WWD: American Eagle Launches B-T-S Collection and Campaign With Maddie and Kenzie Ziegler

By: Lisa Lockwood | Link to article

American Eagle Outfitters will unfurl the next phase of its back-to-school campaign with a collaboration with sisters Maddie and Kenzie Ziegler that features a collection and ad campaign.

Maddie Ziegler, 20, is an actress and dancer, while Kenzie Ziegler, 19, is a singer/songwriter, actress and dancer. The exclusive collaboration, AE x Maddie & Kenzie, will launch Thursday in AE stores and online.

“AE jeans are the number-one brand for women of all ages and men in our core demographic and we are excited to unleash our denim domination for back-to-school,” said Jennifer Foyle, president and executive creative director of AE and Aerie. “The socially connected Ziegler sisters and their personal approach to styling represent a genuine connection to our customer community, providing the inspiration to incorporate AE jeans into any outfit, for any occasion.”

Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer at American Eagle Outfitters, discussed how they decided to feature the Ziegler sisters and what goes into making those decisions for the key back-to-school selling season.

“This is always a cultural moment for American Eagle. When we look at culture, we look to things like music, we look at streaming, we look to things like community impact, and obviously we look at social media. These two sisters continue to come up because they are multihyphenate. They are involved in music, they are involved in acting, they’re obviously a big presence on the social media platforms that Gen Z cares about the most, especially TikTok,” said Brommers.

An added bonus was that these sisters are from Pittsburgh, the roots of American Eagle.

“These girls have moved on and are living in Los Angeles now, and there was something kind of nice about the fact that American Eagle has moved into bigger territories and we’re not just involved in the 50 states but we’re around the world. We’re always looking for Gen Z talent that amplifies this idea of positivity, optimism, and having met these girls personally and working with them for the months we were developing the collaboration and campaign, these are salt-of-the-earth, lovely human beings and kind and generous and active,” said Brommers.

He said he’s been leading global marketing for some of the best-known American brands, and sometimes people phone in these collaborations. “These sisters were in it, and were working with the designers. They were very authentic in what they wanted to create together, and I think that was something that was refreshing,” said Brommers.

Maddie Ziegler became known for appearing in Lifetime’s reality show “Dance Moms,” from 2011 to 2016, and has starred in a series of music videos by Sia. She has also appeared in films, TV shows, concerts, and ad campaigns. Kenzie Ziegler also appeared on “Dance Moms,” as well as several TV series and films, in addition to releasing several albums and touring around the world.

“We are so excited to be collaborating with American Eagle — a brand that we have not only grown up with, but has allowed us to create something which reflects who we are today,” said Maddie Ziegler.

“We worked closely with the AE team to design pieces that show each of our individual styles while also drawing inspiration from an era that we love so much,” said Kenzie Ziegler.

The Ziegler sisters created the mood boards and were excited by the ’90s vibe. They came to the New York design office and worked with the AE teams. “As individuals, Maddie and Kenzie have slightly different vibes which was also exciting to explore,” said Brommers.

“Maddie is someone who has overt femininity and loves to explore that, whereas Kenzie, with her music vibe, is slightly edgier. The combination of those two aesthetics is a fun thing for us to explore in this collaboration,” he said.

Among the collection’s highlights are the Ziegler Low Rise Maxi Skirt and the Ziegler Leather Dad Jacket and Waistcoat, said Brommers. Other items in the collection include a knit minidress, hoodie tank, bra tank, midi skirt, sunglasses, purse, vest, wide-legged trouser, relaxed straight jean, long-sleeve baby T, and lace slip dress. The entire capsule of ‘90s classic and easy silhouettes are meant to be mixed, matched and styled multiple ways, he said. The collection retails from $17.95 to $149.95, with the sweet spot expected to be between $50 and $75.

Right now, the collaboration is for one season, but they’ll see what develops.

The Ziegler sisters were AE’s first choice for the season, and Brommers noted that combined they have 58 million followers across multiple social platforms. “They also have this entrepreneurial hustle that Gen Z really likes as well. We love the fact that their aesthetic is multidimensional just like Gen Z.”

The campaign was shot in Los Angeles in a studio, which is different for American Eagle because generally they shoot outdoors. “It was fun to do something a little bit different in a studio, and a lot of the content was self-shot,” he said.

They gave the sisters Polaroids and old-school digital cameras. “We really wanted them to play with it themselves. You’ll see a lot of mixed media in the campaign. It was really important to them and important to us that they had true involvement in developing this campaign,” he said.

The campaign and videos were shot by Acre, a boutique agency that AE frequently works with. “They really get us and they really get retail. They’ve done such great work with the talent that we work with, whether that’s the stars of ‘Outer Banks,’ or the stars of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ and now with the Zieglers,” Brommers said.

Ads will appear on ae.com, American Eagle’s owned social media channels such as Instagram, TikTok, Snap, and Threads. “We’ll be making our biggest outdoor push in quite some time,” he added. Starting in August, ads will appear on a 3D billboard in Times Square and advertising liveboards throughout New York City. AE also shot short-form video for YouTube. “Anywhere that Gen Z is consuming media, you will likely see this campaign,” he said. The brand plans to “flood the feed” with styling content and #AEJeans reviews by its community and some of Gen Z’s creators.

The b-t-s campaign is centered on all things jeans. Maddie and Kenzie are styled in the latest seasonal assortment and denim fits. New silhouettes for women include the Dreamy Drape Baggy Wide Leg Jeans and Super High Rise Baggy Wide Leg Jean. They are layered with tops like the Big Hug Waffle Shaket and Low Back Bodysuit.

The AE x Maddie & Kenzie collection will be featured in AE’s windows and in the center lead, and many stores will spotlight a Ziegler collaboration corner in the store. He said the Ziegler sisters will also play an active role in the launch of the collection. The sisters will introduce the AE x Maddie & Kenzie collection, along with must-haves from the seasonal assortment on their social channels.

As for what he anticipates will be bestsellers, Brommers said, “Anything to do with denim will be red-hot. We’re getting back to the early stages of that denim cycle again. We see a lot of denim-on-denim dressing. There are some really strong pieces in the Ziegler collab, but also in the AE collection.”

Brommers declined to reveal AE’s advertising budget and said they believe so much in this creative that this will be the biggest back-to-school media spend post-pandemic. He called it “pretty darn close” to 2019 levels.

“For American Eagle, back-to-school is our Super Bowl. We have to make sure we have a campaign that cuts through a very competitive retail environment. We think the combination of the Ziegler sister collaboration plus our focus on denim domination will be the winning ticket for us as we get into the back-to-school season,” said Brommers.