The founders of New York City-based apparel startup AYR--it stands for All Year Round and sounds like what you breathe--wanted to build a fashion brand around just a few essentials, rather than creating exhaustive lines of clothing each season. Founded in 2014, the company now counts Karlie Kloss and Chrissy Teigen among its fans, and is on track to take in more than $10 million in revenue this year. --As told to Sheila Marikar
Maggie Winter: I moved to New York City in 2005. Max was my first friend. She taught me the ropes: You always buy your own drink. Don't let a guy buy your drink.
Max Bonbrest: It's now a much more dynamic friendship.
Jac Cameron: We came to AYR with complementary skill sets, but we occupy very different perspectives.
Winter: You wouldn't want me designing the jeans. That's all Jac. We met at Madewell. The thing we started at AYR was, who is the customer? What does she eat for breakfast? (To quote Ms. Dolly Parton: A cup of ambition.)
Cameron: Where does she buy her groceries? What does she read at the airport?
Winter: And I said, "We're describing my friend Max." So I took Max out for pizza and asked, "If you were launching a brand and you wanted people to know about it, how would you get the word out?" We quickly realized it was more than a lunchtime conversation.
Bonbrest: I still work for pizza, by the way.
Winter: We launched in 2014, as a brand under Bonobos, and spent two years learning infrastructure, the backing that a new brand needs.
Bonbrest: Then ...
Winter: Late in 2015, Bonobos decided to stop funding AYR to concentrate on its core brand. We had 90 days to incorporate, finance our orders, separate assets, and build a new website without missing a day of business in our fourth quarter--our busiest.
Bonbrest: Our biggest challenge to date.
Cameron: I was terrified. But then, being able to have your arms around your company and watch it grow ...
Winter: ... on our own terms. We haven't taken much outside capital.
Bonbrest: We've all taken salary cuts. Last year, I gave up my apartment and moved in with my grandmother. She's a big part of my life. But living on Granny's couch at 36 is not so glamorous.
Winter: Of course, disagreements come up all the time--down to a quarter of an inch sometimes, in fittings. We care. It's personal.
Cameron: Conversations can be tough. We don't always agree.
Bonbrest: A few years ago, we were looking for a space for a pop-up in the Hamptons. I found a great deal in Sag Harbor--half of a charming, old wooden house with a porch and a fireplace.
Winter: I was like, "No way. It's in a house. It's off Main Street. How are we going to get people here?" Max pushed for it, and she was right. It's become this hangout.
Bonbrest: It was profitable in its first summer.
Winter: Now Max oversees all our store openings.
Bonbrest: We still debate every new location ...
Cameron: ... and still wear a lot of hats.
Bonbrest: Maggie shot most of what's on our Instagram. She's an amazing photographer. The captions are straight out of her head--not from a copy and marketing team that we could've spent God knows how much money on.
Winter: As opposed to a glossy campaign with a glossy model and a glossy photographer. We don't retouch the models, and the "models" are our friends. Like Max's Granny.
Bonbrest: She's 84 ...
Winter: ... going on 34.