The pandemic was a major blow to many businesses — either because customers were lost (mostly in the hospitality industry) or the companies grew rapidly, leading to later layoffs (Glossier, Peloton, Casper).
The best strategy for survival and longevity, so to speak, is to stay small to become big. That’s what works for casual clothing brand AYR.
AYR stands for All Year Round, and founders Maggie Winter and Max Bonbrest — best friends who have known each other for 20 years — approached the fashion business unusually from almost every angle. They don’t release seasonal clothes, they don’t fashion, they duplicate print catalogs, and they use models that aren’t typical including Bonbrest’s grandmother.
AYR makes multi -purpose garments that can stand the test of time — their goal is that AYR pieces are the last clothes after cleaning the closet.
“AYR believes in creating value for the customer,” Winter said. “Every dollar we get goes back to the product. We don’t over -invest in hot models, expensive campaigns, or over -build our stores.
Customers value the effort: AYR’s repeat customers tripled by 2021 and comprise more than half of the brand’s customer base.
With a team of just 6, AYR’s business has tripled in 2021 and the company has become profitable. With 99% of sales happening online, AYR is on track to double its business by 2022. (AYR launched online in 2014 as the women’s arm of Bonobos, but has since become an independent store.)
The business has grown tenfold since the same time two years ago. The team has now grown to 12. With such growth, you can expect many more employees and product launches. But the founders say the path to success is extreme focus and discipline when it comes to brand, business, and team. As a result, the small team is more efficient, and attracts new talent from the industry while remaining lean.
“One million revenue per head is an elite KPI (key performance indicator),” Winter said. “Oil companies are about $ 2 million per head. The AYR is between $ 4 and $ 5 million per head.”
DIY is great at AYR. Winter, the brand’s CEO, writes all of AYR’s copy including every email and Instagram post. She also took photos and provided creative direction and copy for the catalog, featuring Bonbrest and her grandmother as models. Surprisingly, in today’s online-dominated shopping landscape, the brand’s print catalog has become a major driver of growth.
“It’s a real reflection of the brand and team — taking the Instagram connection and using it on a traditional (old school!) Channel like a catalog,” Bonbrest said.
That minimalist philosophy broadens their point-of-view when it comes to fashion. They create small batches, making sales and waitlists an integral part of their business model.
Even if they do the best they can to meet the demand, the waitlists are likely to be in the many thousands. The most awaited products include The Secret Sauce jeans, The Deep End striped button down, and The Flex Tank. Nowadays, waitlists for new tops and clothes are pushing styles to go on sale within a few days.
AYR is all about “investment wear:” wasting some solid pieces that will take you from season to season, while scattering new pieces here and there to mix-and-match. little money spent on clothing, little clutter, and little consumption.
Last year as the country faced a second winter pandemic, AYR launched a “Comfy Cozy” category, debuting in soft sweats and their version of a power suit made for in today’s work-fun fashion. The Comfy Cozy launch is partly responsible for the brand’s growth in 2021.
This year, they’re ready for category expansion, including the arrival of spring clothes like Magic Hour, which almost went on sale in the first week of the site.
“We have a ‘test before we invest’ philosophy, experimenting with new fabrics like Spring ribbed knits and Japanese crinkle cotton. These styles are likely to sell more quickly, and serves as research and development as the design team decides what to do for next spring, ”Winter said.
Operating on a strong team doesn’t mean skipping sustainability efforts. AYR designed and created its denim in Los Angeles, and moved to using lasers to do their laundry instead of hours of water-intensive laundering. Secret Sauce uses lasers to significantly reduce water consumption and The Plunge Pool is made from ecosilk, a more durable alternative to 100% silk because it uses fibers made from wood cellulose. , and 100% bio-based, non-synthetic material. They are also increasing their use of recycled fibers.
“We know the clothing industry is naturally not the most environmentally friendly, so do our best to contribute to overall sustainability through the best practices and maintain a poor industry profile. . ” Bonbrest said.
In the end, the touch of magic that might have given AYR an advantage was led by a close friend duo who gave their team clear intentions from the start.
“I’ve known and admired Max for twenty years,” Winter said. “He and his roommate were the only people I knew in New York City when I moved out of college. He showed me the city, greeted me with his large group of friends, made me feel at home. When I first conceptualized the brand, Max was the last ‘AYR girl’ I thought of. With all the nights, beach walks, and road trips, we never imagined we would own and operate a business together. We believe that the best things — including our friendships — are built to last. Sharing this adventure with an old friend is one of the greatest joys of all time. ”