Spreading its Wings

American Eagle Outfitters’ new flagship in New York combines customizable merchandise with social media-approved aesthetics
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Posted June 18, 2018

When Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters Inc. decided to launch a new flagship concept in New York’s Union Square, the brand knew that to be successful, the store had to be more than just a store. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the retailer partnered with the Cossington, U.K.-based design firm Checkland Kindleysides to create an in-store experience that goes beyond a standard transactional hub, called AE Studio.

“All of the in-store elements break the mold of traditional retail and move AE Studio beyond just another ‘flagship’ experience,” says Joe Evans, Creative Director, Checkland Kindleysides. “They facilitate a collaborative working space where the Union Square community can connect with the brand and each other, forming a hub of creativity and inspiration.”

With the overarching design goal of putting AE Studio at the heart of Union Square’s creative community, the design solution intertwines a series of customer experiences to tap into the lifestyle of its young target customer. An interactive denim area and “Maker’s Shop” facilitates on-the-spot alterations, enabling creatives to customize their clothing. An in-house tailor not only performs standard alterations, but also customizes garments, enabling personalization with a menu of custom jacron paper patches. Here, jeans are displayed on canvas stretchers like artists’ easels, while nearby iPads detail product information.

Aiming to provide the customer with something both unique and functional, designers created a complimentary “Laundry Wall and Studio Bar.” The free laundry machines are mostly used by students from nearby New York University (NYU), and while they wait, the Studio Bar offers a seating area equipped with free WiFi, views of Union Square and refreshments. This unexpected feature is part of the strategy to build authentic connections with American Eagle’s customer by recognizing their needs and creating more opportunities for longer dwell times.

To further facilitate a direct dialogue between the consumer and brand, the decision was made to bring American Eagle’s social media team into the store and make them part of the experience. “To do this we … [built] a workspace in the heart of the studio. This enables them to create content in real time and keep their finger on the pulse of the brand,” Evans explains.

Other touchpoints include a digital concierge in the dressing room, as well as a collaboration space that will host events or present capsule collections.

Simple and subtle materials were utilized throughout with a deliberate mixing of various plywoods with clashing grains and color tones to provide additional texture and visual interest.

The details throughout are reflective of the work-in-progress attitude of American Eagle’s core customer, while creating a synergy with the art spaces and studios of the creative industry. AE Studio is a clear response to a new retail landscape, recognizing the needs of the community and today’s well connected customer.