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Morning Call: Emmaus Woman Puts What May Be World’s Largest Collection of Purses on Exhibit in Bethlehem and Allentown

October 15th, 2019 |

October 15, 2019 | In The News

Written by The Morning Call

Ilene Hochberg Wood’s collection of 3,000 handbags — the majority of which dwell in a 2,400-square-foot Quonset hut on her Lehigh Valley estate — will make a fashionista fall to her knees.

Her collection has everything: crossbodies and clutches, wristlets and duffels, hobos and backpacks. There are fun ones like the giant Converse sneaker shoulder bag. Other pieces drip with kitschy nostalgia like a pocketbook stamped with the Hess’s department-store logo.

Ilene Wood poses with handbags featuring paintings of her. ( Steve M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Ilene Wood poses with handbags featuring paintings of her. ( Steve M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

However, the real heart-stoppers are Wood’s designer babies. Fashion’s marquee names are all represented: Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Moschino. She has Judith Leiber minaudieres, Edie Parker clutches, and Louis Vuitton satchels. We are talking scores of Kellys and Birkins.

There are the rare Anne Marie of Paris’ sculptural darlings — of which she has 19.

Wood’s most expensive acquisition: a flaming-red, 40-centimeter crocodile Kelly that she estimates to be worth at least $100,000.

Wood keeps most of her bags in an impenetrable, stainless steel bunker outfitted with electronic doors and alarms. Wood ordered the bunker online seven years ago from the Army. Half of the space — two Jaguars reside on the other side — is filled with sealed 18-gallon plastic storage bins stacked on top of each other that are overflowing with bags. The bins are organized thematically, with descriptive labels like “wooden top handle,” “leather shoulder bags,” and “evening bags” neatly taped to the outside. Beauts that cost thousands of dollars live next to those that might have cost $10 or less.

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