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Be & D founders Be Inthavong and Steve Dumain had one objective when they launched their accessories firm five years ago — to create novel, fashion-forward handbags produced entirely in New York.
This story first appeared in the November 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The brand has maintained its ethos and grown to more than $3 million in sales internationally. Be & D is now focused on tripling that figure by expanding its niche shoe category, launching small leather goods and relaunching its popular Garbo bag.
“We are young American designers, we don’t do ready-to-wear, but there is another dimension to New York fashion, and that’s serious accessories,” Dumain said. “We want to build the American luxury sector. It’s very important to be producing here, especially given today’s economic uncertainties.”
Selling at stores such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, Be & D bags retail from $900 to $5,000 and sit alongside the likes of Marc Jacobs and Yves Saint Laurent. But it hardly has the same financial wherewithal as labels owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and PPR. The founders, designers and sales teams work out of a 2,500-square-foot New York showroom but are content with the pace at which Be & D is moving.
“We are the antithesis of a luxury accessories company,” Dumain said. “And we know we can’t grow by extending ourselves so quickly….Money is not what drives us.”
Be & D has relied on its international customer. While it’s focused on expanding its footwear here, the collection is already a hit abroad. Eighty percent of Be & D’s shoe volume comes from Europe, the Middle East and Russia, but Inthavong and Dumain are pushing for a stronger place in American fashion.
“We’re going deeper into the category by adding stockkeeping units and focusing on a healthier delivery,” Inthavong said. “We’re adding a more serious sales direction at the senior level and improving our infrastructure.”
Be & D employs 15 people in its New York office and has sales showrooms in London, Paris and Tokyo.
The firm is also introducing small leather goods for spring, retailing from $100 to $450. The group will compliment Be & D’s belt business that makes up 10 percent of its total sales. The brand is also relaunching its original Garbo bag, which when it made its debut, was favored by stars like Penélope Cruz and Charlize Theron.