It might be tricky for retailers to determine which new, riskier products will kill it and which will tank. But, American Eagle is taking an interesting approach to effectively navigating that challenge. It’s called Don’t Ask Why. It’s almost too easy to miss the line's namesake category on the AE homepage, and if you walked past the New York pop-up — which just opened in Soho today — you might even mistake its offerings for other millennial mall brands in the neighborhood. But, the relatively unknown Don’t Ask Why is different, and as the brand tells us, it’s a means for American Eagle to test drive trends before you seem them in stores. The pieces in Don’t Ask Why — the rebranded version of AE's Made in Italy collection that launched in 2013 — are uncomplicated: they have a hint of bohemian style (florals, tie dye) and most would be considered basics, including solid-colored tanks, slouchy tees, throw-and-go dresses, and shorteralls. “Don't Ask Why is used as a trend and fit test-lab for AEO while giving us the opportunity to serve our edgier customer," Chad Kessler, AE’s global brand president, tells us. "The product tends to be a bit more fashion forward and the graphics are a little more irreverent." He even explained to Racked that some designs have been inspired by a field trip to Coachella.
But, there is another main different between the main American Eagle merchandise and this smaller line besides the more apparent festival vibes: Do Ask Why is one-size-fits-all. We’ve seen this model before, specifically at the teen cult favorite Brandy Melville, and it doesn’t come without some speculation about which size is the one that fits all and how this approach can potentially exclude shoppers who don’t fit a certain mold. But, Kessler reassures us otherwise. In fact, it's essential to Don't Ask Why. "One size is great because it increases our speed to market. We are able to play with trends and emerging silhouettes while filling customer demand for soft, casual dressing at a faster rate," he says, adding, "Don't Ask Why is extremely versatile in how the product can be worn — we have under-sized bodycon styles as well as more flowy over-sized pieces that are easy to grab and go. We find our customer really enjoys that ease in shopping." Of course, the success of this customer experience will be even more clear after the New York pop-up shop runs its course through mid-August. "The pop-up is a way for us to celebrate summer and tap into new customers visiting the city," Kessler explains. "It's a fully-realized brand experience for our customers outside of American Eagle store. We also thought the pop-up was a great time to see how the brand can live on its own, paired with great vintage finds and cool third party product." And, if the pieces you pine for this summer are a hit, perhaps you'll be seeing more of them at your local mall's AE store — in a full range of sizes — in the future.
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