American Eagle is trying win back teens with a one-size-fits-all clothing brand.
The brand, called Don’t Ask Why, offers crop tops, loose dresses, high-waisted bottoms, and slouchy sweaters in muted, solid colours.
The one-size-fits-all strategy comes directly from one of the company’s newest competitors, Brandy Melville. And the styles offered by both brands are nearly identical, reports Racked.
“Brandy’s definitely someone who broke into the American market with this kind of look,” American Eagle global brand president Chad Kessler told Racked. “We’re looking around at everybody. You could say it has a Brandy vibe to it, but a lot of these styles are available at many retailers, not just one. Brands and trends come and go, and we are really trying to make this a reflection of how girls are dressing now.”
The company opened a Don’t Ask Why pop-up shop in Manhattan’s Soho neighbourhood recently. The shop is just down the street from Brandy Melville’s Soho store.
Here’s a look inside the Don’t Ask Why store:
Now here’s Brandy Melville’s store:
Brandy Melville, which originated in Italy, didn’t exist in the US until five years ago. Now it’s ranked No. 1 among brands that teen girls in the US say they are starting to wear, according to a Piper Jaffray’s survey on teen spending.
Meanwhile, American Eagle has been struggling.
Net revenue declined 1% in fiscal 2014 and comparable sales decreased 5%. The company has been closing stores and last fall, it relaunched the Don’t Ask Why brand with the hopes of winning back teens.
The strategy appears to be working.
American Eagle reported Wednesday that it’s revenue increased 8% and comparable sales grew 7% for the first quarter of its fiscal year, compared to the same period last year.
“Recognising the consumer desire for a less branded, cleaner product the company now has a much more balanced range that is able to compete more effectively with players like Forever 21 and Zara,” Carter Harrison, a retail analyst at Conlumino, wrote in a research note Wednesday. “To be fair, this is not yet perfected and is something of an ongoing work — but there is no denying that AEO has taken a major step in the right direction.”
Brandy Melville’s recent rise has been helped by its popular Instagram account, which has more than two million followers and mainly features the same group of ultra-skinny, long-haired white girls posing in the brand’s clothes.
Some of the girls appear to be professional models. Others are part of Brandy Melville’s teen focus group, many of whom have become famous on the internet as a result of their exposure to the brand’s followers, reports Racked.
“Product research is made up of all teenage girls,” Kjerstin Skorge, a 16-year-old from Malibu, told Racked’s Julia Rubin. The team consists of about 20 girls who are paid to research and select new styles.
“It’s fun because we just come up with cool things that we like and then put them on a T-shirt,” she told Rubin. “For the Instagram, the marketing team will send us out with clothes and have us take pictures with a photographer and then they will decide what to post.”
Kjerstin now has more than 45,000 Instagram followers, up from 3,000 before she started working for Brandy Melville. Girls sometimes come into the Santa Monica store and ask to take pictures with her, she said.
American Eagle has also been actively increasing its marketing efforts on social media, Harrison said.
“As part of its efforts in showcasing its fashion credentials, AEO has also been active on the marketing front, making effective use of social media campaigns to reach and communicate with core customers,” Harrison said.
Like Brandy Melville, American Eagle could face some backlash for its one-size-fits-all strategy.
“The last thing women need is another company creating low self-esteem and body image issues,” blogger Laura Zaneuth writes. “I will not support a Brandy Melville or any company that discriminates the majority of women.”
In an op-ed for the University of Southern California campus newspaper, student Rini Sampath wrote: “One size does not fit most. According to the Los Angeles Times, the average American woman is a size 14. The crop-tops and miniskirts that litter the shelves of Brandy Melville would barely cover the average American.”
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