When we first entered the crowded showroom back in November, we did not quite know what to expect. Our previous experiences of meeting new fashion designers had overall been pleasant ones, we did not think that meeting Steve Dumain and Be Inthavong of Be & D would be any different. Still, knowing the smashing success the two have had since 2004, one could not help but be intimidated just a bit.
It did not help that the day we were scheduled to sit down with Be and Steve, the company was hosting a breakfast for invited press contacts to present their upcoming Spring line. Interns and PR gals were hovering around the showroom quarters like bees in a hive, random, funky characters popped in and out, chatting, admiring, snacking on the mini pastries. We do realize that it’s the way that fashion in New York City operates, it’s still something both Meaghan and I aren’t quite used to, yet.
As Be was running fashionably late (we are not holding it against him, I promise), Steve took the initiative to sit down with us and tell us a bit about the company. Be joined us later with more interesting facts to share with our readers. It was an absolute delight to have met both designers, they are definitely the kind of guys that I would make a tasty sandwich for – as Meaghan and I say when we really like a person.
PB: How did you get started?
Steve: Be and I met in New York. We basically met through friends then we started making handbags 6 months later.
PB: Were you always a lover of handbags?
Steve: I guess no really. Or I was but I didn’t know it. I remember seeing my mom’s closet and the handbags and shoes were all over the floor. She would dump them out and the refill when she got a new one. The bags were very 70s and 80s -ish. I used to collect luggage while I was living in Vermont. I lived in Vermont for a period of time. So, I guess I have always been a lover of bags and vintage luggage. Be comes from Laos. His mother is definitely a collector of luxury goods. I am very downtown, and Be is very uptown. We definitely battle to the end with every bag. It is a complete creation of the two of us. We literally battle, but we come out in a good way. The battle is exhausting.
PB: And it has been 5 years, so the battle has worked.
Steve: The battle has worked. We started shoes which was really exciting and I’ve always wanted to do. Be was hesitant to do this. I don’t know if you are familiar, but with the Asian culture at least with a lot of people there, the foot is a dirty part of the body. So a shoe isn’t usually something that you put a lot of effort towards. Finally, we talked about Asian culture and temples with all the gold. The gold in the bottom of all the shoes keeps you elevated from the evils of the earth. That is the idea. It is our wishes to the women wearing these shoes.
PB: You are re-introducing the Garbo.
Steve: That is our iconic bag. There was nothing like that at the time. The Bergdorf buyer bought them. We met her at a wedding. Be was working with textiles, I was working in film. She asked us to go in and show her. She asked if we were making them (seemed surprised). For us it was a fun moment. The studs are the punk part of us, we are both punks – in a personality way. I think a lot of us have that in us. We met the divisional soon on and she said she hoped there was no hardware on the bags because that was out. So, we were a little upset about that. Then I saw the buyer not that long after and she told me not to worry about it – a great bag is a great bag. She bought 20, then 50, the 75. Then a bunch of celebrities started wearing them. Then Neiman picked us up and started ordering 200 pieces at a time. Then we made the Crawford – which we will be bringing back soon on. I think we ran away from the Garbo because the industry kind of caught on. At the time people didn’t know who Be&D was and it hurt us that so many people copied our look. Then we went to the KanKan bag and somebody else did something very similar after. This time it stuck though, so it is better. The bags are done here in the studio and the shoes are done in Italy. We have a few other local studios – but all handbags are done in New York.