AYR, which means All Year Round, is the third brand to launch under Bonobos founder Andy Dunn. Maggie Winter, brand director and Jac Cameron, design director, were brought on board to lead. With a similar ethos to Bonobos, AYR releases four collections a year that include denim, knits, sweaters and outerwear. Winter brings her decade-long experience in merchandising from J.Crew to the brand while Cameron, formerly of Calvin Klein and Madewell, has extensive training in denim. Together they create wearable collections of beautiful clothing. ARY launched in February, 2014.
Would you describe AYR as the women’s counterpart to the highly successful Bonobos brand?
Maggie: AYR, like Bonobos, focuses on delivering excellent fit, quality, and service. Our partnership with Bonobos allows us to provide an evolved shopping experience, both online and off, through our site, our extensive customer service team, and our Guideshops. We wanted to take everything Bonobos does well and bring it to a completely different customer. Aesthetically, AYR is very different from our brother brand.
Do you have complete creative freedom?
Maggie: When Andy Dunn told me he was thinking about investing in a women’s label, I was immediately interested. Since our initial conversation, Andy has provided us with the perfect balance of support and freedom. We leverage Bonobos, Inc.’s internal infrastructure – roles like technology, operations, and customer service are shared resources – and have built our own AYR team. We are like a startup within a startup. Plus we benefit from Andy’s extensive experience in vertical e-commerce. It’s the best of both worlds.
How often will AYR release new styles?
Maggie: We wanted to free ourselves – and our customers – from the industry standard retail calendar. Sundresses in February, corduroy in August? It doesn’t make sense. We want to deliver product that isn’t disposable, trend-dependent, or limited by seasonality. AYR stands for All Year Round. We focus on pieces you might reach for three days a week, three seasons out of the year, three years from now. Some items you will always be able to find from us, others are special limited-issue styles, many of which we make here in NY. We will deliver new pieces quarterly, but each season is intended to complement the existing assortment, not to replace it.
AYR, like Bonobos, is only available online – have you found women prefer to shop in this way?
Maggie: We want to provide an evolved shopping experience for an evolved consumer. Today, you have people who love to shop online and people who would prefer to touch and feel the product first. Between AYR.com and our first Guideshop here at our HQ in New York, we can begin to accommodate a range of customers. We still have a lot of work to do both online and off, but we are excited to offer a more intuitive, immersive shopping experience than many traditional retailers are able to provide.
Your titles are Brand Director and Design Director – what do these mean? What are your respective responsibilities for a collection?
Jac: As design director, I work to create each seasonal collection from the ground up. Starting with a conceptual mood board that encompasses broad inspiration from vintage fabrics to denim washes to imagery that encapsulates the theme of the line. From there I begin to design. When the samples come back Maggie and I go through to determine a tight edited collection of items that truly represent the design ethos and brand integrity.
What strategies were applied to the design approach that are similar to Bonobos?
Jac: The AYR design approach focuses on clean, minimal, refined aesthetics. Every detail on each garment has been highly considered down to the button. Nothing on the garment is distracting, it’s all about how it fits and feels on the body.
Do you find it’s hard to compete with denim?
Jac: When building the AYR denim line my primary focus was on fit and fabric. We partnered with some of the most innovative denim mills, working on the forefront of what is going on in denim. Our qualities display a high level of performance stretch (about 30%) that recovers like a rubber band. Conducting wear tests on each and every base cloth before proceeding to wash and fit we gained a true understanding of how the fabric reacted on the body. We create our wash standards with Dick Gains in Kentucky, an incredible denim washer with true love for indigo and do bulk production out of LA. The line stands for quality and fit and competes within the premium denim world.
Is it too early to identify bestsellers?
Maggie: Jac is crazy talented and has spent a decade devoted to denim, so denim provides the foundation of the line. We’ve been blown away by the reception to the jeans. Jac’s Jean in particular is the standout favorite – a beautiful rich, inky indigo that feels amazing on the body.