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

“He literally used to go to work, do a lot of business, get arrested,” said Boneparth, who worked with his father. “We’d say we’d be home for dinner, we gotta bail dad out, and he’d go to work the next day.”

But moxie wasn’t enough to keep the family business afloat. Always lacking cash, the business went under during the Eighties. It was a lesson not lost on the son, who speaks very fondly of his parents and the support they have given him.

“We lived very nicely growing up,” remembered Boneparth. “My father was a great provider. We didn’t want for anything and then, boom, it was basically over. The lack of planning, the lack of understanding macro factors has greatly influenced my thinking as a business person.”

Boneparth also picked up his level-headed temperament from his parents, taking a little from each.

“My dad is a very gregarious, very outgoing, almost a manic-depressive, high-low guy, and my mother’s really quite the opposite, and I’ve sort of tried to get a blend of that,” he said.

Along the way, Boneparth picked up an underdog mentality.

“I operate best when things aren’t as good because when things are really good, the expectation level gets so high, and inevitably you’re going to disappoint,” he said.

Certainly, a move into apparel manufacturing when worldwide production was dramatically shifting to Asia, and both the vendor and retail sides of the business were consolidating gave Boneparth a steady stream of challenges. But not all of them involved factories overseas and sales figures.

With his clipped way with words and at times brutally straightforward manner, Boneparth found himself a suit in fashion — a world that is often distrustful of suits.

“How does a guy, how does a kid come into a business without really preestablished contacts, never run a ‘garment center business,’ and gain the trust and confidence of not only your own people, but certainly the customer and suppliers?” he said.

Gathering together the troops and abusing office supplies isn’t the most obvious way to ingratiate one’s self in a new environment, but that was part of the fashion freshman’s approach.
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