By  on April 26, 2010

Glance at a street-style blog or paparazzi photo from the past few seasons — why, hello, Katie Holmes — and the use of the word “boyfriend” to describe the clothes therein is suspiciously widespread. There are button-downs, distressed jeans and those rolled-sleeve blazers, each piece presumably purloined from some significant other’s closet. Yet it’s difficult to imagine most office-bound guys — never mind Tom Cruise — stepping out in torn denim or a silky narrow jacket.

Which is why Alex Toy, the just-launched collection of unisex bags by the designer of the same name, is so inspired: Featuring six shapes worked from supple Italian lambskin with simple brass hardware, the lineup is carefully androgynous, hewing to a worn-in, urban look without skewing too far toward either the feminine or the masculine.

“Personally, I feel that guys need cooler bags — cool men’s bags are rare,” Toy explains. “And with all of the women’s bags out there, a lot of girls want something that’s edgier, more utilitarian, instead of just pretty or blingy.”

The designer, who has created roomy, boxy pieces in silhouettes such as a messenger and a satchel, also understands that the fashion conscious, regardless of gender, are captivated by something other than aesthetics: exclusivity. The collection, which retails for between $495 and $695, will be sold in select boutiques, with only 99 editions of each style produced per season. The limited edition concept is in part the work of Peter and Joy Gryson, who run the accessories design firm Tribeca Design Ltd., the New York-based creative incubator that produces labels such as Gryson and Olivia Harris. Toy has worked there as a senior designer for the past two years.

“We want stores that match with the design demographic,” says Peter Gryson, who does not yet have a confirmed list of retailers for Alex Toy. “[The line] really strikes the difficult balance between male and female, which is a neat trick and was not an easy thing to achieve.”

According to Toy himself, the appeal of the bags, which come in neutral shades such as brown and cranberry, comes from details such as tucked-away zipper pulls on the pockets of some pieces and multiple straps enclosed in others. Says the designer: “Hidden and functional details will continue to be a focus, since that’s what my customers will want, and that’s who I’ll draw my inspiration from.”

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