Infusing old bags with new energy at the Old Bags Luncheon

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The sold-out 25th Annual Old Bags Luncheon® Silver Jubilee at The Breakers.

“Your Pristine Hermès Bag, to Some, Looks Tacky,” read a New York Times headline. Why? A beat up Birkin signifies the nonchalance of generational wealth. Note to the nouveau who screamed, “You bumped my Birkin!” at a large sit down party at Michael’s.

Old Bags don’t go out of style.  Nor does the The Old Bags Luncheon at The Breakers for Family Services Palm Beach County.  In 25 years, it’s become a sold out sea of shoppers, as much a status symbol as the bags it auctions. It starts early and ends late.

Between the VIP preview and sit down meal, Martha Stewart — honored with Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger — held court.

Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, and Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger.

Like Jane Fonda, Stewart is making 80 sexy. She famously showed off her figure in a Sports Illustrated cover and that afternoon, in slimmed down slacks. She credits Pilates and homegrown food.

She doesn’t do it to get a longterm partner. Husbands, Martha told the room are good for a year. Dogs, good for ten years. Longterm happiness? Time spent with her family and garden.

How does her garden grow? Longtime friend Dee Ocleppo still can’t get over Martha’s Connecticut estate. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” Dee told me. “Her stables were beautiful, so clean, you could eat off the floor. Her greenhouse soils were perfectly organized into bins. She’s the real deal.  I’ve never met anyone so curious, so knowledgable. She can talk to anybody about anything.”

Sports Illustrated cover girl Martha Stewart.

So, in the face of all that perfectionism, Dee freaked out, when, one Palm Beach morning, Tommy casually mentioned Martha was on her way over. “How could he just tell me that five minutes before she was coming!!!” Dee said. “I would have appreciated a few days notice to get fresh flowers, tidy up and make my best impression. I didn’t even have anything to offer her. We’re a very busy couple. We fly by the seat of our pants here!”

No worries, at the luncheon, Martha lauded the Hilfigers’ lifestyle.

“Martha’s an icon,” said Dee, “She’s changed the culture. She breaks the molds, which I really admire. The Sports Illustrated cover is a recent example. She started out by making homemaking glamorous, interesting and enjoyable, instead of a chore.”

Dee has her own thriving fashion businesses. As a Judith Leiber CEO/co-owner, Ocleppo infused an old bag line with such new energy, it ended up on Taylor Swift’s arm at the Super Bowl. It was one of Dee’s whimsical new shapes, a football that can be customized with team names and numbers. On Taylor, it got nine billion impressions.

The custom bejeweled Judith Leiber “87” football purse Taylor Swift wore at the Super Bowl.

Then there’s the Dee Ocleppo label. “We’re selling more shoes than handbags right now,” she told me. “They are not only a quality product, but so comfortable, they’re the only shoes I wear. They’re in Neiman’s, Saks, specialty stores, websites and my own dot com. We just signed an apparel licensing deal and are in the process of signing one for home and outerwear.”

And the Hilfigers give back. “We’ve always been philanthropic,” said Dee. “The hard part is choosing who to give your time to. There are so many foundations we want to help.”

She likes the Center for Family Services because it tackles mental health, increasingly understood to be the root of violent crimes and other societal ills. The organization counsels parents and children on family issues. It works with employers to offer therapeutic services, with at risk pregnant women, victims of abuse and for substance use recovery.

This year’s chairs were Robin Gillen, Fernando Wong and Tim Johnson. Notable attendees included: Martha Stewart, Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger, Tommy Hilfiger, Liz Quirantes (Emcee, CBS 12), Todd L’Herrou, Ellen Vaughan, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Ramona Singer, Jean Shafiroff, Diane Smith and Tammy Pompea (Honorary Chairs), Alyssa D. Quinlan (CEO, Freeman’s Hindman Auction), Karen Swanson (Advisory Chair), Gail Worth (2020 Chair), Sonja Stevens, Arlette Gordon, Lois Pope, Kathryn Vecellio, Marie Unanue, Allison Nicklaus, Barbara Nicklaus, Sarah Wragge, Claire Florence, Karen Rich, Michelle Russell Johnson, David Handy, Donald Dallaire, and Marissa Murphy Adriaanse.

The silent auction offered a wide selection of new or gently used authentic designer handbags.
Here’s Martha’s Stewart’s “Surprise.”
Alyssa Quinlan.

Freeman’s | Hindman Auctions & Appraisals was a sponsor. Martha even gave CEO Alyssa Quinlan a shout out as a lively auctioneer. More bags to benefit the charity will be on their site until March 12.

What’s hot in handbag resale? “The mini Dior and Birkin bags are going for more than the larger Classic 35 Birkin,” Elizabeth Marshman, the Auction House’ Associate Vice President, Director, Trusts, Estates and Private Clients, told me. They’re lighter, dressier.

And less likely to get bumped on your chair at Michael’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Fernando Wong, Martha Stewart, Robin Gillen, and Tim Johnson.
Todd L’Herrou, Barbara Pendrill, Theodora Pace, and Stephanie Schwed.
Lulu Powers, Irina Ridley, Julie Powers Killian, Sarah Powers, Anne Fitzpatrick, and Laurie Monahan.
Todd L’Herrou and Ellen Vaughan.
L. to r.: Kathryn Vecellio and Maria Unanue; Karen Swanson and Sonja Stevens.
Arlette Gordon, Lois Pope, and Gail Worth.
L. to r.: Sarah Wragge and Claire Florence; Allison Nicklaus and Barbara Nicklaus.
David Handy and Donald Dallaire.
Janice Jennings, Mary Read, Alison Kohl Meyer, Beth Taylor, Susan Ambrecht, and Frances Lindner.
L. to r.: Diane Smith and Tammy Pompea; Barbara Rendiru, Stephanie Schwed, and Theo Pace.
Kimberlie Glaser, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Elizabeth Deluca, and Stacy Kofoed.
Karen Rich and Michelle Russell Johnson.
Pam Taylor Yates.

Photographs by Capehart Photography & Michelle Kammerman/

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