By  on September 12, 2005

NEW YORK — The founders and designers of Be & D handbags, Be Inthavong and Steve Dumain, debated a bit before describing the brand's look.

"Be is very luxury. I'm very edgy," Dumain said. "If you look at our handbags now, the styles look like our personalities, as if we beat each other up on the street and that's what came out the other side."

That combination of luxury and edge has catapulted Be & D into the major leagues after just over a year in business. The brand's slouchy hobos and barrel bags in skins ranging from deerskin to python and ostrich, which often feature disconcertingly proportioned straps and loads of studs, rings and other heavy hardware, are top sellers alongside looks by Chloé, Mulberry and Kooba. Mena Suvari, Penélope Cruz and Marcia Cross all carry Be & D, and in some stores there's a waiting list for coveted silhouettes.

"They've been our number-one bag in the store," said Christina Minasian, buyer for Kitson in Los Angeles, the first store to carry the brand on the West Coast. "Customers really respond to their leathers and the details and the great shapes."

Roopal Patel, women's fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, said: "I think they stand out among many of their peers because they are consistently in touch with the trends and because they are able to make the trends look so luxurious. It's still under the radar, but it's for that fashion-savvy customer who is a bit more eclectic and may not want that ‘It' bag, but wants something recognizable and stylish."

Inthavong and Dumain met about two years ago and hit it off instantly, despite what they recognized as their different material sensibilities.

"I remember that right after we met I drove Be and his friend to Fred Leighton in my old Mercedes that you had to shut off by lifting the hood and literally pressing a button," Dumain recalled. "We were driving down Fifth Avenue and Be was like, ‘You can't park that car in front of Fred Leighton.' But the truth is that I like old things because I'm drawn to the look of things and Be is all about craftsmanship."

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