About A Boyy: The Thai Handbag Brand That Did It Right
Thailand’s fashion scene has been consistently thriving, but truly only a few homegrown brands manage to amass the level of international fame a brand like Boyy has. Founded in 2006 by Wannasiri Kongman and Jesse Dorsey, Boyy spread like wildfire in the global street style scene, with designs hailed as this generation's ‘anti-It bag’. Loved by everyone from British fashion editors to street stylers in Copenhagen, Boyy has managed to achieve a timeless yet striking design amongst a sea of fast-changing trends and is considered the most hyped accessory to ever come out of Thailand.
Now this year, Boyy prepares for the next step: a move to Milan. As the brand continues to put Thailand on the global map as a fashion capital, we’ve gathered a couple of facts you should know about how they got to where they are today.
BOYY SPARKED FROM AN ADDICTION.
<p>Specifically, Wannasiri’s addiction to handbags. Back in the early days when she and Jesse first met, she would roam the streets and point out every handbag to her partner-now-husband Jesse Dorsey. From the brand and exact model to her own personal design critique, in-depth analysis of bags was a fun pastime of the Thai designer. She even labels years by the bag of the season. For instance, Wannasiri says that she and Dorsey met the year It-bags were born—cue the Balenciaga Motorcycle and Chloe Paddington. One day, Dorsey suggested they stop discussing bags that already existed and create a new one. Hence, the birth of Boyy.</p>
THE FOUNDERS MET IN NEW YORK CITY.
Like so many of us probably, Carrie Bradshaw’s adventures, trials and triumphs in Sex and the City inspired Wannasiri to move to New York, where she subsequently found herself, love and Boyy. When the duo met, Dorsey was a musician and Wannasiri had just moved from Bangkok to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, part-timing as a waitress. A lover of bags through and through, she had a bag personally made for herself because designer bags in the market were incredibly pricey. So it was in NYC that a fashion editor spotted Wannasiri at a restaurant with one of her own designs and encouraged Wannasiri to make more. Years later, Sarah Jessica Parker herself was seen carrying Boyy’s Bobby Bag to the Late Night Show, bringing life to full circle.
THE NAME ‘BOYY’ REPRESENTS TWO PEOPLE.
A lot of us know that the ‘Boy’ in Boyy comes from Wannasiri’s moniker, but the second Y at the end wasn’t just tacked on for fun. The two decided to have another Y to signify that there were two people behind the brand.
BOYY’S FIRST SHOWROOM WAS IN THE KITCHEN OF DORSEY’S APARTMENT.
The story of Boyy isn’t one of an overnight miracle but a passion project that went from New York to Bangkok and now the rest of the world through the incessant drive of two very determined entrepreneurs. Their first collection—a single model that came in two sizes and three colours—was shown in the kitchen of Dorsey’s apartment in downtown New York. Wholesale buyers and distributors from Japan would visit the space, complete with exposed pipes and old wooden floors. The duo even went through their fair share of personally presenting their pieces to stores in the city, door-to-door.
THEIR FIRST HIT BAG BECAME THE ‘ANTI-IT’ BAG.
Boyy bags might be sweeping the global fashion industry as a major trend now, but the founders had never intended to follow existing trends. When they first released the Slash bag, which many consider to be Boyy’s first It-bag, the two were trying to go against the trending handbag aesthetic of ultra-fem glamour. Their focus on masculinity and strong, contemporary vibes brought about a fresh take to It-bags, earning their product the status of the anti-It Bag.
SUPPORT FROM THE RIGHT PEOPLE WENT A LONG WAY.
Through many persistent calls, the two founders managed to get the opportunity to show their designs to the editor of Visionaire Magazine. Boyy's designs also caught the eye of Colette concept store’s founder and creative director Sarah Andelmen, who placed an order during early days and made Colette the brand's first stockists. Barneys contacted Boyy shortly after and soon, they had signed with Steven Alan to have their products displayed in the Manhattan showroom—goodbye, kitchens showrooms!
NOT ALL ADVICE WAS GOOD ADVICE.
Especially when it comes to how much you’re worth. When they were displaying in New York showrooms, many wanted Boyy to sell at mid-market level, defined by a price point. There was a lot of pressure to push the price down in order to sell more units, but Wannasiri and Dorsey didn’t want to sell themselves short. They decided not to concede to the demands and pulled out to have their own space, spurring a move to Thailand.
THE BRAND'S SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS WAS TRIGGERED BY A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH LOU DOILLON.
A lot of Boyy’s success stems from their strong social media presence, and a lot of this began at a house party just off Bowery Street in New York. There, the designers had an unexpected run-in with French It-girl, actress and model Lou Doillon. She saw the first of Boyy’s designs and was impressed, asking for them to be sent to her Paris modelling agency. A paparazzi shot of her roaming New York City with a Boyy bag and cigarette went viral, sparking a spread of social media engagement.
BOYY BOUTIQUE DOESN'T HAVE A LARGE PR AGENCY.
Given the hype, you would think there was a large team behind the brand’s advertising, but a lot of the exposure is unplanned and organic. Most of the effort still comes from the two entrepreneurs who started everything, and their ability to tap into the right industry tastemakers, from from street style It-figures to celebrities such as Chloë Sevigny and Bella Hadid.
THERE ARE 5 BOUTIQUES AND 86 STOCKISTS AROUND THE GLOBE.
Names include Browns East and Selfridges in London, as well as Moda Operandi in the United States. Not only are Boyy Boutiques found in Thailand, but there’s also a hip brick and motar venue in Copenhagen. Boyy products have also been showcased in Hong Kong’s IT since 2015, where bags reportedly ran out within two weeks after launch. The brand’s latest project is a collaboration with Browns, featuring six exclusive colours on signature designs displayed at Browns East.
THE MOVE TO MILAN COMES WITH A NEW MD.
Wannasiri and Dorsey have been sourcing their materials and hardware from Italy. Coupled with the fact that Boyy has 35 stockists in the country, a move to Milan seems like a step in the right direction. The two have also brought in Paul Parawat Varatip as the new managing director, who will be in charge of overseeing all operation while the two focus on expansion, which will involve delving into eyewear among other accessories. The duo also has plans to open boutiques in Hong Kong and the Middle East, so there’s a lot to look forward to for fans of the brand.
(See also: Fashion Show Producer Jessica Minh Anh Presents 7th “Catwalk On Water”)