June 15, 2009  ·  style

The Bonobos Interview

We're going to admit right off the bat that, a few months ago, we got off on the wrong foot with Bonobos. Uncrate declared them "the holy grail of pants", so we clicked over and saw a lot of flare-leg trousers that we couldn't picture ourselves wearing. But three things happened since then: 1. Uncrate stopped disguising their ads as articles (mostly), 2. Bonobos introduced a line of straight-leg trousers, and 3. We bought a pair of Inspector Todds. And they're phenomenal—an extremely flattering fit, first-rate details right down to the closure, and one of the most beautiful, luxurious fabrics we've seen, with a wonderful drape. We've seen the light. While we're saving up for some Marlinspikes, Dave Eisenberg, Bonobos Chief of Staff, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Unrefinery: We were intrigued by Bonobos trousers for a long time, but the fact that they were only available with a flare leg was a deal-breaker for us (and probably a few other gents' workplaces). Now at last we have straight-leg Bonobos, and we're on board. Not to be a smartass, but what took you so long?

Dave: So this was a pretty passionate sticking point for our founder/designer Brian Spaly. He took a look around at the marketplace and saw a bunch of tapered pants that gave guys the unfortunate "tapered-pants, clown-shoes" syndrome (TPCS). In general, it was far harder for him to find a slightly flared leg (which Bonobos believes flatters the male figure) and thus our initial styles all featured a slight boot cut. As we expanded and started to meet more customers, particularly the tall or thin or hip types, it was clear that we had to offer two fits, one boot cut, one straight leg. We're thrilled that there is now a solution for all guys who want to shop Bonobos!

Unrefinery: Brian acknowledged that to get wool trousers under $150 it would probably require doing something offshore. Given the state of the economy, is this an idea that might see the light of day at some point?

Dave: I think so. We've been making our products in America for the past 18 months, which is no small feat. We learned a ton about how to manage the manufacturing process and created a tight, fast feedback loop with our domestic vendors which helped us become experts at making pants. As we get larger, we are likely to be able to even further increase the quality of our construction by going offshore. As we always strive to provide the best possible experience for our customers, you will probably see us introduce premium products at a lower price point.

Unrefinery: How does the design process usually play out? Do you find these rich, sometimes unusual fabrics and decide to make pants out of them, or do you get an idea to fill a specific niche in the product line and then seek out the materials to make it happen?

Dave: I think what's fun about a company at our stage is that we don't have to set up ultra rigid processes around our design. Sometimes we find beautiful fabrics in the garment district of NY and we'll make a limited edition run of 100-200 pants that our top customers will jump all over. Other times we'll set the plan that we need to make a whole line of cotton twills, in a wide variety of colors, and we'll work with our vendors in Europe to source the best fabric possible to make a larger production run.

Unrefinery: Anything you can tell us about the future of the brand?

Dave: We're incredibly excited to be launching swimsuits... Look for the same approach we took to pants, to be applied to shorts, swimsuits and a few other products in the fall & winter. A suberb fit, premium fabrics and classic, innovative designs.

Many thanks to Dave and the Bonobos crew. Sign up for the Bonobos email list to stay tuned.

Also See