Bonobos raises $18.5M for men's pants

Faith Merino · December 16, 2010 · Short URL:

This is the company's first round of institutional funding

I wish I knew more about clothes.  Most of my clothes are donated from friends who feel sorry for me and feel compelled to donate to my cause.  But that being said, I don’t think I would date a guy wearing green corduroys with candy cane embroidery…but maybe I just need to expand my horizons.

Bonobos, the maker of those green candy cane-embroidered cords, announced Thursday that it has closed a massive $18.5 million round of funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Accel Partners.  This is the company’s first ever round of institutional funding.  Founded in 2007, the company managed to raise nearly $8 million in angel funding alone, and its exponential growth has proven it to be a wise investment.

Vator’s Bambi Francisco sat down for a chat with Bonobos co-founder and CEO Andy Dunn last year, and Dunn explained how and why the company was started.  First of all, Dunn pointed out the fact that most men’s pants fall into one of two extremes; either the pants are super relaxed and swimming in fabric, or they’re ludicrously tight.  Dunn and his business partner Brian Spaly started making pants with a curved waistband and tailored thighs to reflect the fact that most men’s hips are slightly narrower than the seat and thighs.

The budding company took off like wildfire through word-of-mouth alone.  “The first 2000 customers were from my co-founder and I walking around campus at business school with bags full of pants, doing fittings behind people's cars, behind pillars, and throwing pants parties,” Dunn explained.  “When we got started, we thought we would build a direct sales force, and build a Tupperware model in men's pants. Then we put up our Web store. We launched in e-commerce in October of 2007, and business went from 10,000 to 25,000, 35,000, 40,000 and then to 90,000 in the first five months just on the Web. We realized we didn’t need a sales force.”

Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners is already well acquainted with the company and its product, which he demonstrated by wearing a pair of the company’s own turquoise cords to their first meeting, “which was the venture capital equivalent of 'you had me at hello,'” said Dunn in a prepared statement.

Liew and Sameer Ghandi of Accel will be joining the Bonobos Board of Directors.

The Manhattan-based company recently expanded to offer shirts and shoes in addition to its trademark pants, and Dunn explained the company’s extremely trusting return policy: “Zappos has a 365-day return policy.  We say you can return it whenever you want.  You can wash it, you can dry it, you can hem it, you can run a money-bunny in it…we’ll take it back… There’s a funny rule in life—if you extend trust to someone, if you put the gun in their hand, they won’t shoot you, and we’ve found that that’s true.”  Most people don’t return their purchases, Dunn said.

Browsing the site, I noticed that in addition to its more toned down, classic styles, Bonobos offers a wide range of less orthodox styles and colors.  The green cords with candy-cane embroidery is one example, but there are also glaring red cords, emerald green cords, turquoise cords, etc.  I didn’t realize there was such a demand for bright colors in men’s pants.  Word of warning to the men-folk out there: be careful what you do with color.  A friend of mine broke up with a guy because he was wearing orange cords.  She didn’t even technically break up with him—the story goes that she saw him waving to her from a distance wearing the orange cords, and she turned and walked away, never to see him again.  This could actually be because he was wearing the orange cords with a red shirt...I'm not sure if it was the orange cords themselves or the color scheme in general, but either way, the moral of the story is: buy wisely.

I have to say, though, candy canes or no, those pants do wonderful things for the tush.

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Bonobos was founded in 2007 by Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly to solve a major problem in men's fashion: Men want better-fitting trousers, but they don't want to hours in retail stores paying huge mark-ups on designer goods. Brian used the world's best fabrics to make pants that fit more flatteringly, and Andy had the idea to make the customer experience top-notch by selling online with ninja customer service. Bonobos now has customers in all 50 states and over 40 countries worldwide