The idea for Bonobos came serendipitously to Andy Dunn when he was an M.B.A. candidate at Stanford University. Watching his roommate and Bonobos co-founder Brian Spaly altering his pants using a girlfriend’s sewing machine, Dunn identified a hole in the men’s wear market: affordable pants that fit well. He zeroed in on a problem area for many men — the saggy backside or, as he called it, “khaki diaper butt.”
Working from his downtown apartment in 2007, Dunn was a one-man order and fulfillment center, with 400 pairs of pants tacked to his bedroom wall. He answered customer service e-mails in the morning, then picked, packed and shipped the merchandise. “On a good day, you’d lay out four invoices on the bed, pull the pants from the wall and put them into packages,” Dunn said. “Six months later, we had five employees and were growing by 25 percent month to month.”
Along the way, Dunn broke plenty of rules.
“In many ways, it was a crazy idea,” he said. “Folks in this [apparel] industry were the most skeptical. We said, ‘We’re going to design a best-selling men’s brand, sell it over the Internet and name it after a promiscuous chimpanzee.’” Meanwhile, Silicon Valley’s tech companies were no more visionary. “People didn’t just say no; they said, ‘Hell no,’ ” Dunn said.
The first person to recognize Bonobos’ potential was Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways Corp., who was one of Dunn’s professors at Stanford. Peterson encouraged Dunn to go against the fashion industry’s grain. “We were going into an established industry with a very customer-centric model,” Dunn said. “We decided we were going to spend all of our time thinking about our customers. And we were going to take advantage of a different way to reach customers — the Web. Great customer service would be central to the concept.”
Without the overhead of stores, Dunn was able to hold the price of Bonobos’ San Francisco-made pants at $50. “Without print costs, the Internet is a better catalogue,” Dunn said. “We were excited about the gross margin of being a brand combined with the growth of being an e-commerce player. As an e-commerce player, you’re aggregating demand and you can grow much more quickly.”
Bonobos pants have a point of difference — an anatomical waistband. Like a belt, which has a slight curvature, the waist is contoured. “We actually built that contour into our waistbands,” Dunn said. “The next step was the rise. European-cut men’s pants are notorious for a very tight rise, while American pants have this horrible long rise.”
Dunn believes flash-sale Web sites such as Rue La La and Gilt Groupe are bringing about “a fundamental repricing in the industry. The customer that used to be lazy and not shop on sale now has that opportunity every day. This is a game changer for men’s shopping. It’s fundamentally changing the price structure in our industry. By taking control of vertical distribution, Bonobos will have a fundamentally better price structure over time.”
Almost as important as the product is giving consumers a great shopping experience. “We’re trying to provide our customer with a service, which is not just great clothing but a great experience of buying that clothing,” Dunn said. “It starts with fantastic product, free shipping both ways and lifetime returns. They’ve gotta love the pants. We’ve just moved on to having a great button down shirt, which alleviates BMT, or billowing muffin top,” where the shirt gathers and bunches at waist. “We’re working on a denim concept,” Dunn added. “The denim brand will launch on the Web.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast