PB: It is a really cool thing to say that your handbags are made in New York.
Steve: Right, a lot of people were telling us that it would be smart to put “made in New York” on our bags. Be and I are very New York and we liked being able to say that.
PB: Did you imagine 5 years ago you’d be where you are now?
Steve: I didn’t imagine that I would be making handbags! So, definitely not. But it has been so much fun and it is nice to make something people love – that women love. When we travel and do events people say that when they look at our stuff they feel like it is made for them. We focus on soft leather and using like textile, the weave is something we’ve developed, the knit and we do all that locally. Then we introduced the exotics. We try to focus on special skins so we can make the collection intimate.
PB: That’s great. Sometimes, with exotics like python it flakes.
Steve: Hopefully our python never flakes. If it does, send it to me! (laughs) But really, python shouldn’t flake. We’ve also started to do some special bespoke pieces.
PB: Wow. How does that work, how would someone do that?
Steve: Usually they will write us or call us and there is a certain fee depending on the bag. We will work with our existing styles and they can tweak that if they’d like same with the colors and materials. If they are local they can come in and work with Be and I. If they aren’t local they we can work on it through the mail. It’s worked out to be very nice.
PB: I really love that aspect of what you are doing. By letting people, if they can, work with you, it really offers something special. Now, the Kan Kan is a bag that has done very well for you.
Steve: We’ve had the clutch shape which you’ve seen too.
PB: Yes, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Steve: Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo shirt. A woman’s in a man’s world. Our entire collection is about making a woman feel strong. Independent, making her own decisions and having a little punk side too.
PB: And what about the small leather goods you are working on?
Be: This season will be launching some new small leather goods. It was important for us to work with the DNA of the brand and keep the energy fresh. I used to design belts.
PB: So the two of you have different personalities?
Be: (laughs) Just a bit. I grew up in a culture where you don’t cover the feet. In the West people do. You have people here who are obsessed with shoes and whatnot. So, it was like, “wow, I’m supposed to do this day in and day out?” I had to make an adjustment there. I think everything we do is a combination of our personalities, our backgrounds our views. But I think our vision comes together to identify the girl we design for; she is girlie, she has an edge and a bit of punk to it.
PB: Where do you guys see yourself in the next five years? This is your five year anniversary.
Be: In the next 5 years I hope to create more of an environment. When you add more categories, you really see the girl, see the world. To create that with a store and expand into another category would be great. Create more of the Be&D girl. I’d love to get to the point where you can see the entire girl and not just one product. When you see the belts, you see the parts of her body. When you see the wallet you see another part of her personality. So, to have the store, we can build her world.
PB: So you’d like to have the store here in New York?
Be: Ya, at first. For me everything you start should be under your nose. I have a background in manufacturing. So literally Steve and I made a bag off a kitchen table. When we became a company I took the same sewer, convinced him to come on board, bought the machines, set it up, and I took that concept without even thinking there was going to be anything else. I was taught you have to understand labor and manufacturing in order to make things. 99.9% of companies in NY outsource. I was the opposite. I was the factory that became the designer. It has helped us along the way. We were able to do trial and error. I do want to go around and see the clients. I want to know if studs are too much for you. You know? You can kind of get the sense of who people are. If someone wants to tell me they don’t like the swing of the door in my store, I want them to tell me. I want to know these things. Just in the past year we’ve been doing trunk show. It was really interesting to go into some of the stores and think outside of the box so much. I may have this girl in my head, but when she is in the real world functioning, it is different. To see what she is using out of her closet, it’s real. We try to listen and react as much as possible when you find your core DNA. The anniversary of going back to our Garbo, our first bag, is a true testament to us constantly trying to go back and find our DNA. In 5 years time I hope to have more. I’d love to do outerwear. To me outerwear is very similar to shoes. Because when you do outerwear it is about sizing, the complexity of the fit. At the same time, every piece must be executed technically but still has a voice.