Pronounced ‘air’, AYR, also known as All Year Round, is a popular NYC-based clothing brand. Filled with sensible fashion that caters to those who prefer a minimalist look, the fashion house offers versatile garments that convey a high-fashion aesthetic, while still carrying that “basic necessity” feel to it.
Well known for its work-approved basics, great price point and high-quality finish, AYR garments are easily paired for great casual, day-to-day looks, or for your more polished office attire. From A-line jackets to sensible pencil skirts, that make a statement, there is pretty much something for every occasion.
The brand was founded in 2014 by a group of friends who noticed a gap in the market. Maggie Winter, Jac Cameron and Max Bonbrest launched the online store soon after breaking away from the digitally native menswear store, Bonobos – brain child of Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly. The pair decided to focus on Bonobos as a core menswear fashion house, thus giving room for AYR to separate and run as a standalone company.
“The market felt overwhelmingly crowded with brands that either produced high quality at a price point that was unattainable or on the other end of the spectrum, throw away, high-trend product,” Co-Founder and Creative Director Jac Cameron said in a 2016 Forbes interview. “With the rapid amount of collections being produced on a seasonal level, the expectation to match consumers buying patterns was huge. We sought to create something with a more edited approach, setting smaller curated collections that live and last longer.”
“We leveraged Bonobos’ internal infrastructure to launch AYR in early 2014,” Co-Founder and CEO Maggie Winter tells the same Forbes magazine. “By late 2015, we had established demand and distribution. We spun out of Bonobos and incorporated AYR as an independent company.” According to Cools.com, who interviewed the trio, AYR raised their series A in a year when only 13% went to companies founded by females.
It was at this point that Winter, Bonbrest and Cameron decided to produce two hundred jeans, in their LA factory, inviting friends, family and editors to come and try out their garments. The garments were a raging success and they immediately sold out all two hundred pairs. This generated quite a lot of word of mouth advertising, thus creating a buzz about their full line, which was set to be released a few months late.
The now privately owned women’s clothing company is based in New York City and boasts a remarkable following, counting big names such as Kendall Jenner, Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba, Lake Bell, Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss and Gwyneth Paltrow, as some of the supporters and fans of the brand.
Its local following, in New York City, is made even more prevalent by the brands organic online following. The fashion house has grown and expanded considerably, resulting in wholesale and retail distribution opportunities. The brand can now be found on Shopbop.com and in selected Nordstrom stores. An AYR pop-up store, called The Pop Shop in Soho, NYC, was opened in December 2016.
Some of the brands first line of garments continues to be its bestselling styles. This comprises of an over-sized white poplin popover, soft indigo skinny jeans, a blue chambray shirt, with a silky texture and an extra length, unconstructed Italina wool coat, called The Robe.
“The idea was to create a foundation of well-designed, high-quality pieces a woman could wear over and over again, season after season, all year round,” Winter told Forbes. “It really is the anti-fast fashion brand. As a company, you have to choose to invest in quality. We made that choice from day one.”
While AYR clothes are definitely feminine, the brand’s approach to design is very similar to the men fashion scene. In an interview with Fastcompany earlier this year, the founders shared their intent to create a more “distilled” product, that can be worn all year round and it’s the opposite of the fast-fashion movement.
Winters work background happened to be in the denim industry, thus giving the trio access to all the big and most influential names in the manufacturer’s community. AYR’s mission was to create a more intimate, more focused collection, thus giving them the ability to create a demand for their product. The initial collection comprised of only ten styled items, and they exist in the line currently, even now years later. “These are examples of our bestselling pieces from launch to current day and speak very clearly to our objective of ‘All Year Round.” explains Cameron.
“Press and word of mouth have been our biggest sources of acquisition. We’ve had incredible support from the fashion editor and influencer community. Our co-founder, Max, comes from a decade in fashion PR – which has been a huge asset as we build our audience without overspending on acquisition.” Winter explained. “I think we hit at the right time – there was a sense that the brands we grew up with weren’t growing with us. Our customer is central to everything we do. We are direct-to-consumer in the most literal sense. The industry is changing, our culture is changing, and we want to represent women like us, who aren’t interested in being labeled or limited.”
With extensive backgrounds in fashion, both Cameron and Winter believe that their years experience in the industry is what helped them to prepare for the big AYR launch.
“I spent many years working as a merchant at J.Crew and Madewell,” Winter said. “Mickey Drexler’s the greatest merchant of all time, and I loved working for him. He instills accuracy, accountability, and anticipation in his merchants. It was the best place to learn.”
“Maggie, Max and I have over 10 years of experience in our collective areas of expertise in the industry,” Winter said. “It very much felt like the best combination of skill sets coming together to create and build a brand from scratch. I think my background at larger companies helped me to better understand and react to the market. Having a thorough understanding of the industry is imperative to better position yourself in an environment that can be quite turbulent. We are very lucky to have learned from some of the leaders in the industry, watching them weather the storm at different points over the years has been invaluable learning for taking the jump into building a brand.”
The first AYR retail location was opened in 2016 on Lafayette Street in the fashionable Soho neighborhood in Manhattan. Since then the company opened two more stores – one in Venice, California, and a second one in Sag Harbor, NY (below a photo of the Sag Harbor store).