What began as an outdoor clothing company in 1977 recently landed in Times Square as a lifestyle apparel powerhouse aimed at the 15- to 25-year-old co-ed set. Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters Inc. opened its 25,000-sq.-ft. Times Square flagship Nov. 19, bringing its tried-and-true staples, as well as an exclusive selection of fashions, to New York.
Being in Times Square, the exterior had to compete with some of the most sophisticated signage in the world. With help from Baltimore-based The Barnycz Group, the store’s façade is comprised of 15,000 sq. ft. of LED screens that run 18 hours of content daily, ensuring anyone within a few blocks will be exposed to the American Eagle brand.
15 Seconds of Fame
Despite the cacophony of sights and sounds in the “Crossroads of the World,” it’s hard to miss American Eagle’s new Times Square digs, with its 25-story multimedia LED façade that wraps from Broadway to 46th Street. For the ambitious exterior, the company sought out Baltimore-based The Barnycz Group to create a visually impactful way to market American Eagle to the masses.
“You can experience the American Eagle brand eight blocks away from the square down 46th Street,” says Danny Barnycz, chief creatologist at The Barnycz Group. “Twelve distinct boards were digitally stitched together to create one canvas.” Content clips, some created by American Eagle’s marketing team and some by The Barnycz Group, can be broken up individually on separate screens or can be integrated as one display. This includes lifestyle graphics featuring the latest company fashions, live events and an American Eagle-conceived customer experience called “15 Seconds of Fame,” where customers who make a store purchase have the opportunity to pose for a photo and write a brief text message that will be displayed on the 250-sq.-ft. screen for all of Times Square to see.
Jani Strand, vice president of corporate communications at American Eagle Outfitters, says the idea came about when the marketing team was in New York waiting for the new store to open. “Practically everyone in Times Square was taking pictures of themselves, trying to capture their moment,” she says. “We wanted a way to take this to the next level, make it a part of the American Eagle experience and make it unlike anything else for customers.” All of the content on the exterior LED screens can be controlled with an iPhone, Barnycz notes.
Strand says “15 Seconds of Fame” has been great for generating buzz about the brand and notes that one of the earliest “famous” customers used it to propose to his girlfriend. “We’ve been tracking blogs of customers around the country—when people write about their Times Square experience, they’re mentioning their 15 Seconds of Fame,” she explains. “It definitely addresses how our customers live their lives and contributes to why it’s so relevant.”
It’s All in the Details
For the interior, American Eagle’s in-house design team partnered with San Francisco-based BAR Architects Inc., a relationship that spans back to 1998. Michael Smith, American Eagle’s director of store design, says the desire to evolve the brand’s store design started with the Garden State Plaza store in Paramus, N.J. “We were able to take those elements and, based on how they were working, expand them for the Times Square location,” Smith explains.
David Schwing, design lead at BAR Architects, says the intention was for each of the four floors to be unique spaces stacked on top of one another, with the finishes and materials toning lighter as shoppers ascend each floor.
The men’s floor on the lower level contains the darkest and heaviest detailing. “The perimeter casework is built out of hickory, and some of the ceiling surfaces and bulkheads were designed to look like heavy metal girders supporting the building,” Schwing explains. The design team selected white subway tile column cladding for its clean, graphic texture and its association with New York infrastructure, he adds.
When customers enter on the main level, they are greeted by a 13-ft. LED video screen before entering the “Denim Canyon,” a plethora of jeans stacked ceiling-high in wood fixtures, complete with rolling stock ladders. Polished concrete reflects the glow of custom Bocci glass lights suspended from the ceiling. Smith says the design team loved these specialty lights so much that they ended up incorporating them in many other areas in the store.
There is a softer feel to the women’s area on the second floor, with built-in and freestanding white wood fixtures, and dove-gray planked ceilings. Oak “carpets” mingle among polished concrete floors. Schwing notes the glass and steel wall with wood trim gives shoppers a glimpse of the company’s intimate apparel and dormwear brand, aerie, located on the third floor.
Whitewashed wood and white-painted trim lend a delicate backdrop to the aerie space. A central Gallery Hall opens onto the Beauty Room, the Bra Conservatory and an area for f.i.t., aerie’s athletic line, which sets itself apart from the rest of aerie with glossy white and stainless steel fixtures. There is also a glowing wall, which is completely separate from the exterior LED displays. Cherry flooring contrasts against the white woodwork, and dark tile in the beauty and f.i.t. areas further defines the spaces. In the Bra Conservatory, Smith’s team brought in another unique lighting fixture—this time a chandelier of metal and porcelain flowers he calls “a garden in the sky.”
American Eagle Outfitters Times Square sets high expectations for passersby drawn to its grandiose façade, but also boasts an interior shopping experience that rivals the outdoor spectacle. “We combined certain aspects of loft spaces, classic American styling and things we love about New York to really feel right for the space and right for our customers,” Smith says.