Bonobos has launched its first designer collaboration.
The digital brand, which was acquired by Walmart last year for $310 million, has tapped Thaddeus O’Neil for an upscale, casually skewed assortment of men’s wear that made its debut on its web site and in two of its Guideshop stores on Thursday.
The Bonobos x Thaddeus O’Neil collaboration was inspired by the work of American architect Buckminster Fuller and offers T-shirts, cabana shirts, swimwear, casual pants and shorts, sweaters, outerwear, swimwear, knitwear and accessories. Prices range from $78 to $348.
Katie Boiano, vice president of design for Bonobos, said about a year ago, the company decided it wanted to partner with a designer “and Thaddeus was a natural fit based on his personal style and aesthetic.” Bonobos was especially drawn to the “vibrant colors and easygoing styles” that are hallmarks of O’Neil’s collection.
Thaddeus O’Neil grew up surfing on Long Island and was a member of the CFDA Incubator program. He designs a unisex line that he describes as “playwear” — looks that are bohemian, beachy and inspired by surf culture. The Bonobos assortment pays homage to the ocean, the earth and wildlife.
Although O’Neil has a small business, that wasn’t a concern for Bonobos. “It wasn’t about finding some huge name,” Boiano said, “but finding the right person with a similar aesthetic. He offers a really relaxed silhouette and fashion-forward trend-driven styles. We’re even doing a jumpsuit, which is something we’ve never done before.”
There are also matching sets and hats, she said, pieces that represent “a little more risk” for Bonobos. “We think it will help propel the brand forward,” she added.
She said the collection is a one-off capsule, but if successful, the brand would consider continuing to work with O’Neil on future lines. And there could be other collaborations as well in Bonobos’ future.
“It would have to be the right fit at the right time,” Boiano said.
For O’Neil, the partnership could be a game-changer. “Having the opportunity to work with Bonobos for my first collaboration has been a really special project for me,” the designer said. “I appreciate and share Bonobos’ fun and playful aesthetic, so working with the team was a really collaborative, fun process. We wanted to create a collection that offers pieces with bold colors, different textures and prints that pay homage to marine and wildlife — and I think we accomplished that. It was exciting to develop completely new silhouettes with Bonobos, and produce an assortment that would resonate with their customer.”
To promote the collection, Bonobos created a “featured shop” on its web site, sent out e-mails and added it to the Fifth Avenue store in New York and the La Brea unit in Los Angeles.
The acquisition of Bonobos by Walmart is part of the retailer’s effort to augment its business model, particularly in the digital space, to better compete with Amazon.
Since the purchase last June, Boiano said nothing on the front end has changed at Bonobos. “The product, the quality, the design process are all still the same,” she said. “That’s the reason they bought us — we know our customer and they don’t want to interfere with that.”