Montreal-born Jesse Dorsey met his Bangkok-reared business partner Wannasiri Kongman in New York while the former was a musician and the latter was a student at FIT. Dividing their time between three continents, the gypsy-esque duo continues their global trek nine seasons in—they launched their debut collection for accessories label BOYY for spring/summer ’06—garnering inspiration on-the-go when sourcing new materials for their stellar line of ulilitarian luxe handbags. With an emphasis on what might be best described as affordable luxury, BOYY creates “anti-It” It bags, winning over fans like Chloë Sevigny with the label’s classic Franc, and Lou Doillon, who prefers the cult-fave, convertible Slash. We spoke with Dorsey to discuss BOYY’s new Bangkok store, the politics of shelf space and (not) maintaining the status quo.
JC Report: Why Bangkok, and why now?
Jesse Dorsey: The city’s been a big part of our DNA, and of course my partner’s Thai. A lot of our design happens there, and it’s also where we have an amazing network of incredibly talented peers, friends and a strong support base. We were offered a space on the first floor among some pretty heavy hitters, so it really was a no-brainer.
JCR: Tell us about the setup at Central Chidlom.
JD: Central‘s one of Bangkok’s best and longest-standing department stores, and we essentially envision the space functioning as a channel for exploration—really, a means of streaming ideas without boundaries. Ideally it would also be a stepping stone and template for future stores.
JCR: What about the store’s design as it relates to your Bangkok clientele?
JD: The set up is quite unique: we’ve got a made-to-order consultation work desk custom-designed and built to serve this purpose. The client can sit down with one of our sales reps and choose from a variety of leathers, exotic skins, etc., to create their own bag. We wanted to bring back more of an old school, one-on-one customer relationship.
JCR: And product-wise?
JD: Product-wise, we’ll also be launching a collection of small leather goods, along with linen and canvas totes as well as collector’s apparel to start.
JCR: Asia’s currently your biggest market, followed by Europe. To what do you attribute your success abroad?
JD: I think the international market has both an interest in and appreciation for “design” with respect to materials and quality. In North America, fashion still seems largely judged strictly by price point—if it’s not pricey enough, then maybe it’s not worthy of a particular shelf space.
JCR: How does BOYY differentiate itself then?
JD: We really endeavor to provide the best product possible, be it working with a select group of Italian tanneries to create tailor-made leathers specifically for our bags, or researching and then sourcing the best thread out of Germany.
JCR: Multi-functional luxe has been a collection mainstay for the past few seasons. How has this concept evolved for Spring and Fall?
JD: There’s a sense of freedom. Whereas we might have held back in the past, conceptually there’s no longer this feeling of constraint. For Fall we’ve introduced the Oscar, which also unexpectedly doubles as a backpack. The structure’s deceptively simple, and it really takes shape quite nicely once held. There’s also the Baron, which again plays on the 2-in-1 idea, acting as a flat tote that folds over and converts to an oversize clutch. Comes with zipper detail and a gorgeous custom silver chain, to be used either as handles or a a shoulder strap.
JCR: Hardware then too, has become a key component of the collection. How do you strike the proper balance between utility and aesthetics?
JD: Yes, it’s become very important! We really dove into producing custom, working with amazing jewelers who enable our visions to become reality. It’s another means of expression and differentiation for us. We like to keep things simple, but strong, and let the materials speak for themselves, purposefully.
JCR: The quality of your product is very high, and yet the pricing remains quite reasonable. Have you felt pressure to up the collection’s retail cost considering the competition?
JD: Honestly, the only reason we’d feel compelled to up the collection’s retail price would be in regards to where we think we should be in terms of department stores and boutiques. As I mentioned earlier, there’s still a real prejudice regarding price points, but we’re committed to maintaining our brand integrity. We offer a product that can stand up to any major, high-end label as far as materials and quality go. We only ever want to leave the design up for debate.
JCR: What’s the best part of finally having your own store?
JD: It lets BOYY play without rules, and in its own playground. Seriously, we’re really excited!