And her designer handbags
Mary Coxe walks down Royal Street on her way to work at the Martin Lawrence Gallery with a large Alexander McQueen handbag slung over her shoulder looking like a model from a page out of Vogue Magazine.
“It is my latest gift to myself,” she says with a smile. “I simply couldn’t resist it when I saw it at the Canal Place Saks Fifth Avenue, and I especially liked the taupe color because it would go with everything. The handles are long enough to hang it on my shoulder and when I unzip it I can see everything at a quick glance. Even my 15-year-old granddaughter, Hope Gann, noticed it and remarked, ‘MeMe, I can’t believe you bought that purse with a gold skull hanging on it,” referring to the McQueen trademark tiny skull that comes attached to the bag.”
Mary has been a lover of designer handbags since she made her first purchase 35 years ago of a Judith Leiber quilted evening bag with gold chains at the then fashionable Town & Country Shop on St. Charles Avenue.
“I still remember that it was on sale for $80, and I am pleased to say that it still looks like new,” she says. “Over the years I have collected other Leiber treasures, not to mention the designer bags it now shares my closet with that include Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Reed Krakoff, and McQueen.”
Each handbag comes with a special story. “I bought my first Chanel; bag when I was at a meeting in San Francisco in 1999,” she explains. “It was the classic black quilted bag with gold chains. I remember it cost about $1,100 and I couldn’t believe I had spent that much. I kept it in the box for about six weeks contemplating whether I should return it.” Fortunately, Mary didn’t return it and she is quick to add, “I am glad it I kept it. It is still one of my very favorite indulgences.”
With such a wardrobe of handsome, classic handbags, she learned an important secret from something she read years ago about how Jackie Kennedy used a place on Madison Avenue in New York City named Artbag to refurbish her favorite designer handbags.
“I had a favorite, somewhat worn, very large Prada bag that the company had stopped making some years ago,” she says in a soft voice, like she is sharing a special secret with a good friend: “I sent it to Artbag and it came back like brand new. I was so impressed that I have continued to use the company for many of my other designer bag renewals over the years.” (Artbag – 113 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10028)
A native of New Orleans, Mary is proud to say: “I have always lived in New Orleans and I have only had two addresses in my life, so I have always looked very stable on an application.” And, being the steady person she is, she has been with the Martin Lawrence Gallery at 433 Royal Street since it opened “I actually started at the Dyansen Gallery 28 years ago when it was located at the same address. When it closed in 2001, Martin Lawrence leased the space and I continued to work here.”
Mary’s fashionable style fits right in with gallery that owns one of the largest collections of Andy Warhol’s works, not to mention it has an extensive Erté collection of sculptures, gouaches and graphics. “We also have original paintings, lithographs, etching, by modern masters such as Picasso, Chagall, Dali, and Miro,” she says. “It is exciting to be the galley director of a great business with such an extensive collection artists. And we are unique because we own our entire inventory, while many high end galleries handle art on assignment.”
When you ask about her style, she is quick to answer: “I liked classic clothes, handbags, shoes, and jewelry that I can enjoy forever. I love working with Lisa Conrad in the Club at our local Saks; she knows that I watch for sales. I am a working girl and I need to get the most for my dollars.”
Then she stops for a moment to contemplate her favorites: “I love Armani’s clothes and Manolo shoes, and I have already listed my favorite designer bags. My favorite look is a black turtle neck sweater, good black slacks and a great belt and/or scarf. I have a huge collection of cashmere shawls in different colors that are almost my uniform in the winter, yet nothing makes me feel more elegant than to have my favorite black, quilted Chanel ‘shopper’ handbag with silver chains slung over my shoulder when I am walking to from my parking garage to work on Royal Street. Yes, Chanel bags are my favorites because they are so classic and never go out of style. Each one I own has been a great investment and you can’t measure the joy they have brought me.”