Aerie is changing the lingerie industry.
The company has been experiencing soaring sales for multiple quarters. In its most recent quarter, comparable sales skyrocketed 32%. For all of fiscal 2016, sales soared 20%.
That’s no small feat. It’s 2016, after all, and apparel companies are struggling. Even Victoria’s Secret — the lingerie industry’s behemoth that could do no wrong until recently — has been restructuring its business to keep things moving seamlessly.
It’s a prime time for Aerie (No. 30 on the BI 100: The Creators) to ascend, but that doesn’t seem to be what Global Brand President Jennifer Foyle has in mind.
“Retail is a tough business today, there’s no doubt. What we’re doing today is really special because today [it’s] not just about selling product, it really isn’t. It’s about driving something that the customer really believes in,” Foyle recently said to Business Insider.
Foyle is the woman at the helm of it all.
She spoke to Business Insider last year about the company’s decision to nix Photoshop altogether in 2014.
“This non airbrushing campaign has started with just a concept — and it’s turned into a movement,” she said.
“It was just this creative moment with my team,’ she said.
She asked the people who work with the photos what they were going to do with the photos of the models.
They told her that, “‘We take them and manoeuvre them.’ And I was like, don’t do that. These girls are gorgeous. Why would you ever do that? That seems just ridiculous, I would never do that …We realised that, why would we ever even take the time [to airbrush]? It’s a waste of time and money and these models are gorgeous.”
Since Aerie abandoned Photoshop, it’s seen a continual rise, and it’s almost become a fixed point in a larger movement about embracing self image.
After all, there’s been a lot of talk about the way that the media has changed the way it views women. From Mattel launching a curvy Barbie to Ashley Graham appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated to the ongoing and evolving discussion about the importance of plus size fashion.
Aerie has also made its own star in the form of Iskra Lawrence, who has been named Aerie’s “role model.” A spokes model of sorts, Lawrence is most akin to one of Victoria’s Secret’s Angel: She stands for everything the brand stands for. But where Victoria’s Secret models stand for intense exercise and salad greens, Lawrence is a National Eating Disorder Association ambassador, imploring young women to love their bodies as they are. (Aerie has also partnered with NEDA for a campaign earlier this year).
Amid the zeitgeist surrounding body positivity, some mind call this a stunt to get traction, but Foyle says otherwise.
“The Aerie real campaign — it’s part of our DNA now,” Foyle said in March.
But could it be a way to change the conversation about lingerie. After all, there’s the lingerie-clad skinny elephant in the room — Victoria’s Secret — but Aerie doesn’t appear to want to speak to that (and, a closer look at the brand places it in line with Victoria’s Secret’s younger sister brand, PINK, which is extremely successful).
For now, whatever Aerie is doing is working. Though in sheer size it has a long way to go before it usurps Victoria’s Secret, it’s growing at a rapid fire pace, arguably because its apparel and its messaging speaks to young women.
And the company plans on growing. RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note that parent company American Eagle anticipates Aerie sales will reach $500 million in the coming years. That’s still small compared to Victoria’s Secret’s $6.1 billion store sales, but the rapid and swift growth is making it a viable competitor.
The biggest proof, perhaps, is the success of the #AerieREAL campaign. Tons of women have taken to Instagram, sharing their own non-Photoshopped images of themselves in Aerie bikinis, showing off their bodies — something they might not have felt comfortable doing so before — curvy, thin, or something in between. And Foyle told Business Insider in March that she receives letters from women who say they have been inspired by the brand.
After all, as Foyle told Business Insider, #AerieREAL isn’t just about size.
“Girls today are more confident, and we believe that we can do all sorts of things around Aerie Real,” Foyle said in March. “It doesn’t have to be about body type. It’s about truth and honesty and we kind of just want to spread happiness in a way.”
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