Khoi Le’s interest in—obsession with?—backpacks wasn’t piqued by Eastpaks stuffed with social studies textbooks, but it does go back to his H.S. days in California. When he was a teenager, Khoi became so enamored by Marc Jacobs’s Murakami collaboration for Louis Vuitton that he decided then and there to model his life path after the heralded designer, following his footsteps to Parsons School of Design.
Blown away by the access to material he had in New York City—“You just walk downtown or to Midtown, and you can buy almost anything”—Khoi scooped up a bunch of leathers and, in 2011, started experimenting with with rucksacks, using an inside-out JanSport as a starting point. (To hell with the school’s lack of accessories programming.) He gave college pals Sophie Tabet and Courtney Dransfield early prototypes to wear around town, and the response was, in a word, insane. “I think about every other person stopped and asked, ‘Oh my god, where did you get this bag?” he recalls.
Now Khoi’s running a full-fledged accessories line along with those same pals, who also run a creative agency, Landed. “They were the ones who helped me turn it from a hobby into a business,” he said. And at this rate, it’s only a matter of time until he’s inspiring the next generation of designers, looking to carry on the cool-bag tradition. —carlye wisel