Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Nancy Gonzalez and Jacqueline Weld Drake at Nancy Gonzalez's cocktail party for Casita Maria committee members. Photo courtesy of Paul Wilmot Communications

For accessories designer Nancy Gonzalez, most trips to New York City are filled with meetings and mingling, but this month's visit to the Big Apple was particularly meaningful.

After the designer left Saks Fifth Avenue, where she debuted an exclusive new crocodile top-handle bag (available in three sizes and multiple color options), Gonzalez went to her 57th Street showroom to host an intimate cocktail reception for committee members of Casita Maria, an organization founded in 1934 that seeks to engage and empower youth by creating a culture of learning through social, cultural and educational opportunities.

Gonzalez -- who has been involved with the organization throughout the year and was honored for her commitment at the annual Casita Maria Fiesta Gala -- was on hand in the Bronx for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education.



Nancy Gonzalez Spring 2010 handbags. Photo: Pamela Pekerman

The 90,000-sq-ft building houses state of the art facilities, classrooms and fully-equipped studios, allowing the organization to triple the number of New York City students able to participate in its arts and education programs.

"I can relate to the passion the organization has for improving the lives and nurturing the development of the children," Gonzalez told StyleList at the cocktail reception at her showroom.

At the time, she was wearing an elongated, foldover crocodile clutch from her own collection -- Victoria Beckham has been spotted wearing the same one.

Several days after our encounter with the grand dame of exoticism, StyleList was back at the Nancy Gonzalez showroom to preview her Spring 2010 collection.

With a palette consisting of pale blues, sea green, sand, camel and soft yellow, it seems Gonzalez -- who opts never to name her bags or declare a theme for the season -- was influenced by coastal retreats.

Spring has the classic crocodile totes and satchels that Nancy Gonzalez is known for, but many are done with less rigid bases and ruching.

New oversized python clutches and clutches with diamond-pop openings also enter the mix and a box clutch is finished in woven crocodile and backed with suede.

We can't wait for spring! (And winter's not even here yet.)