By Ben Bowers
on 10.29.08

That, And An Interview With The Men Behind Them

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A sampling of the pants Bonobos has to offer.

GP.FEATURE.gifFall is here and if you don’t live in a place where the hottest drink they serve is a rum runner, then pants are now wardrobe de rigueur. Unfortunately though, if you’re like me and don’t want the hassle and cost of tailoring every pair you buy then you were relegated to ill-fitted off the rack choices.

That is until now.

Unlike many sartorially-lazy men; the founders of Bonobos, Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly, saw the problem and decided to fix it by starting a company with one purpose in mind: make quality pants that look good and fit great on everyday guys. No wonder they graduated from Stanford Business School, but more on that later.

bonobos-jackson-pants.jpgBonobos pants can only be purchased online and that’s part of their genius. By avoiding the costs associated with maintaining a brick & mortar store and hiring sales clerks, Bonobos channels the funds towards high quality fabrics and a customer service department second to none. In other words every dollar of your purchase goes to what matters most to you as a customer, the pants. Furthermore, there’s no need to worry about paying for clothes you can’t try on first, because Bonobo’s return policy is unconditional (literally, read it) and covers all shipping costs.

For the sake of this review, I acquired two pairs for myself (a pair of dress slacks and a pair of corduroys). The detail in both pairs shines in features such as their patterned interior linings and comfortable curved waste band. It’s also refreshing to have another great looking option to wear out on the weekends that aren’t denim. Getting complemented for them by women simply ups the ante.

Experiencing the product spurred my desire to know more about the men behind them, and any advice they might have about starting a business from the ground up. After all, we’re all about advancing mankind.

Luckily the founders were nice enough to sit down with me for an interview (the perks of writing for GP), which we’ve got right after the jump.

So read what they have to say. Prosper from it (sartorially or otherwise).

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GP: It’s clear that you started this business because you both felt the market wasn’t producing good looking affordable pants for the everyday guy. But without formal training in fashion, how did you discover what qualities were key to making great pants?

Brian: I’d spent many years shopping for great pants so I had in mind what I was looking for… one day I just decided I should try to make it myself. The hardest part is getting the pattern right; once that is done its a ton of fun to try new fabric combinations and experiment with samples.

GP: What led you to choose Bonobos for a name? Do you ever get any comments related to their interesting behavior?

Brian: I randomly came across the name one day and was intrigued by their interesting behavior. Of course the promiscuity aspect is entertaining, but in truth I think Bonobos are most noteworthy for the lack of violence in their societies. A peaceful and fun-loving Chimpanzee… It was too good to be true that the name also worked well. Most folks seem to think its a clever name and fitting for our customer base.

GP: Looking back over the last couple of years, whats the most important advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?

Brian: Believe in yourself, forget about business plans and PowerPoints, and make a real product or deliver a service and see if people will actually buy it!

GP: In a recent post on your company blog, an employee explained that Bonobos pants sell for a comparatively low price because as a business you are not burdened with costs that other major pants manufacturers incur such as: store overhead, store staffing, or paying for advertising campaigns. So aside from attracting the attention of people like us, how else do you work to promote and increase brand awareness in the market place?

Brian: We live and die by word of mouth. The best marketing Bonobos gets is when a satisfied customer is wearing Bonobos and people ask about their trousers. Inevitably there is some connection back to our team, our ideas, or maybe just a friend of a friend of a friend. But there is a story here that folks seem to like to tell. We’ve been amazed at how many people want to help us and do so by spreading the word. I hope that stems from folks appreciating our authenticity in this endeavor we are trying to solve two problems guys have we don’t love shopping in malls and we don’t find great pants that often… Guys that appreciate that are grateful and willing to share the gospel.

GP: Of all the pants you make, can you pick a favorite?

bonobos-Shoguns.jpgBrian: Its hard to say as our designer I feel like a mother that wants to share the love with all of her children. The Shoguns (pictured right) are probably the Bonobos that I wear the most.

GP: Are there any other pant makers out there that you admire?

Brian: Yes! But my butt is just too big to fit in any of their clothes. I’ve always like AG Jeans before I stopped wearing denim.

GP: Since you have a successful blog on the site and from what I’ve read both of you blog personally as well, what qualities in your opinion are critical to creating a great blog? Are there any blogs in particular that you read on a regular basis?

Brian: Enthusiasm and authenticity. I think our blog works well because we have a lot of guys on our team that enjoy the craft of writing and want to contribute. We’re also having a ton of fun and the blog is a great way to transmit some of that enthusiasm, and then get our customers involved with suggestions. The naming contests are awesome. As for other blogs, we are big fans of MaximumAlexBain.com.

Andy:

  • Focus & Relevance: You need a readership base that knows what to consistently expect. We’re still finding our voice, but we’ve noticed that blogs which develop authority in a domain/vertical, and relevance, get quoted/linked-to/referenced elsewhere, which is what grows readership and google pagerank.
  • Community engagement: Ultimately we hope our blog is a source of great fashion advice from our designer and emerging product team, a place where we discuss the innovation of being a purely internet apparel company, a forum for our customers to provide us with feedback on how we can do better (unheard for a fashion company!), and a petri dish where we can explore new ideas for growth with our customer base.
  • Visuals & video: A purely text experience is boring. Having photos helps. During our next phase, we will try to have more photos of people (our customers, our band of brothers, our team, our events) to further put a human element/face to what were doing. Video is another great way to do that and we aim to do more with video on our blog as we grow.

GP: Finally, is there anything new from Bonobos coming up in the near future that our readers should look out for?

Brian: Oh yes. you’ll see sneak peeks in some of the product photography. It rhymes with “yurts.”

GP: Interesting…

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