These days, Marks, 46, could hardly get any more fabulous. Her bags, made of ostrich, alligator and crocodile skins dyed in an array of hues, are carried by Angela Bassett, Julianne Moore, Sharon Stone and others who can afford Marks's prices (from $1,000 to $10,000). Princess Diana, whose handlers asked Marks to design a bag for her in 1995, was so happy with her elongated alligator number ("It's tall and slim just like me," Diana said) that she ordered several more, and the two became pals. ("She was as beautiful inside as out," says Marks.)
Marks's bags, says Farrah Fawcett, "are functional works of art." Stylist Phillip Bloch, whose client Salma Hayek has been known to carry a Marks original, agrees: "They say something without being ostentatious."
Which is not surprising considering Marks's upbringing. Raised in South Africa, she led a privileged life, but her parents—a real estate developer and a businesswoman—wanted her and her two siblings to work. "We weren't spoiled," Marks insists. She met Neville, now 60 and a psychiatrist, after finishing college in Johannesburg. The couple eventually settled in Palm Beach, where they share a three-bedroom condo with children Martin, 19, and Tiffany, 16. There, Marks, who owns boutiques in Manhattan, Aspen and Palm Beach—and plans to open a fourth in L.A. this fall—finds inspiration at all hours. "I'll wake up at night," says Neville, "and she'll be in the kitchen designing handbags."
Sue Miller in Palm Beach