Rapidly-growing online retailer Bonobos is bringing its contribution to alternative brick-and-mortar retail to the Washington, DC area. On November 7, the company opened the doors of a temporary Guide Shop on Bethesda Row, joining others in New York, Boston, Chicago and Palo Alto. The Bethesda location is only around for the holidays, and will be succeeded in the new year by a permanent installation in Cady’s Alley in Georgetown.
The guide shop is an effort to provide a personal interface for customers skeptical of buying clothing online. The idea, which requires some explaining to curious passer-byes walking in off the street, is to create an “e-commerce showroom” where men can make appointments or wander in to try on the company’s product line and speak with personal shoppers. (While Bonobos encourages individuals to make guide shop appointments via their website, unlike their New York outpost, which occupies a smaller footprint in its 5th floor headquarters on West 25th Street, potential customers are welcome to walk into the Bethesda and, presumably, future Georgetown locations.)
The company does not stock inventory on site, however, and only maintains representative items for guys to try. For instance, if you are interested in purchasing their Foundation grey suit in a 40R, you may have to try on their navy version instead in your size. Once you find the correct fit, you can then place an order at the shop which is then shipped free to your preferred location.
Bonobos gave me the standard treatment for guide shop patrons, taking me around the Bethesda showroom, describing their product lines and suggesting some pieces to try on in their fitting room. In the interest of full disclosure, the company also offered to gift me a pair of their signature washed chinos as an introduction to the brand. Below is a photo tour of the guide shop based on my recent visit.
I have to admit to looking past Bonobos when it first opened, as its emphasis on chinos, non-iron pants, button downs and other business casual staples — however well-tailored — are outside the scope of this blog. They still have all of those things in spades but, over time, the company has also introduced new tailored and professional clothing lines including suits, ties, dress shirts, outerwear and shoes. (Recently, they debuted the Donegal, pictured below, a heavy three piece, Made-in-the-USA suit for the holidays.)
My experience over the past several days suggests a young, entrepreneurial company with a team which is enthusiastic about the fit of their clothes, brand, growth prospects, and customer service. While I have yet to become a customer, after touring the guide shop and seeing Bethesda Row all decked out for Christmas, it might be about time to put something from Bonobos on my holiday wish list.
Photo credits: The interior shot appearing at the beginning of this article, the donegal suit above, and two others noted in the captions below are courtesy of Bonobos. All other photos taken by Modern Fellows with permission.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
Other cool stuff:* For comfortable Athleisure clothing for women and men, try these 25 alternatives to lululemon.
* Find 21 Alternatives to Warby Parker that also let you try on prescription eyeglasses at home.
* The Essential List: These 125 innovative menswear startup brands will transform your wardrobe
* Upgrade your business casual wardrobe with comfortable yet professional-looking workleisure clothing made from stretchy performance fabrics.
* Get $50 off your first suit at Black Lapel, one of my favorite online custom tailors.
* Discover the best places to buy colorful socks online.