With the proliferation of great men’s brands now on the market, how does an emerging menswear brand set itself apart from not only the tried-and-true household names that we’ve all come to love, but also find their unique niche in the ever-expanding menswear market. Bonobos has found that magic formula that eludes so many young brands.
Since 2007, Bonobos’s meteoritic rise is due to strategic planning, knowing what the male consumer wants and a measure of good fortune. “We had a slight unfair advantage in that we started in e-commerce which is now where retail is heading,” explains Brad Andrews, vice president of merchandising. “I also contribute our growth to focusing on things that the male consumer cares about … We identified a need and had an intense commitment to fulfilling that need,” continues Andrews. For Bonobos that missing piece of the puzzle is great fit at an affordable price and being able to intuitively know what the male consumer wants, even if that consumer is initially reticent at expressing that point of view.
While some designers have forged ahead with infusing lots of color into fall menswear collections, most have not figured out how to pair bold color in the right combinations. In that respect, Bonobos is ahead of the curve. “We focused on bold color this season because it is a strong trend, plus our customer really loves a lot of color and is not shy about wearing bold color. Typically for fall/winter designers scale color back to mostly neutrals; however, we decided to take some risks this season,” explains Andrews. “What also sets us apart is our confidence in taking risks and marrying color with premium fabrics. Bonobos is committed to pairing color the right way … One of our great combinations is a goldenrod oxford that looks great with a charcoal herringbone jacket paired with some great pocket jeans.”
This explosion of color is evidenced in their fall/holiday corduroys that came in colors ranging from bold acai, burnt ochre, huckleberry blue, magenta pinkandturquoisetoearthiertonesofchocolate, fadedblue, khaki, pewter, plumandrifle green, retailing between $65 and $128. These classic cords can be mixed and matched with patterned shirts that come in check, tartan, gingham, flannel, plaid, and Tattersall, in addition to solid oxfords in mustard and red, retailing between $78 and $98.
For fall/holiday 2012 Bonobos introduces its Bonobos Tweed Three-Piece Donegal suit in grey Woolrich flannel wool with purple and jewel-tone flecks ($901 total: jacket $478, pant $228, vest $228). In addition, the signature navy Flagship suit made with Loro Piana fabric has been updated with pink interior piping ($896). Bonobos’ Harris Tweed blazersfrom Scottish mills comes in caramel, plum, turquoise, and grey overcheck ($598).
Though Bonobos started out primarily as an e-commerce line, in the past year the brand has set up unique Guideshops where consumers can meet personally with Bonobos Guides and get assistance with their wardrobe needs. “The Guideshops initiative started from a desire to engage the customer in a different way and appeal to the customer who wasn’t quite comfortable trying our brand online,” details Brad Andrews.
With Bonobos Guideshops now in Boston and New York City, Bonobos is looking to expand to more locations and grow its product assortment to include more categories.
To think all this came from an untapped niche in the market and a fascination with an advanced species of apes known for its collaborative, peaceful gentility and heightened sex drive. We should all be so inspired!!
Bonobos is now available in Nordstrom, online, and in its Guidestores. For more information, go to bonobos.com.
—William S. Gooch