Jesse Dorsey on Bangkok Dangerous

An update to our post about Boyy designer Jesse Dorsey. We spoke to Dorsey on Wednesday following the culmination of nine weeks of anti-government protests in Bangkok, during which Central World Department Store was set ablaze. Boyy’s boutique, located in Central Chidlom Plaza two blocks away, remains closed for the time being, like all commercial properties in the area. “Really at this point, we’re more concerned for the well-being of the city, and the friends we have whom have been hit much harder by this turn of events,” Dorsey says. While the Thai military claims to have now recaptured control of Bangkok, the country remains on edge amidst the recent violence.

Goodie Bag: Boyy Hits Bangkok

By the time Jesse Dorsey finally touched down in Florence late last month, his flight, like those of countless others en route to Europe, had been canceled three times. Though exhausted, Dorsey, who designs accessories label Boyy with partner Wannasiri Kongman, was also anxious to get to Tuscany, where he had set up appointments with a few tanneries in anticipation of their fall collection. “We keep a tight ship with leather suppliers in Italy,” Dorsey, who described his first experiences as both enlightening and hellish, explained. “This is, after all, one of the most important components–and one of the most volatile.” Having crisscrossed between New York, Bangkok and Italy nearly non-stop for the past four years, Dorsey’s more than racked up his share of frequent flier miles. Luckily, the gypsy lifestyle’s been paying off.

(See update regarding the violence in Bangkok.)

Prior to launching Boyy four years ago, Montreal-born Dorsey was a musician and producer, arriving in New York in 1993 to pursue a burgeoning, post-university career. DJ-ing gigs quickly followed, with Dorsey ultimately writing and composing music for Milla Jovovich and the Beastie Boys, scoring music for Cirque du Soleil, and performing in 90s neo-glam band Nancy Boy (yes, that Nancy Boy). Roughly 10 years later however, Dorsey found himself ready for a change, eager to channel his creativity in a distinctly different capacity. Meeting Bangkok-born FIT student Wannasiri “Boyy” Kongman proved fortuitous.

A womenswear buyer in her native Thailand, Kongman knew she wanted to design handbags upon arrival in the U.S. A commission to create a style similar to her own DIY, Birkin-esque model for one Marie Claire editor catalyzed Kongman’s then-nascent efforts. That, and months of prodding from Dorsey. The duo soon began collaborating in earnest, sketching, researching, and sourcing material for what would become their first collection under the Boyy label for Spring 2006. Like all of their wares since, the first handbags–christened “Pablo,” “Leonard” and “Serge”–were named after influential (and always male) personae, in effect creating the perfect companion to their wearer. As Dorsey and Kongman see it, the woman is, and always should be, the main attraction.

Since its inception, the label has steadily built an international customer base by creating anti-status bags of the sort passersby might covet without ever knowing–or caring about–their designer provenance. With an emphasis on luxe utility, the look is subtly elegant, decidedly untrendy, and charming without ever appearing precious. In lieu of logos, doodles from Thai pop artist Kongpat Sakdapitak line the bags’ interiors. Thread is sourced from Germany, hardware from Italy. The pieces are multi-functional, converting from day bag to oversized evening clutch by removing chains–many of which function as either straps or handles. “Our product can stand up to any big-name, high-end label in terms of materials and quality,” Dorsey says matter-of-factly. “We only ever want to leave the design up for debate.”

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Granted, when it comes to garnering attention, having a few fashionable females in your corner never hurt. Dorsey first met one of the label’s best known fans, a pre-Kids Chloë Sevigny, in New York, staying in touch over the years. Sevigny liked what she saw in the French-Canadian, and the bag appeared with her in Self Service‘s S/S 2007 issue. Following French actress Lou Doillon’s star turn with the Slash bag (a street shot that both aided sales and helped land Boyy in the New York Times‘ Styles section) the designers saw fit to create new incarnations the next season, as well as a python-flapped limited edition.

Exotic skins and custom hardware necessarily up the price of any handbag, yet Boyy’s wares have always been extremely reasonably-priced. While an obvious benefit to consumers and a fact of which Boyy remains proud, retailers are occasionally perplexed on the placement front. Dorsey recalls one prominent buyer who loved the bags, but, unsure of which floor to house them, then asked whether they might raise their SRPs. That was a no-go, and Dorsey indeed concedes “there’s still a real prejudice regarding price points. If it’s not expensive enough, then maybe it’s not worthy of a particular shelf space.” But, he adds, “we’re committed to maintaining our status quo.” Thus far the gamble appears to be paying off, particularly abroad. Currently the bags sit alongside the likes of Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Fendi in Hong Kong’s On Pedder, Liberty of London and Colette.

Boyy’s biggest development to date occurred just weeks ago with the launch of their first boutique in Bangkok’s Central Chidlom department store. With Asia currently the label’s biggest market, and the opportunity to secure a fist floor space amongst some seriously luxe peers, Dorsey considered the decision a no-brainer. Besides having a built-in support network which includes friends, family (and part-time at least, Kongman) the duo saw another advantage to setting up shop in Bangkok: a return to good old fashioned customer service. “We wanted to get back to more of an old school rapport, a one-on-one client relationship,” Dorsey explains.

To wit, Boyy has set up a consultation desk within the boutique where shoppers can choose from a selection of leathers, skins and embellishments to create a bespoke handbag. They’ll also be launching a collection of small leather goods, along with linen and canvas totes, with collectors’ apparel to follow. Should their latest endeavors prove successful, Dorsey and Kongman hope to expand their burgeoning business with additional stores. For the time being however, focusing on the Bangkok boutique will allow the globe trekkers to contain their expansive world purview just a bit. Or, as Dorsey envisions, “It’ll be like having our own little universe within the bigger picture.” Here’s to the stars aligning.

Boyy is available at select retailers worldwide and at www.boyybag.com.

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Avant-Garde Shoe Designer Raphael Young Finds His Footing

Ask Raphael Young what he thinks of New York and he’ll tell you he loves it, unequivocally. The Paris-based shoe designer will then expound on the differences between Americans and the French, essentially confirming one of the Gallic cultural tenets he sets forth mid-conversation. “You are open-minded and fast, the contrary of France,” he explains, pausing to reflect for a moment. “In Paris we think about details…concepts. Americans think in a global way, realistically. But I like contradictions and antagonisms.” Hence, three seasons into the launch of his eponymous collection, Young’s penchant for sketching and building a shoe only to take it apart again, a stop-and-start-again process he dubbs “deconstruction.” Lifting up a vertiginous leather bootie, Young runs a finger over the horizontally-placed leather panel now affixed to its underside. “Look,” he says. “This was the shoe’s sole. This is different.”

Despite a marked deviation from the streamlined norm, “quirky” wouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind when describing Young’s footwear. The plexiglass and carbon heels, mirrored bottoms and sensuous curves suggest a sort of futuristic femininity. And understanding women—beyond how high of a heel they’ll wear, and in so far as a designer can really do so—was one of Young’s aims in visiting New York last month. In between the requisite press meetings and showroom appointments, he again sought out contradiction—a uniformity in difference, as it were, “dependent on time and place,” he explains.

Granted, female allure has been a recurrent theme in his 36 years, propelled in part by the work of his uncle, Alexandre Narcy, who cobbled under YSL for over three decades. “I remember when I was kid, when I was looking at the lookbook of my uncle,” Young recalls. “I was so impressed by the attitude of these elegant women, so intriguing and powerful, so sensual and perfect.” That love of beauty ultimately compelled Young to forgo mathematics (his parents’ preference) for a marketing degree from the Ecole Supérieure des Affaires, but not before a brief stint as a would-be naval pilot and physics studies. The latter would come in handy when Young formally commenced design school. An internship under his uncle followed, with a freelance design gig and assistantship under Jean-Louis Scherrer and Rossimoda SpA, respectively, soon thereafter.

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Beginning in the early 2000s, Young worked for the Italian manufacturers of Prada, Gucci and Dior shoes before debuting his namesake collection for Spring 2009. Having begun a collaborative partnership with London-based designer Louise Goldin, Young then created the shoes for Manish Arora’s fall collection at Paris Fashion Week. His roster has since grown to include Elie Saab and Frank Tell, and in September, he’ll partner with British up-and-comer Hannah Marshall, who sees Young’s aesthetic as “very much in line with my vision for empowering women,” adding, “I think we can create something amazing.”

Though Young’s first Japanese samaurai-inspired collection included a couple flats (a style he hasn’t favored since) alongside the skyscrapers, his signature curved heel, platform sole and jutting toe box were already in place. Young’s artisanal aesthetic evolved the next season (and landed on Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Florence Welch) with aluminum heels and metallic finishes, giving the footwear an armor-like quality. “I like Raphael because he is visionary and not afraid to execute exactly what he wants to do,” explains Seven New York’s Joseph Quartana, whose Soho boutique recently began carrying Young’s collection. “He’s innovative,” he adds, noting the fact that Young has already patented the aforementioned sole-to-shoe technique. Comprised of up to 50 individual components, the shoes’ forms, heels and wedges are made-to-measure and crafted by hand. Bearing in mind the need for equilibrium, Young also goes to great pains to make sure that his shoes are also actually comfortable. The result is akin to couture.

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For Spring, Young piped black suede and python with a deep, purple-y blue, the same color that appears on the interior of cutout heels and encrusted in sequins atop classic pumps. The collection also features metallic treatments—antiqued, disressed and tarnished in shades of copper and pewter. Silver chain fringe adorns one pair of patent cork wedges, lending a decided edge to a summer staple. Though eminently wearable, the looks are also decidedly untrendy or seasonal, lacking warmer weather’s telltale florals, canvas fabric and espadrille jute. Meanwhile, Young also collaborated on a three-piece handbag collection for storied French company Le Tanneur this season, creating black napa and kid leather clutches, satchels and hobos, featuring insect-like gunmetal embellishment.

Earlier in the month Young traveled to Cannes for Aston Martin Racing Weekend to see the vehicle he designed for team Signature Plus. Not surprisingly perhaps, a car shoe is also in the works. Having recently shown his Fall collection to buyers and editors in New York and Paris, Young is back to the drawing board again, already sketching for Spring 2011. His recent Gotham trip indeed inspired him, he says, but the desire to create has been a constant since childhood. “It’s not something which comes to you suddenly,” Young explains. “It’s part of you, or not. At the beginning there is just a hyper sensitivity which makes you feel and see things differently.” Expect that vision to endure for some time to come.

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The Sculls’ Warhols, Jasper Johns and Rauschenbergs All Together Again

In 1973 taxi magnate Robert Scull and his socialite wife, Ethel, auctioned off 50 pieces from what was then considered one of the most enviable modern art collections in the country. The Sculls–aka “Bob and Spike” to anyone who’s read Tom Wolfe’s titular essay from The Pump House Gang–divorced soon thereafter an estimated $2.2 million richer, ultimately selling off the remainder of the Oldenburgs, Rosenquists and Rauschenbergs to private collectors and public institutions in 1986. Starting today, 44 of those works from 23 of the last century’s most prominent artists will be on view at New York’s Acquavella Galleries through May 27.

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The couple’s appetite for art was voracious, and in a relatively short span of time they managed to gobble up a sizable chunk of iconic works, many of which are now considered masterpieces. After sating their craving for Abstract Expressionism (Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko) they moved on to Pop Art, acquiring James Rosenquist’s “F-111,” Jasper Johns’ “Map,” and commissioning Andy Warhol’s first portrait, “Ethel 36 Times.” Another Warhol painting from the collection, “200 One Dollar Bills” sold last November for a record $43.8 million, having initially fetched $385,000 at auction in 1986.

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The Scull collection indeed appreciated exponentially over time, a testament to both its owners’ taste and prescience. In fact, the early ’70s sale may have kickstarted the art market as we know it today, catalyzing the occasionally peculiar, often persistent desire for trendy works potential collectors neither know they want or need. According to Scull’s son, James, however, his father’s motivations were not simply those of a savvy, greed-driven businessman, but of a frustrated onetime painter himself, happy (and able) to help out then-struggling artists like John Chamberlain and James Rosenquist. Regardless of Scull’s original intent, perceived or otherwise, the collection at Acquavella Galleries is irrefutably a formidable one whose cultural value is, in a word, priceless.

image Robert & Ethel Scull: Portrait of a Collection, April 13 – May 27, 2010, Acquavella Galleries, 18 E. 79th St., NY, NY. www.acquavellagalleries.com.

‘Bill Cunningham New York’ Reveals Bill Cunningham

Early on in director Richard Press’ new documentary Bill Cunningham New York, we see the title character seated at his desk at the New York Times, phone-to-ear, inquiring as to the whereabouts of a film roll. “Hi. This is the guy that comes on a bicycle,” Cunningham says. “You’re developing some film for me?” That the lensman neither identifies himself by name nor employer speaks volumes, particularly given his vaunted place in the world of street style photography–a realm he’s inhabited for over 40 years now.

Part of the MoMA-sponsored New Directors/New Films festival at Lincoln Center, the doc sheds light on the unlikely man-about-town and workaholic shutterbug behind the Times’ “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” columns. Until now, little was known about the ubiquitous, intensely private Cunningham, easily identified by his omnipresent blue smock and Schwinn bicycle. We learn of his frugality (ponchos worn in inclement weather are fixed with masking taped, not replaced) living quarters (an artist’s studio in Carnegie Hall) and insistence upon always keeping an objective distance (he never eats, drinks or socializes with the party guests he shoots).

Indeed, the idea of remove recurs throughout the film. Cunningham’s behavior ranges from idiosyncratic to anti-conformist, having become a milliner in the early ’50s against his parents’ wishes; claiming never to have had a romantic relationship; refusing to accept payment for the assignments he was given in return for more creative control; living monastically in a cramped apartment amongst a sea of filing cabinets.

Given his myriad quirks, Cunningham makes for a compelling film subject–a role in which he admittedly does not revel. Despite the interest and accolades, Cunningham is earnest in his refusal to think of himself or his work as being in any way remarkable. He sums up his simple, point-and-shoot approach at the 2008 ceremony in which he received the Legion d’Honneur from France’s Minister of Culture: “He who seeks beauty,” he tells his audience, “will find it.”

Lindsay Lohan Adds “Pack Rat” to Her List of Problems

If anyone can help America’s most famous “secret” celebrity hoarder, it’s Niecy “done seen a lot” Nash. Tonight the Clean House hostess speaks to Lindsay Lohan about yet another one of her addictions– hoarding–on The Insider. Niecy will ostensibly advise La Lohan on what clothing to return to which angry designers/ex-editors/former friends. What all might Lindsay be squirreling away, and why would anyone as famous as she admit to her problem in such a public way? Ha! We kid, we kid! Admitting to embarrassing problems is just Lohan’s M.O.

In a clip for tonight’s show (below), we see Lindsay and Niecy-as-Oprah discussing the roots of the addiction. Segue to a shot of Michael Lohan and Lindsay revealing, “It’s kind of a sore subject. Niecy counters, “That kind of thing does weigh on you e-mo-tion-a-lly.” Lindsay squirms and furrows her brow, either none-to-subtly acknowledging Niecy’s omniscience or secretly knowing she shouldn’t have told Dina she’d agree to do this. Yet like her Hoarders compatriots Augustine and Judi, Lindsay still seems loath to admit she’s got issues. “I just need to get rid of…stuff,” she says, approximating Tai from Clueless. Like cat carcasses and dirty Depends?

No, but we do see plenty of clothes, shoes cataloged by image and a rogue, multi-color guitar. Of course, The Insider isn’t gonna show us the best stuff just yet. Luckily Movieline has friends at the City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation, charged with overseeing the court-mandated clean-up. (Actually, the Movieline folks just have a freakishly accurate imagination.) Amongst the most disturbing items “recovered” from a partial inventory:

-400 unopened cases of Sevin Nyne tanning spray -39,320 pill bottles -Two gifting suite hostesses, bound, gagged, and malnourished -A vodka-powered time machine -48 His and Hers’ Sean Combs ultra-plush bathrobes, available only through HSN -12 Polaroids of her with Pope Benedict XVI at the Rome Miu Miu -A dessicated Shetland pony -Corbin Bernsen’s home phone number written on a matchbook from Il Sole -A marionette likeness of her mother -Herbie

Damn. Godspeed Lindsay.