The Bonobos guy is about to get a new sister.
This story first appeared in the October 30, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Bonobos Inc. will launch a separate brand for women, called AYR, and a related e-commerce site next month. The contemporary label will have its foundation in denim and pared-down sportswear designs like cotton shirts, silk tops and cashmere sweaters, all in clean silhouettes with minimal embellishments.
A splash page announcing the new venture goes live Wednesday at Ayr.com. On Nov. 13, e-commerce will launch with two styles of denim, a skinny fit and a cropped “ciggy” fit, each in two washes. The full spring collection, encompassing 75 pieces across 25 styles, will make its debut in late January or early February.
“I saw a similar opportunity to Bonobos in addressing a really busy female consumer — but with a new aesthetic and new product,” said Andy Dunn, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Bonobos, which launched in 2007 with men’s pants and has expanded into a full collection. “We’re focusing on elevated essentials: quality investment pieces that can live in a woman’s wardrobe all year round. With all the focus today on fast-fashion, where do you get your basics and staples from?”
AYR — which is both an acronym for “all year round” and the name of a Scottish seaside town — will be the third brand operating under the Bonobos umbrella, following the launch of its Maide men’s golf label in March. “It really came down to me feeling that this is a different customer,” explained Dunn of launching the stand-alone women’s site. “I don’t want to confuse our customer and I didn’t want to mess with Bonobos. It creates clarity between the two customers and it protects our core brand asset of Bonobos.”
AYR is leveraging the company’s existing expertise in technology, customer service and fulfillment, including a quality office in Hong Kong. For design and branding, Dunn recruited a new team headed by design director Jacqueline Cameron and brand director Maggie Winter to spearhead the women’s concept. Cameron was previously design director of denim and washed wovens at Calvin Klein Jeans and a senior designer at Madewell; Winter was previously a senior merchant at J. Crew and a merchant at Madewell.
“We want to serve a generation of women who are old enough to be established in their careers but young enough to be living their lives digitally,” said Winter of AYR’s target demographic of 25- to 40-year-old women. “We’re leaving Bonobos as a boys’ club and leaving them to do what they do so well. Men don’t like to feel like they are shopping in a women’s store.”
AYR denim will retail from $150 to $195, shirts for $95 to $150, sweaters for $150 to $250, T-shirts for $50, silk tank tops for $150 to $225 and jackets for $225 to $485.
The first spring collection is predicated on a long-over-lean proportion, with somewhat oversize, draped tops meant to pair with slim bottoms. Denim emphasizes stretch and softness, utilizing Tencel blends. Silk crepe blouses come in cami, wedge and tank silhouettes while sweaters are fashioned from Merino wool, baby alpaca and Scottish cashmere fabrics. The most dramatic item is an architectural wool coat, cut like a robe with no button closures.
Dunn pegged the Bonobos investment in AYR at around $750,000, the same amount he raised in the original angel round of fund-raising to launch Bonobos in 2007. “It’s a radically leaner proposition than if you had to launch a brick-and-mortar brand,” observed Dunn.
Privately held Bonobos does not release financial results but Dunn said total volume this year in gross margin dollars (which is total sales minus cost of goods sold and shipping) will be 2.5 times the 2012 figure. Additionally, the brand’s distribution at Nordstrom stores is increasing from 70 doors to 118 doors early next year.