DESIGNER KATHRINE BAUMANN offers this advice with her handbags: Don't carry one if you want to go incognito. "When you wear one, people immediately want to come talk to you," she warns. Especially provocative, she maintains, is her crystal-beaded clutch modeled on Minnie Mouse. "When I wear it," says Baumann, 47, "men become very flirtatious."
Good thing many of her clients—including Melanie Griffith, Elizabeth Taylor and the Sultan of Brunei (he buys in bulk for his entourage)—are used to attention. Armed with a tongue-in-chic attitude, Baumann—a 1969 Miss America runnerup from Ohio and an ex-actress whose résumé includes Fantasy Island—has for the past two years created glittery, hand-beaded bags based on pop icons like Tweety Bird, Betty Boop and Coke bottles (after entering into licensing agreements, of course). This year, Baumann, who lives in West Hollywood with husband Victor Weber, 52, a business investor, will bag $1.5 million in sales.
Part of the sacks' appeal, says Jo Ann Bolduc, who manages the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique, is that "you can carry them to a black-tie affair or wear them with jeans. They are definitely conversation pieces." Ask Barbara Walters, who carries a Minnie to tweak her new bosses: "Since Disney took over ABC," she says, "I've found it very amusing."