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Remsenburg designer creates tote bag for "The Closer"

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Jessica DiNapoli   Jul 21, 2008 5:42 PM

An easy way to measure the success of Remsenburg resident and Maxx New York CEO Cherie Christmas would be in bags. From orange patent leather bowlers to red raffia totes to silver microfiber shoppers, the designs from Ms. Christmas’s company appear on the arms of celebrities, in the pages of magazines and on nearly any given television channel.

Maxx NY, which is based at a showroom on 5th Avenue in Manhattan with a warehouse in Jericho, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Over that span, Maxx NY bags have been featured on popular television shows such as the “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Gossip Girls,” and are part of the wardrobe of stars, including Eva Longoria Parker and Natalie Cole.

Most recently, the television show “The Closer,” which airs on Turner Network Television, has featured one of Ms. Christmas’s signature bags, which she designed specially for the show. Her creation was first offered for retail sale on Monday night on the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based home shopping network QVC, and is also now available on the company’s website, qvc.com.

“Each character can look different with a Maxx NY bag,” Ms. Christmas said, emphasizing how her brand always offers a large assortment of designs.

On “The Closer,” which airs at 9 p.m. on Mondays, Ms. Christmas’s bag is worn by Kyra Sedgwick, the leading character. Ms. Sedgwick plays Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, a private detective who leads a special homicide unit of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Ms. Christmas explained that she designed her bag for a businesswoman who has to look good at all times—just like Ms. Sedgwick.

“The bag has a lot of compartments inside,” Ms. Christmas said about her latest tote. “Maxx bags are known for their organization inside and are known for a woman who wants to look polished, but is on the go.”

The tote bag, available only in black, is made from a synthetic material. It retails for $59, a reasonable price considering that the majority of Maxx NY bags cost between $50 and $250 each.

“The Closer” tote bag was initially offered through a QVC “e-mail blast,” an e-mail that was sent to all QVC customers on a specific list, Ms. Christmas explained. The e-mail blast was a success, Ms. Christmas said, as QVC officials almost immediately ran out of their original supply and had to place a second order just two days later.

“The bag was a big, big hit,” Ms. Christmas added.

QVC representatives did not return calls this week.

Ms. Christmas explained how her tote bag came to be featured on network television. She said TNT contacted Maxx NY initially about the project. A document from qvc.com provided by Ms. Christmas’s assistant, Carl Tony, explained that QVC was trying to increase its viewership with multimedia platforms; for example, through cross-promotions with the game show “Wheel of Fortune,” the movie “Get Smart” and the television series “The Closer.”

“The Closer” tote bag is Maxx NY’s first cross-promotional venture, according to Robert Rokoff, the handbag company’s creative director.

“We’ve had many bags on TV shows,” Mr. Rokoff said. “But this is the first bag promoted as a bag from a show.”

Ms. Christmas is no stranger to QVC. Her creations have been available for purchase on the home shopping network for the past eight years. She noted that she was one of the first handbag designers featured on QVC.

The next time Ms. Christmas will be featured on the channel selling her handbags will be Wednesday, July 30, from midnight until 1 a.m., from 10 a.m. until noon, and again from 6 until 7 p.m. A large Italian quilted shoulder chain bag will be featured during those segments at a special value, Mr. Rokoff said. In addition, a number of other Maxx NY bags will be featured throughout the day’s programming.

Besides being featured on TNT and other television networks, images of Ms. Christmas’s bags are featured on newsstands across the country. She noted that on Monday one of her employees mailed her tear sheets from several local publications, including The New York Times and Cosmopolitan, that featured images of her handbags.

While Ms. Christmas has an eye for fashion, she has a keen business sense as well. Originally from Westchester, Ms. Christmas studied marketing and management at Mercy College in New York City and worked at Citicorp for four years. She explained that she developed her taste for fashion during a three-month journey through Europe—a trip that catapulted her career in handbag design.

“I went to Italy, France and Greece, and fell in love with the way women wore handbags there,” Ms. Christmas said. “I brought the feeling of Italian fashion here to the handbag industry.”

Ms. Christmas lived in Manhattan for 20 years before moving full-time to her 8,000-square-foot ranch in Remsenburg after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Her son and daughter, ages 13 and 18, respectively, attend the Westhampton Beach School District.

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