The ‘Mark’ of an Icon

Grace Kelly with Mark Cross overnight bag featured in the movie “Rear Window”

Mark Cross, America’s first luxury leather goods house, was established as saddlers and harness makers in 1845 Boston. The company was bought three decades later by Patrick Murphy and, in 1902, they opened a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It was then passed on to Patrick’s son, Gerald, who along with wife Sara, were the power couple of “The Lost Generation”, They counted such luminaries as Man Ray, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald as friends and customers. In fact, they were the inspiration for F. Scott’s “Tender is the Night”. The company’s status was firmly cemented, and they became a household name in 1954, when Grace Kelly, playing socialite Lisa Fremont in Alfred’s Hitchcock’s Rear Window, arrives at the apartment of her boyfriend — played by Jimmy Stewart — with a lacy negligee and slippers in an elegant Mark Cross Overnight Case. (The audience knew the exact brand because she announced it). But still, they found themselves closing their business in 1997.

Mark Cross Madison mini doctor bag in crocodile

Fast forward to 2010. Mark Cross  was bought back by a group of investors who believed strongly in the iconic brand. In 2012, it was re-relaunched and debuted at Barney’s New York exclusively. The brand will soon be available at a number of SELECT stores around the world — according to Martha Kramer, Senior Vice President.

Mark Cross Grace Box bags

I attended a press preview of Collection 1V for spring 2013 last Thursday, and let’s just say, I wanted everything. It is the perfect balance of timelessly chic and elegant, AND modern and contemporary. These are styles that will endure, will transcend “trends”, the vagaries of “in” and “out”, and will never look dated.

Mark Cross Man Ray large satchel

The items in the well edited collection range in price from about $575 for a zippered wallet in soft pebbled calf, to $19,500 for a Grace Box bag in crocodile (an updated version of the one made famous by Grace Kelly). Each bag is hand made, lined in red leather or in linen, features functional multiple pockets (and a back pocket), gold zippers, and distinctive gold hardware. When locks are used, they are the original locks from the 20’s, and they have the matching keys of course. Only the finest skins are employed: lambskin, pebble calf skin, Saffiano leather, natural cowhide, and exotics like ostrich, lizard, and crocodile. But there are some nice surprises, such as the undeniably spring like Man Ray group, made of rattan, with leather and crocodile accents.

Taylor Swift carrying her Mark Cross large Scottie satchel

The chic, pared down silhouettes (mini trunks, top handle and shoulder satchels, large flap shoulder bags, large hobos, clutches, mini wrist lets, etc.), are inspired by the original archives (the collection is designed in New York but made in the same Italian factory that produced the originals). There are also handsome unisex folios and wallets, and more additions are planned for the future (luggage and a men’s collection). The colors: cuoio, orange, yellow, green, white, blue, black, and a rich Mark Cross red, are simply put, just THE perfect shades. Styles are given names like Grace (Grace Kelly), Scottie (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s daughter), Zelda (F. Scott’s wife), and May Ray. According to Ms. Kramer, the best sellers have been the Grace Box bag, the Madison doctor’s satchel, and the Scottie, which has been seen, as of late, on the arm of Taylor Swift (she carries it everywhere, day and night).

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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