Upscale department store operator Nordstrom has partnered with private equity firms to invest US$16.4m in online clothing brand Bonobos, and will become the first bricks-and-mortar retailer to sell its apparel.

The department store operator led the minority investment round with full participation from insiders, including Silicon Valley-based venture capital firms Accel Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Nordstrom will sell Bonobos men's chino's and non-iron cotton trousers at its full-line stores and online. Some seasonal pants and shorts will also be available. 

Bonobos at Nordstrom will be the first time the brand is available in-store and online outside and the company's New York headquarters' showroom store. 

"Our investment with Bonobos will enable Nordstrom to participate in the young company's phenomenal growth, and we look forward to what we can learn from each other as we build the business together," said Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct.

"We understand there are people who still want to touch and feel clothing before they purchase. We realised we needed help expanding beyond our web-only roots," added Andy Dunn, founder and CEO of Bonobos. 

Bonobos launched in 2007 online with its signature line of men's pants. It is now the largest apparel brand built online in the US.