Boneparth: The Man Inside the Suit

In an interview, Jones Apparel Group ceo Peter Boneparth talks about his path to fashion and the acquisition of Barneys New York

Peter Boneparth

Peter Boneparth

Photo By Thomas Iannaccone

NEW YORK — Nobody at Jones Apparel Group, or anywhere else for that matter, picks up the phone and hears, “Please hold for Peter Boneparth.”

It’s one of the chief executive officer’s pet peeves.

“When [someone] calls you and then their assistant asks you to hold, they’re saying implicitly, ‘My time is more valuable than yours,’ which is just beyond obnoxious,” said Boneparth.

The attitude is vintage Boneparth. The ceo, who also returns calls and e-mails within half an hour, is meticulous in manner and appearance, leaving nothing out of place on his lean, athletic frame. He’s straightforward to the point of bluntness at times, and speaks with the precision of the lawyer he once was.

Yet not everything is as it appears with the Jones ceo, who over the last few years has made a splash in the fashion world with a series of moves that have caught the industry by surprise. And that’s just the way Boneparth plans it. Despite his buttoned-up appearance and apparent coolness, he always wants to zig when others expect him to zag.

The trait was nowhere more evident than last year, when Boneparth, 45, orchestrated Jones’ purchase of Barneys New York. The move bought a perplexed chorus of “huhs?” from the fashion elite, who wondered what a staid apparel manufacturer like Jones knew about the world of luxe. Now designers are about to find out, as Boneparth makes his debut on the New York fashion scene as owner of one of its premier stores.

The ceo isn’t exactly a Barneys kind of guy, though. He takes the train to work from Long Island and the subway around town. When asked once by a fellow executive if he had a driver, meaning a town car, he mistakenly answered in the affirmative, referring instead to the golf club.

Boneparth the executive can also be misunderstood.

“The prominent perception of me is I’m swashbuckling, risk-taking...I’m the antithesis of what has been portrayed,” he said. “Much of it started because of the Lauren thing. It was this wild young kid taking on Polo.”
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