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A Handle on the World

From Asprey to Zero Halliburton, Attachés Have Cachet. They Carry Clout--and Your Business Papers.
Debbi J. Karpowicz
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95

(continued from page 3)

Besides using a soft case, another trend is "carrying a nylon or canvas bag," Pittenger adds. "Briefcases used to be leather. Now you see executives carrying canvas, for it suits their needs better."

Ed Safdie, owner of Connecticut's Norwich Inn and Spa, carries the canvas tote bag he designed for the spa, into which he throws his Hermès zippered portfolio. Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy traipses around with a carry-on bag usually reserved for planes. Tom Kershaw, owner of Cheers, the famous Boston bar, uses a heavy-duty, black canvas bag that he bought when helicopter-skiing in Canada. "I'm not really a briefcase kind of guy," says Kershaw. "A briefcase isn't expandable."

Some people, however, refuse to be left holding the canvas bag. For them, the only way to go is with a pricey, status-symbol case. Tova Borgnine, the CEO and chairman of the Tova Corporation cosmetics firm in Beverly Hills, California, is a perfect example. A huge fan of Louis Vuitton--which is known by its golden LV initials--Borgnine bought a briefcase for her actor husband, Ernest. (An LV monogram briefcase can cost up to $2,170.) She also included a gold plaque inside, inscribed with the words I Love You. When she gave it to Ernie, though, he replied, "you're the one in business. You carry it."

Now, when she opens the briefcase and sees the plaque, Borgnine jokes, "I don't know if I love me or I love him." What made her pick Louis Vuitton? "Two or three of my friends suggested it. I have Louis Vuitton luggage," Borgnine explains. "It's an investment because of its durability and practicality, and, after 15 years with it, it looks brand-new."

Borgnine also owns a second briefcase that she uses every day: "The most beautiful, soft, baby alligator case from Italy, which was handmade for me and given to me by QVC [the home-shopping channel] when I reached my first $10 million in sales."

Tom Corcoran, a consultant to clients at Hill & Knowlton in New York City, also carries a Louis Vuitton briefcase--but one with a distinctive provenance. "I carry an antique Louis Vuitton from the '30s," Corcoran says. "It was given to me by Joan and Melissa Rivers after Joan's husband, Edgar, died. I was very touched. He bought it in the '50s in London."

Ivana Trump also carries Louis Vuitton. "I call it my 'bad dream,'" she says. "It means that it is very big and spacious, and I keep filling it full of work and 'take-home' things and magazines and work files and on and on. It was a gift, and I cherish it."

No article about briefcases would be complete without mentioning some others that are also, along with Louis Vuitton, considered the world's best. The London firm Swaine Adeney Brigg & Sons, for example, makes impeccable briefcases handsewn with durable bridle-hide leather and brass fittings; prices range from about $500 to $1,300. The company also does a brisk business refurbishing locks and corners on vintage cases, some of which are 100 years old. "They're the Rolls-Royce of briefcases," explains Sir Thomas Lethbridge, manager of their Piccadilly store.

Swaine Adeney holds several Royal Warrants, including that of the Prince of Wales, for its leather goods. So...does Prince Charles use one? When interviewed on November 15, Lethbridge replied, "I just gave him one yesterday for his 46th birthday."

Another English standout is Asprey, which also holds Royal Warrants. Its steel-framed business cases are entirely constructed by hand and typically produced in bridle hide, although exotic skins such as alligator and ostrich can also be used. A salesperson described the solidly constructed cases as giving a solid "thump" when opened or closed--as would the doors of a Mercedes.

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