by Brian Lipton

bonobosIn recently viewing the fall ’17 collection from mainstream retailer Bonobos, one couldn’t help notice a wide variety of new pieces that seemed far different than the company’s classic blue blazers and khakis: from a stunning blue leather and shearling jacket to brightly colored velvet blazer to printed shirts boasting whimsical animals. So MR chatted with Dwight Fenton, chief creative officer at Bonobos, to discuss whether the collection is a change in direction for the company or simply a piece of the larger puzzle.

MR: Your collections are inspired each season by some form of travel. Why did you decide to travel to Scandinavia this year and how did it influence the collection?

DF: Travel is an essential part of our design process, each season we try to go somewhere inspiring that feels right for where our heads are creatively.  I had been to Stockholm before and loved it so much I wanted to explore that part of the world a little deeper.  I ended up hitting Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen all in six days, and it really ended up permeating most of the collection — from the deep, jewel tones of the palette, which were heavily influenced by the artist Poul Gernes’ show at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, to the cleaner lines and details of the clothing that borrows from Scandinavian design and architecture. Styles like our emerald velvet tuxedo jacket or the printed shirting collection would not have happened the way they did otherwise.

MR: There appears to more “luxury” element to the collection, from that velvet jacket to the leather/shearling coat? What made you decide on this evolution?

DF: Bonobos is always evolving, that’s an essential part of the brand and what we stand for. While we continue to have the core assortment guys rely on us for day in and day out, we want to be able to show that same guy what else is out there for him and his closet. To that end we offer these great, elevated pieces each season to show guys how they can embrace fashion without being trendy.

MR: Is this collection designed to appeal to a new customer, or do you think the existing Bonobos customer is ready to change his image?

DF: I mentioned the world “evolving,” but one of the other core tenets is “fun” which you can see even just in our use of color and print each season.  So combining those two core ideas I think we’re able to take our existing customer along on a journey with us and hopefully acquire new ones as we go.

MR: How does this more fashionable collection play together with the more classic Bonobos looks?

DF: When we create the looks for our catalogues and stores it’s always on our minds that we maintain the same mix we see in the brand as a whole, allowing our customer to see how to go about mixing it as well.  So that great looking camel pant you saw may actually just be a new khaki color of our Washed Chino or the jeans you saw paired with that emerald green velvet blazer are simply our core rinse wash of The Blue Jean.  There’s no division and in fact, the mix or core and fashion is what helps define us.