Jay Schottenstein, executive chairman and chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters, has a succinct explanation why the Aerie intimate apparel and loungewear division is circumventing the fashion industry’s malaise.
“It makes a women feel good about herself.”
On Tuesday, Aerie — which is riding the popularity of bralettes, has marketing and prices that resonate, and after a decade in business, still feels fresh on the retail landscape — was honored at the Femmy Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street, an event sponsored by the Underfashion Club, which supports education and growth in the intimate apparel industry.
“Aerie started as a sub-brand, but expanded with its own stores and became a brand” in its own right, said Schottenstein, as he presented the Retailer Award to Aerie global brand president Jennifer Foyle.
The other Femmy winners were Cupid Foundations Inc., receiving the Manufacturer Award; the Supplier Award went to Tianhai Lace Co. Ltd., and the Innovation Award was bestowed on Under Armour Inc. Norman Collier, managing director of Stretchline (U.K.) Ltd., accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award. Victor H. Vega, president of the Underfashion Club, announced his retirement from Wacoal.
Also during the evening, which was hosted by Hal Rubenstein, six FIT student finalists of an intimate apparel contest unveiled their winning designs which drew inspiration from ath-leisure. First-place winner Katelyn Zawierucha received a $5,000 scholarship for her design “Tres Sportive” and an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris Mode City provided by Eurovet and Curvexpo. Second-place winner Jennifer Monzon received $4,000 for her design “Obsidian” and third-place winner Mary Kate Kauffelt, received $3,000 for her design “Instant Replay.” The other participating students included Bonnie Chen, Diandra Howell and Lara Tabak.
The event drew 640 guests, raising $631,000 for Underfashion Club programs and scholarships.
Upon accepting Aerie’s award, Foyle said, “We are 10 years old, but I believe we came to life three years ago,” when the AerieReal feel-good marketing was launched. “This campaign has been a game changer for us — we stopped retouching our models, and we decided to use girls who represent a range of shapes and sizes, and now AerieReal stands for something bigger than our brand. It’s about empowering all women to love their real selves — no matter what. Love your real self inside and out. Everyday, the team lives by this platform. We do things crazy. We want girls to be themselves. Aerie Real is our mantra.”
Earlier, Foyle told WWD that while the AerieReal campaign is being sustained with new ideas and related themes, such as the Share Your Spark campaign, brick-and-mortar growth is also being maintained. It’s at a pace that seems dramatic in light of widespread industry consolidation.
“[For 2017], we plan on opening 25 stores side by side to American Eagle stores and 25 stand-alone stores,” Foyle said. “We are highly concentrated in 13 states and very much on the East Coast. There is a wealth of opportunity.” She noted some recent market entries, including opening stores in Hawaii and Denver.
Aerie is said to be close to signing a lease for a Manhattan flagship somewhere on the East Side, but Foyle declined to comment on future locations that don’t have signed leases. The flagship is expected to be a larger than average Aerie store, which are typically 2,000 to 4,500 square feet.
Aerie has more than 100 stand-alone stores and about 80 stores adjacent to American Eagle units. “We don’t want to get beyond 300 stores,” Foyle said, noting that in 2018, the company decelerate the expansion to around 30 stores. In the third quarter of 2016, Aerie’s sales jumped 21 percent.
In presenting the award to Stretchline’s Collier, the global ceo of Stretchline Elastics, Timothy Speldewinde, said, “Fifty-three years ago, from the youthful age of 17, he has dedicated himself, lived and breathed what he calls ‘knicker and bra elastics,’ culminating in producing a world-class product. In addition, expanding more recently in this field, into sports and activewear of the apparel industry. Norman never fails to tell us even in challenging times, ‘Don’t worry, guys, everybody eats, everybody drinks and everybody wears elastics, so we are in the right industry.’”
In accepting his award, David Welsch, ceo and president of Cupid Foundations, said, “In the past, most of what we have made has been shapewear and panties. In the future, we will also be making bras with unique features we develop that are not in the market. We expect to show retailers what we are making and why we think we can add to market some new ideas by 2018….I have spent a lot of time in our design room for over 50 years. We try not to copy what our competitors are making. We design what we think is needed in the market and design to fill those needs.”
Ning Yi Shen, general manager of Tianhai Lace, said, “Tianhai has grown into a major lace supplier in the American market from these beginnings in 2002. We are so proud of our partnerships here in the U.S.A.”
Lisa Struble, vice president of technical designer at Under Armour, said, “Our mission is to make all athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation. These are not just words, this is part of our DNA. To receive the Innovation Award is an honor — but to be recognized with a Femmy for work we’re doing for female athletes is especially meaningful. We know bras are one of the most important items in a woman’s wardrobe. And the bra she wears while training or competing is no longer just clothing, it’s equipment. It has to work — always.”