August 23 2014

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Why You Should Know About AYR, Bonobos’ New Denim-Centric Line for Women‬



Starting up a successful brand is no simple feat, and aspiring fashion entrepreneurs could stand to learn a thing or two from Maggie Winter and Jacqueline Cameron, cofounders of AYR, the new denim-centric ready-to-wear line that officially launched in February. Like most ventures, AYR began as a dream that pals Winter and Cameron (who previously worked together at J.Crew and Madewell) hatched over casual weekend hangouts at Tompkins Square Park back in August 2012. About a month later, Winter met for coffee with Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn, who mentioned he was interested in investing in a women’s label. “He had the support and the platform for it but didn’t have a vision of what the brand should be,” said Winter, who jumped at the opportunity and convinced Cameron to leave her position as Calvin Klein Jeans’ global denim director. With their small team (Winter is the brand director while Cameron is in charge of design) and Bonobos’ sound infrastructure already in place, the duo were able to quickly make their fantasy a reality.

Named after a seaside town in Scotland where Cameron is from, AYR also stands for “all year round”—a phrase that speaks to its refined essentials. Mirroring the composition of Winter and Cameron’s own closets, each collection is denim-based. AYR premiered with three basic styles (in a variety of washes) for Spring ’14: a true skinny jean, the slightly cropped “Ciggy,” and flattering “micro-flares.” Cameron is a denimhead to the core, and has amassed an impressive vintage archive over the years. “Some are A.P.C.s that I bought off of my friends, who I have break them in for me, and others are cheap thrift-store finds that are beautifully worn in,” she explained at a recent showroom preview. Cameron brings her favorite old jeans to world-renowned denim developer Dick Gaines, who constructs a template from the garment, which is then taken to Los Angeles for production. “Dick is like a mad scientist wash master. He’ll re-create something 100 percent,” said Cameron. “It’s like taking a super-complex dish and giving it to the chef, and then he hands you back an exact recipe for it,” added Winter. AYR’s signature “Jac” skinnies, for example, were built off of a pair that Cameron had been wearing for five or six years—unwashed, of course. “They touched water once when I ran into the ocean while vacationing in Nicaragua and let them dry in the sun. Even though everyone thought I was a nutcase, the sea is the best way to break in indigo and make it mold to you,” said Cameron.


In today’s already-saturated denim market, fit is what sets AYR apart. “At the end of the day, you want to feel good and you want your bum to look good,” said Cameron. Comfort is also key, and AYR’s jeans have impressive 30 percent stretch. This initially came as somewhat of a surprise coming from an avid selvedge collector like Cameron, but she assured us that their forward-thinking fabrications have all the authenticity and character of true denim. “You would never describe our jeans as leggings, but you can do yoga or take a nap in them,” she laughed.

While denim will always remain its core, AYR continues to ramp up its range of easy tops (silk crepe and denim button-ups), knitwear basics, and modern outerwear. Highlights from the Fall ’14 lookbook, which debuts here on and stars model Drake Burnette, include a sculptural, short-sleeved topper cut from raw-edged wool felt, as well as a versatile lightweight trench. Each season, AYR also teams up with a different “Artist in Residence” on unique graphics for its basic tees and sweatshirts.

“Our goal was to create beautiful products at an achievable price point that fit into our own lifestyle. We like being able to offer a whole look for what you might spend on half of one piece in Soho,” said Winter. “It just felt like there was such a need for something fresh in this space between mass market, disposable trends, and aspirational designer pieces that are too expensive to actually live in. There’s actually a whole world in between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.”

AYR’s Fall ’14 collection ($50 to $595) will be available in August. For more information, visit or their guideshop located at 45 West 25th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10010.

Photo: Courtesy of AYR