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American Eagle, ‘Apprentice’ Design With Tech in Mind

American Eagle Outfitters will get plenty of airtime when its spring fashions are featured Thursday on "The Apprentice."

NEW YORK — American Eagle Outfitters Inc. teamed up with multimillionaire Donald Trump’s executives in training to come up with wearable technology designs for its existing spring line.

Top executives from the specialty retailer will be showcased on NBC’s “The Apprentice” Thursday judging the show’s contestants, who were asked to create designs that incorporate technology, such as cell phones, CD players, computers and MP3 players (such as Apple’s iPod), into American Eagle’s spring merchandise, which features colorful T-shirts, polos, cargo pants and shorts and distressed denim.

“Technology is so important to our customers,” said Michael J. Leedy, chief marketing officer of American Eagle. “It was interesting to give [the contestants] the task to see if they could come up with anything new and innovative.”

American Eagle already has apparel and accessories, such as jackets and messenger bags, designed to hold portable technology.

To get inspired for the challenge, “The Apprentice” participants toured the retailer’s Manhattan SoHo store. There, they chose looks from the spring line that they would make into wearable technology, Leedy said.

The contestants also were challenged to come up with merchandise that is marketable, durable, creative and brand appropriate, said Leedy.

“All the contestants knew the [American Eagle] brand and had a good sense about it. They each spent a considerable amount of time with both Susan [McGalla, chief merchandising officer,] and I,” Leedy said.

“The Apprentice” contestants, who are working in two groups named “Net Worth” and “Magna,” are competing against one another for a position running one of Donald Trump’s businesses; one person is fired each week the show airs.

The groups got additional help from American Eagle’s design team, and did the actual work at the company’s design center on Fifth Avenue. Leedy, along with McGalla, judged six designs created by each group.

“Overall, it was a lot of fun for the whole team,” said Leedy. “Everybody that we worked with, including Donald Trump, was down to earth.”

“The Apprentice” will air at 9 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

This story first appeared in the April 5, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

American Eagle will launch a corresponding contest in its stores and on its Web site after the show airs. The winner wins a trip for two to New York to watch the live finale of “The Apprentice,” and also will get a new American Eagle wardrobe.