Maybe you haven’t heard of Boyy, but you’ve definitely seen one of their buckle bags, tucked under the arms of everyone from fashion editors to style influencers.
Founded in 2006 in New York City, Boyy is the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Jesse Dorsey and Wannasiri Kongman. The couple have since moved to Bangkok, where their business is headquartered, but have set their sights on Milan next.
The brand now has five boutiques across Bangkok and Copenhagen, and is stocked at over 40 luxury retailers around the world, including Hong Kong’s very own I.T. We sit down with Jesse, to learn more about why they name their bags after men, the power of social media and the importance of creative freedom:
Can you tell us about how Boyy started?
My wife and business partner, Wannasiri, met in New York in 2004. I was a musician and she had just moved to the city. She was always passionate about handbags, and it was something I never thought I could get into, but it quickly changed. I became fascinated with the creative process of designing a bag—from the ideas to sketches all the way to prototyping and sampling.
Around 2006, when we started Boyy, the main trend seemed to be really blingy and ultra-feminine handbags, and there weren’t many options outside of that. We just had the idea to create something a bit more masculine, and that’s how it all began.
Who is the Boyy woman?
I would have to say my wife and business partner, Wannasiri. I’m not the one wearing the bag, and at the end of the day, if she’s not really feeling the design, I would respect her decision and we would amend it. I think the Boyy woman is someone who displays strength, personality, and has a sense of humour.
Business of Fashion has called Boyy the 'Anti-IT bag', what’s your take on that?
Traditionally, most IT bags tend to come from super brands, and I feel extremely fortunate that a small, independent brand, like Boyy, was able to penetrate the highly competitive market of handbags, as it's very rare and unexpected.
Boyy's bags have names like Karl, Bobby and Fred to name a few. Are they named after anyone in particular?
One of the things we’ve always done at Boyy since day one is that we name give our bags male names. This was countering a movement we saw happening in the early 2000's—most brands that released bags would name them after female celebrities; actress, models, or singers. We think of boy names and what bag personifies these names.
What’s the signature Boyy bag?
I would have to say the Karl bag from our buckle collection. When we came up with the oversized buckle, I felt like I could retire [laughs], it was a really proud moment for us. The bag looks simple, but we spent a lot of time on the function and the production of the bag.
Will Boyy ever expand into ready to wear?
The answer is yes, but as for when, I have no idea. What’s great about being an independent brand is that we are fortunate enough to shape things in the way we want when we want. We launched shoes recently, and we create one shoe in three colours.
We also tested the waters with a capsule collection of ready to wear, which was launched in our stores six months ago. We had been purchasing a lot of deadstock of textiles over the years, and we created an oversized tracksuit with patchwork, marking our first attempt at ready to wear.
Has social media helped you grow as a brand?
It has definitely helped us grow. Back when we started, we were lucky enough to get featured on old school fashion blogs such as Tommy Ton’s Jak and Jil as well as Style Bubble.
It really helped the brand gain traction in the beginning, and now, Instagram remains a huge vehicle for us and is our main tool for PR. We have never used a longstanding PR company to help us build our brand.
What’s next for Boyy?
Wannasiri, myself and our two-year-old son will be moving to Milan. What’s nice about being an independent brand is that you have the flexibility to pick up and go where you want.
Bangkok is our headquarters and our main office, but being in Bangkok, you're a little detached from the Western fashion circuit. With the move to Milan, not only will we be closer to where we source our materials and our shoe production, but we'll also be able to bring Boyy to the fashion forefront.
Any advice you would give to emerging accessory designers?
I would say don’t be afraid to go against the grain and go it on your own. When we launched Boyy in 2004, the norm was to go into a multi-brand showroom and deliver collections as the showroom deemed fit.
It can sometimes be repressive; showrooms may want to box you into one thing. But for us, we've always been indepedently owned and so we have total control over the creative and business aspects. Through our own retail spaces, we’ve gotten the chance to test drive products and hear back from consumers instantly. I’ve also developed an interest for interior design, and created the spaces within our stores.