When flashy fashion designer Stevie Boi isn’t jet-setting around the world building his brand, he is relaxing and recharging at home in Havre de Grace.
It might come as a surprise to know that the celebrity known for his androgynous looks and ornate eyewear and clothing worn by Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Rihanna calls a subdivision of perfectly manicured houses — some with white picket fences — home.
But for more than a year, the 29-year-old has done just that.
“It’s so not where anyone would imagine I would live,” says Boi, as he stood in the home’s garage, which also functions as his design studio.
In addition to holding two vehicles, the walls of the space are lined with dozens of containers filled with fabrics: finished garments and the materials needed for him to whip up prototypes of his famous sunglasses. A simple white architect’s desk is cluttered with empty bottles of water, an opened shipping box, a pair of scissors and a display stand with about a dozen pairs of his eyewear. There’s no sketch pad. Boi says he doesn’t draw. He mainly creates his designs on a tablet, and then directly ships the images to his manufacturer in Portland, Ore., where the sunglasses are made. His clothes are made in Italy and Los Angeles.
“It’s very peaceful here,” Boi says of his digs, a two-level, five-bedroom, three-bathroom brick home. “When I have to travel, it’s a headache. There’s a lot of stopping and going. Here, I don’t have any problems. I don’t have to talk to anybody.”
Boi, who was born Steven Cordell Strawder, moved last year to the home, which is his mother’s, after spending the past couple of years living on the road.
“After I left Baltimore, I was literally living out of suitcases,” he says. “I moved home to save money.”
In Havre de Grace, Boi says he’s found a sense of peace.
“There’s no place like home — especially like your parent’s home,” he says in a whimsical “Wizard Of Oz” voice.
This day, he was dressed in a light pink wide-brimmed hat; a partly sheer multicolored pink jumpsuit; raspberry-colored socks and black Nike sneakers. He completes the outfit with an iridescent pink visor-type pair of glasses — all from his recent PINK fashion collection that he debuted in September during New York Fashion Week.
Boi has spent the past week at home preparing for his coming world tour and recuperating from his fashion show, which was particularly brutal.
Long days of model castings, fittings and paying painstaking attention to the other laborious details associated with organizing a 230-guest show in New York City had taken their toll on Boi.
“I overheated,” he recalls. “It was 100 degrees in New York City. I fell directly on my face in the hotel lobby as I was heading to get to bed. I was so hot. The room kept spinning. The hall kept spinning. I passed out.”
Boi was unconscious for 30 seconds and was taken to a hospital where he had emergency plastic surgery. He suffered cuts to his neck, chin and lip. His cheek was partially dislocated, he says.
“I make money off my face,” he says, adding that he wore a mask during the show to hide his swollen face and protruding lip. “I chose a plastic surgeon.”
A “scared and depressed” designer spent the entire day in the hospital before being released just in time to present his PINK collection before a start-studded crowd that included Whoopi Goldberg, Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter, and fashion industry insiders and glitterati.
“I convinced the doctors to let me leave the hospital,” he says. “The show must go on.”
After the show, Boi skipped his own after-party at The London Hotel.
“I didn’t go to it,” he laments. “I went right to sleep. … I only shared this with a couple of people.”
The scare taught him to value himself.
“I’m going to start pacing what I do right now,” he says. “I was putting everyone before me during Fashion Week — clients, sponsors. It could have been worse. I could have been dead. I’m going to put myself first. I always put everyone before me.”
Boi’s mother, Gloria Scott, laments that she hopes her son takes better care of himself.
“When he comes home, he’ll sleep the whole time until it’s time to go again. He’s not getting younger. He looks young,” she says. “When I heard about that accident, it knocked me off my feet. I worry about him all day, every day. I’m concerned about his health and well-being. But as a mother, you can give all the advice you can. But he has to adhere to the advice. I love it when he’s here and settled. I don’t have to worry about him doing too much.”
Boi says with a laugh: “She’s so supportive. My mom has my back like a chiropractor.”
Boi returned to the “beloved” confines of his Havre de Grace home for familiarity and comfort.
There he snuggled up in his full-size bed with a bottle of wine from his neighbor’s vineyard and binged on “The View” and “The Talk.”
While at home, he chose to cancel an upcoming show in Tokyo to “heal correctly.”
His dimly lit bedroom turned into a meditation room.
“There’s been a lot of spiritual healing. There has been lots of prayer,” he admits. “It made me closer to God in my opinion.”
Fast-forward almost a week to just three days before he would embark on a multi-city and -country tour that includes stops in Paris, Berlin, Hawaii, Miami, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Stockholm, and an almost tranquil Boi was relaxing at home deciding what he was going to eat that evening.
“I’m going to bake some mac and cheese, fry some chicken and make collard greens,” he says. “I’m definitely making baked macaroni and cheese. That’s definitely happening.”
A self-admitted foodie, Boi says he’s been cooking since he was 7.
“My mom would let me make my siblings [his three older sisters] dinner. I started with lasagna,” he recalls.
Boi wants to leverage his love of food into a money-making opportunity.
He recently launched an ice cream flavor PINK with Philadelphia-based ice cream maker Little Baby’s Ice Cream. Boi describes the pink-hued treat as tasting like a flat cherry cola. He plans to sell it in Baltimore in the coming months.
And he’s filming a video series “Stevie Boi Eats” done in a “guerrilla-style way” where he’s recorded eating and drinking at various restaurants during his travels. He plans to shop the show to various networks.
When he’s not cooking and eating, or catching up on his favorite shows — he also likes Lifetime movies — he’s catching up on some much-needed sleep.
He’ll usually try and spend as much time away from the computer as possible — it never lasts more than a half-day — before going down the rabbit hole of posts, likes and comments. But he knows it’s worth it to continue building his brand.
“This is all a facade,” he says as he points to his face full of makeup and his new ensemble — this time he’s wearing an oversized blush sheer tunic with gigantic billowing sleeves. He’s ditched a hat for a black piece of fabric that he’s wrapped around his head like a scarf. A burst of hair sticks up on the top of his head. A new pair of clear visor-type glasses rests on his face. “I’m really a businessman. My brain is constantly thinking about the next check. I’m never satisfied.”
Hunter Hooligan, a Baltimore-based pop artist who provided the closing music for Boi’s New York City fashion show, wasn’t surprised to hear that Boi lives in the suburbs — nearly an hour north of Baltimore.
“Maryland is full of incredible artists who are wildly successful in their careers, and I think the proximity and access to major cities like Baltimore, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta gives so many artists here an opportunity to travel while also having a quiet and fulfilling home life,” he says. “You don’t necessarily have to live in New York or Los Angeles to be successful anymore, thanks to the digital age.”
Hooligan respects the fact that Boi has decided to spend time around his support system. He even believes it helps Boi to become a better artist.
“Culturally, there is an expectation for artists to sacrifice everything — our family relationships, our friendships, our communities, our homes and our comforts,” he says. “Yet these things are deeply influential in our art, being able to hold onto those things is creating an environment for more emotionally fulfilled and financially stable artists, which is a beautiful, powerful thing.”
Toni James, owner of the Fells Point clothing store Katwalk Boutique, was surprised to learn that Boi lived just two minutes from her Havre de Grace home.
James, who has lived in Harford County for the past 15 years, knows that people would be shocked to hear that someone who has ascended in the fashion industry would be living in a suburban setting.
“He’s very outgoing. He doesn’t let anything stop his drive,” she says, adding that she carries his line of eyewear in her boutique. “He’s really doing it. He’s very ambitious.”
By now, Boi has switched outfits into yet another ensemble — this one is a black sheer shirt, black leather pants and black Nike sneakers with raspberry-colored socks; a pink wide-brimmed hat; and a pair of cat-eye glasses with black lenses.
His neighbors seem not to notice his appearance and go about their business. A group of men load several pieces of furniture into a moving truck from the home next door. Their gazes never reach Boi.
“My friends don’t get it. They say, it’s so not you,” he says about his quiet suburban lifestyle. ”Just knowing that you can go home to your mom’s, dad’s or guardian’s house … there’s nothing like that.”
An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect first name for Stevie Boi’s mother. Harford Magazine regrets the error.