This new store for American Eagle in Manhattan has features to appeal to young customers – including free laundry facilities for nearby New York University students
Words by Emily Martin
Client: American Eagle
Design: Checkland Kindleysides
Size: 1476 sq m
Duration: Seven months
Clothing brand American Eagle has celebrated its 40th anniversary, marking the occasion with the opening of a new concept store in Manhattan’s vibrant Union Square, as designed by Checkland Kindleysides. Called the AE Studio, the store ‘goes beyond a standard transactional hub’, says Checkland Kindleysides, with experience-focused elements that elevate the in-store customer experience. Its futuristic retail approach allows shoppers to create their own in-store experiences with the brand through the use of social media, clothing customisation or simply as a hang-out where they can do their laundry.
Split over two floors the creative space has been divided up into zones, starting with the Jean’s Gallery. ‘Customers can shop the entire AE jeans collection (displayed like works of art) and personalise their own pieces in the Workshop,’ explains Joe Evans, Checkland Kindleysides’ creative director. ‘Alongside the Workshop is the in-store laundromat where students can do their laundry for free.’
SeatiStudents are welcome into the American Eagle store to take advantage of free laundry facilities
Customers can browse American Eagles’ entire jeans collection and create one-of-a-kind pieces through a maker’s shop, which features options for customers to personalise their AE Jeans to fit their distinctive style. Within the gallery, jeans are presented like artist easels on canvas stretchers and iPads provide a deeper look into product fit and specifications.
Moving upstairs, with bold graphics lining the staircase to communicate American Eagle’s ‘bold, creativity and the versatility of collections’, and the visitor is met with some interesting spaces, all designed to increase dwell time. First is the in-store workspace for the brand’s social media team, which allows them to create content in real-time and facilitates open communication between American Eagle and its customers.
AE social media team has an in-store workspace to directly engage with customers
Next is the Lounge. This space allows customers (particularly students waiting for their laundry to finish) to hang out with friends, or even study, while enjoying the free WIFI and complimentary refreshments. Then there’s the inspirational Collaboration Space featuring capsule collections, displaying new brands and work from emerging designers and artists.
‘Because these features are pioneering in retail design there was no benchmark for their execution,’ says Evans on some of the project challenges – one being a short, seven-month turnaround. ‘The design team had to quickly figure out the logistics to ensure these areas were a success; giving thought to the equipment needed, the customer journey around the space and the extra staff required.’
While NYU students wait for their laundry to get done, they can hang out with friends or study in the studio bar, with free WIFI and overlooking Union Square
The whole scheme has given careful consideration to a 21st-century retail experience for a largely Millennial generation, which sees personalised reinforcement favoured over personal assistance. Both floors feature generous fitting rooms, where inspirational style edits are displayed on peg panels outside curtained cubicles, with further peg boards inside for customers to create their own looks. As well as providing effective selling spaces, they also lend the brand to a little social media PR thanks to some Instagram posts from the nearby iPads.
‘The design inspiration came from a creative acknowledgement of the location – Union Square and the brand’s core youth customer, in this instance – and the students of NYU,’ says Evans. ‘It was thinking about the communities desire for authentic but evolving experiences. What could we do to make sure that the AE Studio was a place where the NYU students wanted to hang out? How could this store cater to their needs, in turn converting them into the biggest brand advocates? These insights, together with the creativity and versatility of the American Eagle brand, formed the foundation of our design inspiration.’
Visually, the store reflects a work-in-progress attitude of American Eagle’s core customer with a pared-back interior that blends functional and improvised materials.
‘The concept goes a long way in creating a successful community focused design. The space has an authenticity and aesthetic that is free to flex and evolve over time’, concludes Evans. ‘Like any studio it’s about “work in progress” and flexibility is hard-wired into the concept. Freedom of expression, agility and above all the ability to create a dialogue with the customer through environment and experience.’