Born in Vientiane, Laos, Be Inthavong moved to America with his family at age eight. Growing up in the Texas suburbs of Dallas/Fort Worth and wanting to fit in with his “All-American” environment, Inthavong only spoke Laotian at home and quickly abandoned his Southeast Asian heritage for life as a Westerner. Inthavong’s artistic skills presented early on, when at age 13, he handmade a train case for his mother because he couldn’t afford to buy her one. After graduating from high school at the top of his class, he attended Texas Christian University as a Pre-Med major, even though he felt a calling to design.
After college, Inthavong returned to Laos with his mother for the first time since they emigrated. In reconnecting with his native roots, he was deeply influenced aesthetically and spiritually by his rich native culture. He vowed to make trips to his homeland a yearly tradition.
Upon his return to the States, he moved to Rhode Island and began working for his mother’s jewelry manufacturing company, learning hands-on from the ground up about sourcing, production, hardware, and logistics. In 1999, Inthavong launched a successful hair accessory company called Rhyme, which was sold to Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and over 75 specialty stores. In 2003, he took one of his most profound trips to Laos and decided to stay for nearly a year. Inthavong spent much of his time with his aunt, who after living in France since her teens moved back to Laos in the early 1990’s to open her own silk mill. As the women in their family have been weaving silk for over 100 years, she encouraged Inthavong to also learn the craft of Lao silk textile and the art of silk hand looming. He quickly became her apprentice and both applied Western aesthetics to the historic Lao weaving process.
After returning to New York in 2004, where he had been living, Inthavong met Steve Dumain and together they launched Be & D, a designer handbag company. During his tenure, Inthavong further developed and utilized his talent and know-how of running production, while strengthening and exploring his design acumen and creativity. In 2008, Be & D was licensed to create handbags for Diane Von Furstenberg, and in 2009 collaborated with fashion designers Doo.Ri Chung and Rachel Roy on their New York Fashion Week runway collections. At the end of 2009, Inthavong announced his departure from Be & D.
Soon after, he returned to Laos to contemplate his life’s next journey. Inthavong revisited the textile lessons he learned at his aunt’s silk mill years before and began to
challenge the perceived limitations of the indigenous process that has existed for over 500 years. He sought to improve and evolve the discipline, using as inspiration the world of leather goods he had just left behind. Thus began the painstaking practice of using a rare Laotian weaving technique to take finely cut micro-strips of leather and hand-looming them into silk looms. Inthavong submitted a patent for this process in the Summer of 2010.
In September 2010, after almost half a year between New York (where his bags are made) and Laos (where the weaving is done), Be Inthavong debuted his first solo effort under his own name for Spring/Summer 2011 entitled The Heritage Weave Collection.