Behind the Brand  September 11, 2017

Bembien Founder Yi-Mei Truxes

by Larkin Clark

Welcome to the first installment of a new interview series that taps brand founders, influencers, and entrepreneurs for a strong dose of #MondayMotivation. First up: Bembien founder, Yi-Mei Truxes. 

I really believe that people, especially the fashion and influencer set, are prioritizing experiences more than ever before.

If you were to distill the summer of ’17 into one accessories piece, it would be the woven bag – specifically, one by Bembien, a Brooklyn-based brand that’s taken the it-girl trend of the summer and made it its own.

Launched this spring by former Vogue marketing director Yi-Mei Truxes, Bembien has managed to tap the intersection of three of this year’s biggest social trends: transience, effortlessness, and independence. And if Instagram nods from social sphere trendsetters like Aimee SongJeanne Damas, and #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso are any indication, the brand’s overnight success status won’t wane anytime soon.

“I really believe that people, especially the fashion and influencer set, are prioritizing experiences more than ever before,” says Truxes. “They’re seeking a more transient lifestyle, and tend to display that lifestyle through social media – especially, of course, on Instagram. It’s hard to deny that there’s a connection between the appeal of transience and the appeal of woven accessories — especially ones that will photograph well.”

And Bembien bags do. (If you haven’t gotten your hands on one yet, I’m sure you will soon.)

One of the most impressive things about Bembien, however, is that Truxes launched the brand while she was working full-time at Vogue, and continued to build her swiftly growing company as she transitioned into her new, and current, role at Mario Testino+. When it comes to balancing a day job with a passion project, Truxes seems to have found the winning formula.

Ahead, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Bembien that may inspire you to launch a side hustle of your own. 


But first…
get to know Yi-Mei

What’s your favorite place to spend a long weekend?
I always love escaping to the Catskills, but these days I’ve really enjoyed just spending time at my home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There is something to be said for staying local and hiding out in a few of your neighborhood spots while the rest of town empties out.

A book or article you recently read that you can’t stop thinking about? NY Mag’s “The Uninhabitable Earth.” If you haven’t read it yet, you need to ASAP.

Instagram accounts you consistently lust over? @cerealmag for their color palette and @muttodesign because I’m currently trying to re-work my living room.

A piece of life advice that always stuck with you?
Be kind to everyone you meet. You never know what role they may end up playing in your life.

From left to right: Bembien Marfa, Harper, and Rose bags, available at

Behind the scenes at Bembien

How did you know that this trend was the right one to launch your brand with? Did your time at Vogue at all influence your ability to trend spot and tap into the it-girl mindset?

It’s hard to say for sure… but of course being at Vogue trained my brain to be hyper aware of fashion, trends, designers, street style, etc. For six straight years my homepage was set to and I was surrounded by some of the most stylish people in New York.

With that said, I’ve always been obsessed with people and what makes them tick… and jumping on the woven accessory trend was based more on a gut feeling than anything else.

My advice for anyone working on a side hustle is: Launch! Go live! And then iterate as you go.

When you first launched, you were the marketing director at Vogue and, more recently, joined the Mario Testino+ team. Did you have any prior experience in design and production before launching Bembien, or did you have to figure out how to do it all from scratch?

This is all new! Every day new challenges arise, so everything is still very touch and go. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by a network of people who are willing to answer my (often times very basic) questions.

How do you balance having two jobs – running Bembien and your other work – without completely burning out? 

It isn’t as crazy as it sounds…I just have less free time. My days are split in two — I go to work for Mario Testino during the day, and then spend the night working on all things Bembien. I’m extremely fortunate that my boyfriend, Gray, has jumped in to help with a lot of the operations. Once we finish working our day jobs, I pick up a six pack of beer on my way to Bembien’s office and we pack bags all night. It’s like a less romantic (or more romantic, however you want to see it) date night, every night. If it wasn’t for him, the whole thing would be a very different experience. In terms of burning out, we try to just stay very open with each other about when it’s time to take a break. For example, now is a time we need a break! We [recently went] to Italy for a week to re-set our brains.


The Sofia bag (which I love, BTW), is the latest addition to the Bembien family. What’s different about this bag, and what inspired you to add to the collection?

The main differences are the strap length (it’s much shorter) and the shape (it’s longer so that a long wallet can fit inside). I find it to be both more luxurious due to the intricate design of the weave, as well as more practical due to the shape and fit of the bag. I wanted to add a style to the collection that I, myself, wanted to wear every day — the Sofia bag is that bag for me.

At right: Bembien Sofia bag, available at

A peek inside the former Bembien office in Williamsburg. The brand has since moved its home base to Long Island City.

As a new business founder, I’m sure you’ve learned some valuable lessons launching Bembien. Do you have any tips for people who may be thinking of launching their own brand or side hustle?

I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this, but: You only learn by doing! No one is ever 100 percent prepared for the hurdles the future holds. So, just dive in and see what happens! Failure is a whole lot better than never getting off the ground. My advice for anyone working on a side hustle is: Launch! Go live! And then iterate as you go.

What can we look forward to from Bembien in the coming seasons?

This fall and winter, we’ll focus on resort and as we enter spring and summer ’18, we’ll be introducing a new collection. As of now, Bembien will remain a handbag brand, but that may change down the road!

Shop Bembien at and follow at @bembien on Instagram.


Words, interview, and photography: Larkin Clark
Shot in Brooklyn, summer 2017
Product photo of Sofia bag: Courtesy of Bembien

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  • Clementina Vinals

    Love this article! Yi looks great!

  • Lida V

    Love these bags!! Would totally get one!

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