Fashionista: Aerie’s Betting Big On Its New Anti-Shapewear

By: ANA COLÓN | Link to article

The intimates brand is introducing a new category that offers an alternative to undergarments that constrict.

Aerie is responding to the recent wave of shapewear we’ve seen emerge in the intimates market (thanks to some big-name backers) with a new category billed as “anti-shapewear.” 

On Thursday, the company announced the launch of Smoothez, a wide-ranging collection of first-layer pieces meant to be worn on their own or as a second skin underneath clothes. There’s underwear, bike shorts, leggings and tops made from light mesh, soft microfiber and lace-blend fabrics in bold colors and neutrals alike, priced from $13 to $50, in sizes XXS to XXL and 32A to 40DD for bras. 

“Why we call it anti-shapewear is because it doesn’t suck you in, it doesn’t squeeze you, it doesn’t change the shape; it just enhances and makes you feel really good,” says Stacey McCormick, Aerie’s Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing. “It’s a different take on that very uncomfortable world of shapewear that we’ve grown to wear and put ourselves through.” 

The Smoothez concept can be traced back to Aerie’s launch of Real Free in 2020, which promised “clothes that feel even better than wearing nothing.”

“Smoothez became an extension of that, in a way,” says Andrea Jagaric, chief design officer for Aerie, Offline and Unsubscribed, adding, “We never approached it as shapewear.” 

Like the name suggests, Smoothez “is product that enhances that first-layer smoothness that you want in an undergarment, especially if you’re going to wear it all day, all the time,” according to McCormick, that also fills a void that Aerie had in its assortment — for higher waists, bike shorts meant to be worn underneath clothes, crop tops for layering. There’s also a new bra called Bra-ish, which marries the support of an underwire bra with the comfort of a bralette and borrows from the innovation Real Free brought to the line.

“Our Real Free full-coverage bra has the same technology as the Bra-ish, but Bra-ish eliminated the wire. It has that same floating cup inside, and the same wing, which eliminates elastic,” says Jagaric. The main difference is that, overall, the Smoothez products are “lighter and more comfortable on body” — which is what the Aerie customer asks for pretty much constantly. 

“Inspiration for product comes from our community — what we hear from them, what they ask for, what they would want, what they want more of,” says McCormick.  “Bottom line, all the time, is just comfort first — something they can live in and feel good in all day long. We don’t really create anything that’s the antithesis of that.”

The launch campaign for Smoothez features a traditional lookbook as well as key celebrity amplification on social media from Danielle Brooks, Alexandra Daddario and Kelsea Ballerini. The goal is to highlight the comfort and versatility the collection offers, two qualities that Aerie prides itself on. 

“I would say maybe 50 weeks out, if not even further, [we] really start to concept what we want to do for the industry and what we want to do to make change in our product, and comfort is the number one thing that we do,” says McCormick. “[Smoothez] is a very comfort-driven program that gives you some of the properties that people are looking for when it comes to shapewear, but it’s not shapewear. It’s giving you the sense of feeling like yourself when you wear it. It’s not changing you.” 

Jagaric argues that Smoothez is the culmination of a decade-long, industry-wide evolution: “I’ve been with the brand for 10 years, and the last 10 years, we’ve been all about celebrating our bodies… We started where we were; slowly we evolved into Real Free intimates; now, it’s all about movement. It was an evolution based on what’s going on in the industry, based on what our community is telling us and based on what we believe in.”

The Aerie customer, Jagaric continues, has always asked for comfort, but even that has changed as of late. “She wants to be even more comfortable than she was [in] what we offered five or 10 years ago,” she says. “Also, there’s an industry trend of not having so many pushup bras or even wires. That has been also top of mind — how do we win in this category and make sure that we’re giving her what she wants?”

As market demand has grown for intimates that go beyond the traditional bras-and-panties, new approaches to shapewear — with more expansive sizing and campaigns that emphasize inclusivity — seem to be a more and more popular response. 

“We began as an intimates brand in 2006, with bras and undies. We launched Real in 2014, we stopped using [retouching] in our marketing and our brand began to grow and grow… But at the root of it, our customers learn to know us from intimates,” says McCormick. “We get really excited about Smoothez because it’s really rooted in our DNA: It’s comfortable, it’s innovative, it’s second skin, it makes you feel real, it makes you feel yourself. It goes back and delivers to that market that’s really helped to grow us.” 

Beyond appeasing existing customers, Aerie hopes that launches like Smoothez and campaigns like Aerie Real will help it reach a new audience, and their dollars. 

“We still don’t have the brand awareness out there that we could have. Our goal every day is to reach as many new customers and to inspire these new people joining social media who need to feel good about themselves,” says McCormick. “We want them to find a brand where they can have a safe place to shop, where they feel like they see themselves and that they’re heard. What motivates us on a daily basis is pushing through and reaching those new audiences that may not know about us, but also celebrating those within our audience that have been with us, that are real, and to continue to push the message. We want to be very consistent with what we do.”