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Up Close: In Conversation with Bonobos CEO Micky Onvural

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Micky Onvural, CEO of menswear brand Bonobos, discusses her brand’s casual Covid-era launches and the corporate changes companies should keep post-pandemic.

Micky Onvural Bonobos
Micky Onvural CEO of Bonobos Courtesy

Name: Micky Onvural

Title: CEO

Company: Bonobos

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

I’m not sure I am qualified to comment on other industries’ supply chain, but I can say where I think the apparel supply chain needs to improve: speed to market, agility, flexibility, and—most importantly—sustainability. The impact of the apparel supply chain on our environment, as well as on certain communities around the world, is frightening. We all need to do our part as individual companies to partner with suppliers that are taking a responsible and socially conscious approach to sourcing, production and delivery.

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

Convenience driven. As a CEO and mother of three, life is pretty hectic, particularly right now with working at home and homeschooling. I look for anything that makes my life easier, quicker and less stressful.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Service that goes above and beyond. That usually means that the brand has gone the extra mile to understand me, how to solve a problem for me and deliver it all with a human touch.

What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?

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Right now, my week and weekend uniform is about the same. Jeans and a sweater or long-sleeve T-shirt of some kind. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office, dressing up and wearing dry-clean-only clothes again.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

The 1920s. Feathers, sparkles and all it had to offer.

Who’s your style icon?

Michelle Obama. She is bold with color, celebrates a broad range of designers, and more than anything, she wears it all with confidence.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the past year?

To leverage our [brick-and-mortar] Guideshop team to deliver service to our e-commerce customers—what we call “Guides on Chat.” We were able to bring the joy of human service to the digital world, keep our team engaged and deliver great business results.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Definitely not corporate. I’d call it human-centered, whether that means focusing on serving customers or looking after each other and our community. With a mission of “creating a world where we all fit,” we believe in celebrating individuality and bringing that to work every day.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Pre-Covid, some believed in a clear divide between the personal and professional, but the pandemic broke down a lot of traditional workplace barriers. With remote working—all of us Zooming from bedrooms and living rooms, with interruptions from children and furry friends, and health concerns first and foremost in people’s minds—boundaries blurred and priorities changed. Leadership in many companies took a more human-first approach. I hope this remains when we are all back in our offices. I believe it has to in order to retain and grow talent and build strong cultures and companies.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

The apparel industry has traditionally told customers what to wear, planning their business nine months to a year out. Now, more than ever, apparel companies need to listen carefully to their customers’ needs, be nimble and respond more quickly than they ever have. They need to take an agile approach to everything they do, or they will miss out.

What keeps you up at night?

My puppy. I am never getting a puppy again.

What makes you most optimistic?

My children—their joy, wisdom and honesty.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

E-Waist pants. In October, we launched our first super casual set of E-Waist pants, The Off Duty pant, and immediately noticed the business started to turn around. Our WFHQ pant and Homestretch joggers came next and saw similar success. We’re introducing an Off Duty Short this spring.