Five years ago, Steve Dumain and his friend Be Inthavong were knocking around New York, looking for their next project. Then the purse changed everything.
Dumain returned from a trip to Beirut with a vintage bag that had caught his eye. He showed it to Inthavong, who was inspired to create his own version, a bell-shaped satchel made of lambskin and covered with studs that they hammered themselves in Dumain’s Brooklyn loft. The bag was named the Garbo. Before long, thanks to a buy from Bergdorf Goodman, it was hanging on the arms of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Penelope Cruz, and Mena Suvari.
“At the time, it was very different than everything else out there,” Inthavong says. “We were a little worried because before meeting with us, Bergdorf’s VP said they hoped we weren’t showing them anything with hardware on it, and ours had all the bells and whistles”—350 studs and four buckles, to be exact. Following Bergdorf’s lead, Neiman Marcus picked up their Be & D line. Designers produced similar studded bags. And the Garbo became an icon. “I was so proud,” Inthavong says. “I grew up shopping at Neiman’s.”
Inthavong came to North Texas as a child by way of Laos. He attended Haltom High School and studied biology at TCU before moving to New York. He started his own hair accessories company, later finding a creative partner in Dumain, an artist and vintage-accessory aficionado. Together they launched Be & D, a “punk modern” line of bags, shoes, and accessories. “Our customers want something different, that sets them apart. Something that will be in their closet for a long time,” Inthavong says.
The brand is marking its five-year anniversary with a relaunch of the Garbo. Updates include spiked studs, a more tailored look, and a wider variety of styles and colors. Also look for the debut of the Garbo wallet and a collaboration with designer Doo-Ri Chung for fall 2009. The Garbo collection can be purchased at beandd.com or by calling 212-629-3242.