This below-the-radar Thai-American handbag label takes its next big step – to Milan
“Meet your new best friend, Boyy. He’ll be better than any male in your life – more stylish, well-built, will coordinate with your plans and will hold all of your belongings for you.” So runs the tagline on the website of progressive fashion retailer Browns on London’s South Molton Street above a list of covetable streamlined bags and shoes made of the highest-quality Italian leather, with names such as Karl 24, Green Romeo, Multicoloured Bobby and Blue Deon.
Boyy is Italian-sourced, a label previously based in New York, then in Bangkok and soon to be relocated to Milan, that espouses the perfect combination of cool and classic – style beyond fashion. Your new best friend – if you haven’t met him or her yet – was set up in 2007 as the brainchild of Jesse Dorsey and Wannasiri Kongman, he an American musician and she a former buyer for Bangkok department store Central. The pair met by chance in New York at an event and instantly shared common creative ground in all matters style and aesthetic.
Strolling the streets, Kongman pointed out what she liked when she saw it and, after months of noting It-bags, the pair decided fashion would make more sense if they created the bags themselves. Boyy was born, and its motifs are funky and quaint. With python, shagreen and croc exotica featuring prominently, the design, functionality and luxury of each product makes it a genre unto itself – and a must-have on Instagram, where the bag has been spotted on Kim Kardashian and the like. “Oh, I’m obsessed. Another @boyyboutique bag I need!” enthuses one of Boyy’s legions. “Want now… how to get?” implores another.
For a face during its earliest days, Boyy used then-unknown Thai schoolgirl Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, more commonly known as Aokbab. The 22-year-old now models, acts, counts 465,000 Instagram followers and represents the house of Chanel in Asia. Writes Olga Yuen, Chanel’s fashion PR in Hong Kong, via email: “Aokbab and Boyy – yes! Totally. The brand really has an eye for style.”
Despite riding the contemporary waves of Instagram, Boyy was desirable long before IG. Like many below-the-radar labels, Boyy’s apocryphal moment came via a chance New York encounter with French singer, model and actress Lou Doillon, the daughter of Jane Birkin. A paparazzi shot of Doillon on the street sporting a Boyy bag, smoking and espousing insouciant French chic, set Instagram ablaze. It-girl Chloë Sevigny followed soon after and in the blink of an eye came a huge order from Colette’s Sarah Andelman in Paris. Boyy grew up – in a shot.
Boyy now sells in more than 85 stores worldwide, including Selfridges in London and I.T (which has carried the brand since 2015) in Hong Kong. “It’s been popular in the market since our first launch in autumn/winter 2015,” says Candy Lau, I.T’s assistant merchandising manager, who oversees Boyy. “It always sells out within two weeks of the launch.”
And to what does she attribute its desirability? “Customers are attracted by its buckle with a masculine shape, as well as its fine quality,” she says, adding that Boyy produced a special bag in celebration of I.T’s 30th anniversary last year. “It also offers mid- and mini-size versions of its Karl and Bobby bags, in addition to its seasonal details of colour blocking and fabrications (such as shearling and PVC), which is fashion-forward and maintains freshness for customers.” Karl 24 has been Boyy’s best-selling product in Hong Kong over the last three years. Boyy has also started producing shoes and sunglasses, and is considering other categories, but won’t rush into them until the time feels right.
And why should it? Boyy’s sales reached US$22 million in 2018 – from a brand that’s still independently run, has no internal PR strategists and does more or less what it pleases. The brand runs four boutiques in Thailand and one in Copenhagen, and Dorsey and Kongman are eyeing Hong Kong and the Middle East. So far, everything has been self-funded.
“Hong Kong is very high on our list, but it’s not so simple,” says Dorsey. He explains that being a 100% independent brand means large corporates want reassurance that the label is affiliated with a big fashion conglomerate or distributor. “We encountered this hurdle in Bangkok when we first started putting down our footprint,” he says. “It’s a challenge we’re familiar with and have succeeded with. It just takes time.”
Despite the move to Milan, Boyy was still based in Bangkok at the time of print. “We are renovating what will be our permanent showroom/apartment in Milan. It’s an incredible space,” says Dorsey. Abundant with design history, the ground floor of the structure was boldly renovated in 1972 by Vittoriano Viganò, Italy’s most luminous brutalist architect, and the space has remained untouched since, capturing a living snapshot into an incredible era. The structure also boasts a huge private garden curated by Pietro Porcinai, one of Italy’s landscape design legends. “When I first saw the space, my jaw dropped,” enthuses Dorsey, who spent seven months closing the deal to acquire the space. “It was instant love.”
While Dorsey and Kongman continue to broaden their horizons, there’s a ton of affiliations to keep them occupied. “We’re exercising the world of pop-ups and exclusives,” says Dorsey. “We’ve been bombarded with requests and are carefully curating the options, along with doing our own pop-up.” He explains that even though the quantities may be small and exclusive, each project requires almost equal energy and manpower as a regular season collection. It’s a lot of work, but it’s clearly worth it – much like the Boyy effect.
Images: Provided to China Daily
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