Name and Title:
Max Bonbrest, Co-Founder & VP PR/Marketing, AYR
25 Madison Street, SAG HARBOR, Ph. (631) 808-3751, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.ayr.com
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
We launched in February 2014, under the Bonobos Inc. umbrella. Almost 2 years to the date in 2016, we spun out into our own entity, raising separate capital and opening our offices in NoHo. About 6 months later, we opened our first shop in SoHo at 199 Lafayette. It was originally supposed to be a 3 month pop up, but has been so successful we’ve kept it open through Fall 2017 (and for the foreseeable future). We opened the AYR Beach House for Summer 2017; I grew up in this community and have watched retail change the landscape of our town. I wanted to bring our brand to life here in a way that is inclusive of the local community, celebrating the style and magic of the East End, while providing a product that is unique and exclusive, and can’t be found everywhere. We incorporated both Hamptons style and community, while staying true to our brand’s native New York identity. AYR is the perfect mix of city and beach vibes, and our girl can now find something to wear in both places.
AYR, which stands for All Year Round, making elevated essentials for women, coveted in all categories. In addition to super soft jeans, easy luxe layers, light linen tops, and gorgeous silk dresses, AYR Beach House carries a few of their favorite brands exclusive to the Hamptons - including Australian minimalist swimwear brand Matteau, home objects by Stillhouse, artwork by Uprise Art, beach bags & totes by KariCat, and hand-dyed indigo cashmere scarves from Point Dume.
As my Co-Founder Maggie Winter (AYR’s CEO) says, “We were excited to explore what AYR might look like #outofoffice. AYR Beach House seemed like a fun way to bring the brand we love to a place we love.”
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
After a decade in PR, with positions in beauty, lifestyle, and eventually fashion at LaForce + Stevens agency, then later in house at H&M, Elizabeth & James/The Row, I really ran the gamut from big commercial retailers to more niche designers, and had grown tired of the churn and burn of the fashion industry. One of my best friends from college was plucked from her post at J. Crew to partner with Bonobos’ founder Andy Dunn, who was looking to create a women’s line. Maggie Winter, AYR’s Co-Founder and CEO, had a decade of experience in merchandising at J.Crew and Madewell, and had always dreamed of doing her own line. Coincidentally, the Fall before she joined Dunn to create AYR, she had a chance encounter with a long-time friend and colleague from Madewell’s design world (now AYR’s Co-Founder and Creative Director), Jac Cameron. The worlds aligned, both left their former posts and put their heads together to create AYR. Maggie called me about six months later, mid-2013, to have lunch and discuss how to bring a brand to life. About half way through our pizza, we realized it was going to take more than lunch to figure out how to bring AYR to life. Now we talk about it everyday, constantly (usually over pizza).
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
Start-ups were something that, at the time, seemed reserved for the tech savvy or business school folk. (I am neither). As brands like Warby Parker, Everlane, Reformation, and Outdoor Voices popped up, I started to get the inkling that perhaps there was an arena for smart people with good ideas too. In Public Relations, I always felt there was a ceiling that you’d hit where there was not much else to explore. Start-up life was appealing to me because I saw my peers taking on roles that fell far outside of their traditional responsibilities. I was eager at the time to be challenged, and to learn. Start-ups are quite literally the best education you can give yourself in business.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It is a world of opportunity. The best part for me is I am constantly learning. From marketing, to branding, to production, office setup, human resources – no task is too small (or too familiar). You can do anything you want – but you have to do it, usually by yourself, with your own two hands. There is so much to learn every day. I am constantly challenged by how to do something, and it’s the best feeling in the world to conquer those challenges. Working at a startup you get to see all the parts of the business you’d never see. My Co-Founders and I would not have interacted in our old worlds, and certainly not to this degree. Being a part of the process from concept to inception to execution is an amazing learning experience and only furthers my ability to promote the brand externally. In a traditional corporate structure, you are used to having a boss and likely, an assistant. At AYR, I have neither. You have to get your hands dirty in the day to day, and problem solve internally. Luckily, I have the best team made up of intelligent, entrepreneurial spirits, so I can ask questions out loud and we work through issues as a team.
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
Is there such a thing anymore? My childhood favs, like Via Quadrono and Elio’s; may not be secrets but they still have my heart. Chumley’s, around the corner from my house, has a reputation for being the best non-kept-secret in the West Village. There’s something about an unmarked door and cavernous lounge that is still so appealing. I probably frequent the bar at Hudson Clearwater more than I should.
How do you benefit mamas?
I have so many friends who have had kids in the last few years and are yo-yo-ing from size to size. Our denim has up to 80% stretch and recovery, and is super flattering (while being forgiving), so it gives new moms (and moms in progress) some room to grow & recover. Feeling good in your own skin is important, right?
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
Stay on your toes! There is so much change every day in our industry, retail, technology, and media alike. I try and talk to other people in our space every day. I ask for help. I ask what my peers are doing. I self educate. I read, a lot. And I stay in touch with the people who are evolving with us. At AYR, we are forward thinking, constantly trying to anticipate what is coming next and how we can better service our customer, better capture the attention of the media, and further our brand to align with the industry’s constant change.
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field:
I am constantly in awe of my Co-Founders and their ability to morph and grow and kick ass. We also love what the ladies at Outdoor Voices and Glossier have done; they are both exceptional at creating a cult following. We look at what other female entrepreneurs are doing, there is so much respect in building businesses that are innovative and disruptive in the digital space. It’s an important time to applaud those around you!
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
Surround yourself with people that know things you don’t. Be honest with yourself and with them about what you do well (and learn to do it better!). Be open to feedback, learn to take advice, and most of all, learn to not take anything too seriously. Remember how lucky you are to have an opportunity to do something different. Be prepared for the challenge of a lifetime and stock up on sleep (something I wish I’d done before we started because I haven’t slept since).
STAY WHERE YOUR FEET ARE. It’s very easy to get caught up in rushing forward at the next thing, but it’s important to stay in the moment and try and enjoy it!
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
Multi-tasking is definitely a necessity but I’ve learned to finish tasks one at a time, otherwise they never get done. Finishing something 90% of the way is almost as futile as doing nothing at all. Focus on a task, finish it, and check it off the list, then move on (that or magically figure out how to be in two places at once and grow four hands and two heads)!