Aerie's Journey to $1 Billion - Early History

Over the next several weeks, to celebrate Aerie’s incredible milestone of reaching $1B in sales, we’ll be sharing stories about the history and evolution of one of the fastest growing lifestyle brands in retail today! From boybrief undies on a single table in AE stores, to the #AerieREAL movement and the launch of OFFL/NE and Unsubscribed—Aerie has unleashed the power of positivity and inclusivity, encouraging customers around the world to love their real selves!

It All Started with A Boybrief

In 1998, in an effort to bring new and exciting categories into the already successful American Eagle business, AEO set its sights on intimates. In the middle of an AE store, was a table featuring the AE Intimates boybrief along with a shelf cami, and PJs. Customers LOVED it! Fueled by brand loyalty for AE’s popular jeans, customers were excited for more products to incorporate into their day-to-day lives. There was customer demand for simple and playful cotton undies, and the team jumped at the chance to corner the market. The initial launch team continued to grow the collection and design new products, realizing there was a more exciting and bigger future for intimates at AEO.

Ross Park Mall Intimates Expansion

Named the Ross Park Intimates Expansion project, the team rolled up their sleeves and got to work planning to test the launch of a new intimates sub-brand targeted to women between the ages of 15-25 in early 2006. The Ross Park Mall store, in the AEO HQ city of Pittsburgh, PA, was the brand’s first side-by-side location and after countless hours spent ideating on names, logos, and colors—the team landed on the name Aerie. Aerie means a large nest of birds of prey… like an eagle!

The brand was light, airy and free. The Aerie customer wanted to be comfortable but also trend right. She wanted to look great while feeling good about herself. There was white space in the market for comfy cotton undies for the real girl, who wanted to feel confident but not overly sexy. Aerie wanted to be that solution for her. “There was a lot of optimism around the brand,” said Stacey McCormick, SVP Marketing – Aerie. “100% of our AE female customers wanted Aerie.” After a year’s worth of product development, Aerie was ready to become a household name.

Check out the original brand spot below!

Aerie’s Southern Roots

After the success of the Ross Park Intimates Expansion, Aerie opened its first standalone in the latter half of 2006 at the Haywood Mall in Greenville, South Carolina, followed by two more stores a few months later at River Chase Mall in Birmingham, Alabama and Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois. Aerie saw incredible success with stores growing nationwide, further creating the comfortable and casual style that American Eagle had established since 1977. Together, Aerie and American Eagle offered stylish, reliable and well-made products as well as the best retail experience for customers on the market. Aerie customers loved the casual dressing room space, and that there were clothes in store for them whether they wanted to sleep, workout or hangout. It was the perfect store everyone.

Through the growth and development of the brand, Aerie always put the customer first. They built, developed and revolutionized their products by going straight to the stores and hearing first-hand what the customers wanted. At launch, the store only had three bras. Hearing directly from the customer that she wanted more, the team quickly saw an opportunity for growth to be best in bras. In 2009, the team saw an untapped market for wireless bras—leading the way in bralettes, a comfier and more casual option to the traditional wired bra. This was a game changing moment for Aerie and set the brand apart in the market.

During this time, Aerie’s iconic boybrief had customers arriving in droves to purchase this fan favorite. Its comfortability made it the perfect undie. It was casual, soft and perfect for our everyday customer who wanted cute products that were made with her in mind.  “It all started with a small table of boybrief undies in the American Eagle store. This was our first loyalty item and its popularity truly led to the creation of the Aerie brand,” said Jen Foyle, Chief Creative Officer, AEO Inc., and Aerie Global Brand President. “We’ve sold over 130 million pairs of the undie and we’re so excited about our current relaunch with updated details.”

It took a lot of work, planning and trust in the customer to make Aerie the brand it is today, which has grown from just intimates to a lifestyle assortment built around Soft Apparel, Undies, Bras & Bralettes, Swim, Accessories & Activewear. Leaning on the established brand loyalty of American Eagle, Aerie was built on giving customers exactly what they want. From a small table inside American Eagle, to nearly 200 Aerie stores nationwide, Aerie’s story is an incredible testament to the hard-work of associates at AEO and their PASSION to serving our customers!