Mark Cross Makes a Comeback

Courtesy Mark Cross

Once the handbag of choice for Zelda Fitzgerald and Grace Kelly, this legendary American brand is reborn in style.

There was a time in American retail history when a Mark Cross bag was the ultimate accessory. The leather-goods purveyor may have started in Boston as a saddle-maker in 1845, but by 1902 Patrick Murphy had opened its flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue, where it was a destination for luxury goods for more than 25 years. And when he passed the company down to his son, Gerald, the brand was forever etched in American lore. After all, Gerald and his wife, Sara, were the power couple of the Lost Generation (and inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night). After Gerald stepped down in 1955, Mark Cross took on various owners. “But I always kept tabs,” says Neal Fox, the firm’s new CEO, who relaunched the brand in 2010 with a mid-range line. Fox discovered Mark Cross in the ’60s while on a leather buying trip to Italy. And when it came time to find a source for the handmade leather bags in the Mark Cross premier collection (which debuted in December exclusively at Barneys New York), Fox returned to the same factory in Florence. “The owner remembered the bags and started pulling out the old Mark Cross molds,” he says.

Mark Cross’s Grace box bag, made popular by Grace Kelly, $1,695; barneys.com.