With the arrival of women’s clothing label AYR — which opened its doors on Abbot Kinney Boulevard earlier this month — the Venice thoroughfare may have established itself as a key retail street for online brands to baby-step into bricks and mortar.
It’s just the second permanent bricks-and-mortar store for the brand (the first is in New York City). AYR focuses on no-nonsense essentials such as denim, T-shirts, dresses and jackets priced from $55-$645, and has a celebrity fan base that includes Kendall Jenner, Chrissy Teigen, Selena Gomez and Emily Ratajkowski. It joins a slew of other digitally native brands including Warby Parker, Buck Mason and Cuyana, all cozied up together on the street.
Launched in 2014 as part of parent company Bonobos, AYR (pronounced “air”) was spun off as a separate direct-to-consumer company two years later. At the store’s Aug. 9 grand-opening celebration, The Times caught up with three of the four founders — Maggie Winter, Jac Cameron and Max Bonbrest — to talk about the brand and its journey west. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
You describe AYR as part of the “second wave” of digital retail. What do you mean by that?
Maggie Winter, co-founder and chief executive: There was the first wave of digital retail — Warby Parker, Reformation, Bonobos — that was growing along with Facebook and with the first social media platforms, much like you had Myspace and then Facebook [and then] Instagram. You had version one of digital brands then versions, two and three that are really quick, very savvy and combine the best of old-school retail with a totally different way of living.
Why did you choose Abbot Kinney for your new store?
Winter: We have been dreaming about having an L.A. store since the company was founded, and today — tonight that comes true. So we are based in downtown Manhattan, where we get a ton of foot traffic and a lot people are discovering you just walking down the street. There are not a lot of places in L.A. that are like that. Abbot Kinney has the diversity, it has the foot traffic, it is a place where you could meet a hundred people in a day who come from 80 different places in world. So for a young growing brand it is an awesome way to get exposure, to learn what our customers like and meet tons of people at once.
AYR is for busy women of purpose who live all over the place.
Who is your core customer?
Winter: [The] average age is 34 — I always describe our customers as the last generation to learn cursive and the first generation to learn code. She still loves great quality and handmade products, all the denim is made here in L.A. But the way she is living is totally no-nonsense. It is all about ease and efficiency and purpose and getting value out of everything she consumes. It has got to be all on her terms.
Can you describe what AYR means?
Winter: AYR stands for All Year Round. We don’t create a lot of extra stuff, it’s really simple, very purposeful, just the foundation pieces. It’s for busy women of purpose who live all over the place.
I’ve read that AYR is a female-founded and female-owned company. Is that accurate?
Winter: Yes — three women and a fourth partner, Zandy Reich, who’s a guy and it takes a special guy to want to start a women’s brand with all women. He’s the special dude who’s been involved. We are independent, female-founded, female-owned, female-led. [There’s] lots of estrogen in this company. We understand our customer very well, we know what she wants because we live with her every day.
Do you have any favorite pieces?
Jac Cameron, co-founder and creative director: There’s a couple. Two of our absolute bestsellers are the Camel Robe and the Jac Skinny Jeans; we’ve had both of these items since the inception of the company. The Camel Robe is made of this phenomenal Italian camel hair, made in Portugal, really handcrafted and beautiful. There’s no closure to it, you can wear it with everything, it’s super versatile. It’s an amazing piece and has gotten a lot of press and it’s kind of like a pillar of the brand.
Winter: We died a few months after we launched [when we saw] a picture of Chrissy Teigen wearing [the Camel Robe] over a mini dress looking fabulous and Kendall Jenner wore it to each fashion week and we were beside ourselves.
Cameron: Outside of the robe, denim is our number one. The Skinny in Jac’s Jean was one of the first things we launched and based on a pair of jeans I broke in for seven years and I used that as the standard. Our denim is super premium and comfortable.
AYR, 1350 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.