Bonobos wants to dress the everyman.
The retailer has extended its sizing range, now offering pants to size 54, up from a size 40; jackets and blazers to a size 54, up from size 46; and sweaters and shirts to 4XL, up from XXL. It also added short, regular and long length options and different sized neck widths. The new collection, which is currently limited to core items like Chino pants and dress shirts, launched on the Bonobos site last week.
With the extension, the retailer is putting its money where its mouth is. The new size range follows Bonobos’ first inclusive marketing campaign, Project 172, which launched in May and featured 172 different models who represent every size and fit combination available at Bonobos. At the time of the launch, the retailer didn’t carry extended sizes, including the “big and tall” range it now has.
“This is a very important product extension of where the brand is headed,” said Brad Andrews, co-president of Bonobos. “In the past year, from a brand-positioning perspective, we’ve leaned heavily into the ethos of ‘fit for every man.’ We wanted to be a more inclusive brand, but up until now, we were leaving a larger-sized customer out.”
Bonobos is looking to fill a gap for men shopping for bigger sizes as other players in the fashion industry make efforts to bring more plus-size options to the market. However, while Stitch Fix recently launched more sizes for its menswear category, and other mainstream retailers like Asos and Gap offer bigger sizes online, more attention has been paid overall to the women’s plus-size market than the men’s.
There’s even less research done on the plus-size men’s industry. The amount of money straight-size retailers leave on the table when they ignore plus-size women has been widely reported: It’s a $21.4 billion industry as of 2017. But it’s harder to gauge the size of the plus-size men’s business. Ibis World estimated in February that the industry category is worth $1 billion, growing at an annual rate of 0.2 percent.
“We learned a lot about this space. There’s a lack of fashion elements, both in terms of color and print options, so we wanted to lean into that. Then there’s the fit,” said Andrews. “We found that most of these men are settling — their clothing, they felt, is good enough; it covered their bodies, but they didn’t actually feel good about the fit. So as a brand, fit will be a different experience for our customers.”
To figure out how to fit a new pool of customers, Bonobos spent a little under a year developing a new process for design, production and manufacturing, based on feedback and test-wears from a pool of customers and data from its current run of sizes. According to Andrews, the first step was changing Bonobos’ fit model and reworking its technical design process to work for a different customer. Sizes don’t scale up in proportion, so Bonobos scrapped its typical process to design for bigger sizes, and its technical design team made adjustments to make the clothing fit and look better. That included lowering the neck drop of dress shirts so the top button hits at a more comfortable point, and adding more contouring to the seam structure of the shirts to make them fit more snugly around broad shoulders and chests. It also changed the construction of dress-shirt sleeves to be manufactured in two parts, which Andrews said led to less twisting and scrunching. And while the company does have to spend more to create the new sizes, it will be absorbing all added costs so all customers pay the same amount for the same product.
“This isn’t just more sizes; it’s a really detailed fit. Most options out there optimize for mere body coverage, rather than fit,” said Andrews. “Certain things don’t scale in proportion, and men of different sizes have different needs.”
The attention to detail could pay off. IMG Models’ Curve director Mina White said the agency’s one plus-size male model felt like Bonobos was opening up the category.
“[Our model Zach Mico] recently shot something for Bonobos, which is finally offering extended sizes, and he said it was the first shoot he’s been on since he started working as a brawn model that he really wanted every piece of clothing,” said White. “Before that, it all felt very dad-like and ‘old man.’”
To send the message that its product line has caught up to its inclusive marketing campaign, Bonobos is launching an effort, through online promotions, Facebook and Instagram advertising and email marketing, to drive plus-size men into its showrooms so they can test the sizes in person. Store staff has been trained around the new products, and at the same time, Bonobos plans to gather early data from the initial product run, so it can react accordingly if there are any issues.
“The timing just felt right because we’ve been putting a lot behind being louder in terms of our brand voice, messaging and activity,” said Andrews. “It’s about building trust early on. We’ve done the hard work from evolving from a pants brand to a full menswear collection, so this was the next leg of growth — widening that audience.”