Be Inthavong and Steve Dumain may come from completely different backgrounds – Be, a former monk, grew up in Laos, where his family owned a silk mill, and earned a degree in biology from Texas Christian University after emigrating to the US, while ex-screenwriter Steve hails from a horse farm in upstate New York and studied international business, Spanish and art at UVM. But they couldn’t be more similar with it comes to their shared love of fashion and design, which led them to launch the eponymous handbag brand, Be & D, out of their loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2004.
The line, distinguished by exotic skins, rock chic metal studs and custom hardware, was an immediate hit with fashion insiders and celebrities, with the original Garbo bag selling out across the globe. Many iconically-named satchels later (Ava, Crawford, Greta, Twiggy), Be & D is an international phenomenon, and the cute boys from Brooklyn are building on the success of their handbag line with the addition of a new shoe collection, which debuted this season, featuring their signature studs on the heels of shapely pumps, along with quilted patent booties and python peep-toe sling backs. And for spring, they're unveiling an art- and architecture-inspired bag collection based on the works of Klimt, Miro, O'Keeffee, Kahlo and the Getty. Next up: a new Be & D e-com site, which is set to go live on December 1st (www.beandd.com).
The Fashion Informer tracked down the bag men on the eve of their e-com launch to get the lowdown on what they do when they're not making women's fashion dreams come true.
So, Be and Steve…
Who is your biggest style icon?
BI: I don’t have one person in particular that influences my style. For me, my style is influenced by my state of mind, mood, geography, age, love and things I see everyday.
SD: Be! Honestly, nobody puts it on as good as he does. And I'm lucky to get to see it on a daily basis. I dress very "down,” but I love to make and see beautiful things on braver people.
BI: Labor Day is actually my new favorite holiday. [It makes me] realize the importance of rest and having more free time outside of work, even though it’s just one extra day.
SD: Fourth of July. Fireworks make everyone fall in love and exude happiness. On the roof of my loft building on the Brooklyn waterfront, we have huge parties with bands and there have been as many as 800 people. We dance all night overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
What's the best part of Thanksgiving?
BI: Families and friends getting together and the long process of cooking. It also reminds me of my native culture where we cook large meals during a festival or ceremony and we eat and sleep off the same food for days.
SD: It's less about the holiday itself for me, and more about being with family and friends and eating a ton – especially stuffing! I'm half Italian, so my mom and my grandma Rocky (Roccatella) make an amazing sausage stuffing. My family is huge, so there are kids running all over the place and so much food. I love to bring friends of mine from other countries; it's an amazing experience for someone who isn't American.
For what will you be arrested (hypothetically speaking)?
BI: Possibly, for getting into a fight with a TSA airport security screening personnel for making me throw away my cologne.
SD: Indecent exposure in a bowling alley.
What's your favorite piece of jewelry or item of clothing?
BI: My black hand-woven silk scarf from my aunt’s silk mill in Laos. The work is intricate and reminds me of my native culture.
SD: The turquoise ring I wear on my right hand. It was my dad's in the 70's and it's awesome. He's our business partner now.
How do you stay in shape?
BI: I run and lift weights.
SD: Yoga's become a big part of my life. Whole grains only and good proteins - and dessert only when it's amazing....blah blah blah, health health health. Now it's more of a way of life, so I don't think about it too much. That works. I’ve always been a bit of a yoyo body type having eaten a diet that consisted only of pasta and meatballs for the first 16 years of my life.
If given the opportunity, what one question would you like to ask God (assuming s/he exists)?
BI: I wouldn’t want to ask anything. Rather, I’d like to thank him for always, always being there.
SD: Hi God, what's my score? And what sandals goes with this robe - or should I ask Be?
Do you believe in love at first sight?
SD: Yes, and that scares the hell out of me. Now ask me if it lasts forever, and I'm even more scared.
What's your beverage of choice?
BI: Daytime: Water. Nighttime: Very chilled Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
SD: Green tea.
If you found $15,000 cash in a brown paper bag, how would you spend it?
BI: I would buy a nice large round table for our studio. Then I would buy myself a pair of boots.
SD: Is it in singles or hundreds? Pay for next season’s leathers!
Tell me about your all-time favorite Be & D accessory.
BI: The Kiss bag. It was a way to show our emotional aesthetic, connect with art and show our honesty to creativity.
SD: The new bag we call the Kiss bag, based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. It was really an amazing process to work on with Be, because it was so important that it represent the piece of art honestly while staying true to our form.
What's the one grooming product you can't live without?
BI: Redken’s Hair Maneuver. I would die without it!
SD: Dr. Broner's. That awesome mint soap that makes you tingle in the summer when it's so hot in New York you can't see the sidewalk thru the humidity. I always bring a giant bottle of it as a little gift to friends in Europe and they love it!
When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
BI: A plastic surgeon. I was a horrible nerd!
SD: A magician! I made my mother drive me to the next town over to go and hang out with the owner of a little magic shop.
What was your nickname growing up, and what's your nickname now?
BI: My nickname is Be, which is also my middle name. Be became my legal first name when I became an American citizen.
SD: Meatball or Dumain. I was a little, round, curly haired kid. And then when I lost a bunch of weight it changed to sausage for a few kids but everyone loved meatball so it went right back. Stevie D soon after that and still by some friends. People just always pick that naturally.
When are you happiest?
BI: When I close my eyes now and think about the wonderful things that have happened to me. And I’m even happier thinking of more to come.
SD: I'm happiest in the woods or on a mountaintop.
Stay tuned next week for Random Questions For...Lucy Sykes and Euan Rellie.