sweater, ivory pencil skirt, blue and ivory 1960s sequined wool top, and, best of all, a blue rhinestone pin that belonged to my grandma. (For those who are curious, on my leg is a tattoo of the Three Graces on a cameo, but that's a different and totally-worth-the-pain story.)


Thursday, October 29, 2015

SPECIAL POST - YouTube Video: The Vintage Purse Gallery Presents Midas of Miami Purses

Here's our latest video, which features many of our Midas of Miami purses, most of which are wicker with incredible embellishments. If you can fill in the gaps on the history of these purses, please email info@vintagepursegallery.com. We'd especially like to hear from the amazing artists who created these delightful works of art.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

White Wicker Box Purse with Pansies. 1950s/1960s. Maker: Midas of Miami. Large, picnic style white-painted wicker box purse with embellisments that include blue-green velvet oval shapes with gold trim, beads and inset pansy appliques. Lined in satin-like rayon fabric. Handles are not traditional Midas of Miami. They are gold and white, like other Midas bags, but the white portion has a non-traditional pattern. Three gold feet on the bottom. Plain back.




If you do a search on this blog (search box at the top), you will see that Midas of Miami is one of my faves. I will be doing the next YouTube video on Midas purses; however, I don't have enough background information. If you know anything about the origins of these purses, please email info@vintagepursegallery.com.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

SPECIAL POST! The Vintage Purse Gallery has a YouTube Channel!

The Vintage Purse Gallery is happy to announce we've started a YouTube Channel. Still working out some of the glitches, but we hope you enjoy our very first effort, owl-themed purses, which relates to the previous post here on Vintage Purse a Day.

We welcome your comments, here or at info@vintagepursegallery.com, or on our Facebook page.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

SPECIAL POST! Bags by T.J., Florence, Alabama


This post came about because I am in the process of shooting YouTube videos to share The Vintage Purse Gallery’s collection and to educate people who are interested in vintage handbags.

The first video, which I will release in a few days (barring any technical issues), is owl-themed. I chose owls because it is a current popular motif, and was also quite popular in the hippie era. I start off the video with this cute little white purse, which has a trio of embroidered owls.

It is by Bags by T.J., and, at the time of purchase, and when I shot the video, I believed it to be from the late 1960s to early 1970s. Tied to one of its straps is the original paper-and-string price tag from Peltz Shoes. $24.99 seemed kind of steep to me for the 1970s, and I even say that on the video.





It was the price tag that made me curious about the purse’s origins. A new-with-tag (NWT) midcentury purse is a pretty rare find. And there was just something about that $24.99 that didn't seem very '60s/'70s.



After shooting the video, I did some online research and found Bags by T.J.’s website, which hasn’t been updated since 1999. However, the site had an online catalog featuring purses very much like mine. It seems the company had been making vintage-style purses up until at least the late ‘90s.

 Screenshot from the website.

I also have one very similar to it, which at first I thought was another Bags by T.J. purse. This one, however, has a label that says “The Original Bag by Pat, Columbus, Mississippi.”








I can’t prove it, but I believe these two companies are somehow related.

The problem is that I occasionally see T.J. and Pat purses for sale online and they are always identified as 1960s/1970s purses, when I am fairly certain they are more modern, meaning 1990s.

I tried calling all the phone numbers related to Bags by T.J., including the 800 number on its website, but that number now goes to a scammy-sounding “congratulations, you have won…” commercial-type voicemail. The phone numbers for the president of Bags by T.J., Don T. Lemon, have been disconnected. From my research, I believe he was born April 1935 and had his business for a time at 121 Butler St. in Florence, Alabama, selling many of these purses to golf course gift shops, then moved to Metairie, Louisiana, where he passed away in March 1999. Efforts to reach his family members in Louisiana failed.

I also phoned the marketing department of Peltz Shoes, where an employee named Steve very kindly assisted me by consulting with the company’s owners, who have been in business since 1957 and still work at Peltz Shoes’ corporate headquarters. There are no inventory records for the purse as it has since been purged from their modern system, but they believe that it did sell in their store in the 1990s.

I didn’t want to have to re-record my Vintage Purse Gallery Channel inaugural video, so I added captions to clarify what I learned after the fact. Of course, I wish I had done the research beforehand, but I don’t know if that would’ve stopped me from buying the purse—although it definitely would’ve changed the narrative on the video. The purse is very cute and it fits in well with the gallery’s collection, however, it is not from the 1960s/1970s.

The lesson here is that it doesn’t hurt to check out the background—if at all possible—of a vintage handbag prior to purchasing. I often see purses referred to as being from the wrong era, but this particular type of bag is consistently advertised incorrectly, and its retro style adds to that illusion.

I still believe you should buy what you love, regardless of era, and as long as you can afford it. My main concern is that a lot of the history of these purses is gone or will go away soon, so if you were in the purse business, or if you know someone who was who would like to share their story, please email me at info@vintagepursegallery.com. I'd love to do an interview!



Sunday, July 19, 2015

1950s Marcus Brothers Lucite and Woven Raffia Box Purse


Lucite and Woven Raffia Box Purse. 1950s. Maker: Marcus Brothers of Miami. Fantastic oblong box purse with milk-white Lucite top, featuring pink painted flowers embellished with rhinestones. Box portion is covered in pink woven raffia. Lucite handle and twist latch. Top flips open. Lined in pink rayon. Pink-painted wood bottom.

These types of purses are getting much harder to find, hence they are really expensive when you do. I managed to get a good deal on this one (around $30, plus shipping), and when it arrived in the mail, it took my breath away. So pretty!