In the bag

Every spokesmodel and hotel heiress thinks she’s a handbag designer these days, but how many Hollywood entrepreneurs use their talents to aid anything beyond their own public image? Such celebrities can learn a lesson from the teenage designers of LiLu: The Handbag Project. LiLu is a group of crafty teens from McClatchy, Mira Loma and Kennedy high schools who sew unique purses, scarves and neckties. Once a year, they hold a fashion show to sell their creations and donate 100 percent of the money to Wind Youth Services.

Ten dollars bought admission into the fourth such benefit, held at Sierra 2’s Curtis Hall last Sunday. Inside the hall, approximately 100 bidders sat in folding chairs that lined the perimeter of the room and the patio, creating a long and winding runway.

After brief, giggly welcome speeches by three models from the Wind Youth Center, the procession began. Starting with RuPaul’s “Supermodel (You Better Work!),” the young models sashayed down the runway. The girls, most of whom had made the bags they modeled, wore jeans or denim miniskirts with solid-color T-shirts. Some walked alone, swinging their creations. Others were escorted by teenage boys in white dress shirts that accentuated their colorful neckties, also made by LiLu. The B-52’s “Private Idaho,” the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” and other 1980s hits set the pace.

Some of the models looked born for the runway, spinning and pausing with their hips jutted out, but the focus was on the LiLu handbags. There were over-the-shoulder bags large enough to carry a semester’s worth of textbooks and tiny satin clutches only big enough for lipstick and a student ID. Colors ranged from earth-toned macramé and crochet to bright patterns of angelfish, flowers and stars. Two purple-and-black bags with silver crown appliqués were signed by the Sacramento Kings’ Mike Bibby.

After the last model got a piggyback ride down the runway from her escort, the silent auction began. Each model carried two or three handbags, and shoppers were told they had one hour to find the purse they wanted on the corresponding model and make a bid.

The “silent” auction became anything but. Some models actively hustled their bags, while others gathered in nervous, whispering groups, saying, “What if I don’t get any bids? What do I do?” The guys got competitive with their neckties. One had driven the price for his gold satin tie past $75 in the first 15 minutes. Confusion ensued when some attendees attempted to bid on other shoppers’ personal handbags. (This writer was offered a fair price for her Anna Dubois “disarmed mumu” bag, purchased at Sellout Buyout months before.)

The next day, benefit organizer and 15-year-old McClatchy High School student Joslyn Morris reported that LiLu had earned $9,000 for Wind—including an anonymous matching donation. Kudos to the LiLu designers for demonstrating that true beauty is found in benevolence.