American Eagle Stopped Photoshopping Its Models, And It's Affecting Their Bottom Line

July 15th 2015

American Eagle's lingerie line Aerie is keeping things honest with its #AerieREAL campaign that features non-airbrushed images and eschews the supermodel look. Since Aerie's made the change a year and a half ago, fans have hit the stores in droves. A conference call last year revealed that sales climbed nearly 10 percent following Aerie's decision to stop using retouched images in ads:


"The purpose of 'aerie Real' is to communicate there is no need to retouch beauty, and to give young women of all shapes and sizes the chance to discover amazing styles that work best for them," Aerie's Chief Merchandising Officer Jennifer Foyle said in a statement last year. "We want to help empower young women to be confident in themselves and their bodies."

Aerie's Instagram page lives up to its promise by promoting images of women of all body types:

Jenny Altman, who was hired on as the brand's Style and Fit Expert in 2014, said in a Good Morning America interview that the company decided not to airbrush tattoos and beauty marks out of photos.

"What you really see is what you get with our campaign," she explained.

Given the sales bump, it's no surprise consumers have praised Aerie's approach to modeling:

Aeries, which recently teamed up with "American Horror Story" actress Emma Roberts, is also gearing up for Back-to-School season. 

Roberts said in a recent interview with Refinery 29 that she appreciates Aerie for not making her feel self-conscious.

"I remember walking around New York and seeing the last [Aerie Real] ads and thinking those girls look so amazing," she told the publication. "Unlike other ads that make me feel like I need to work out more, or I need to buy this for my face — those made me feel good, not like I had to hide behind anything ... I always think of my little sister — she's 14, and when I told her I was doing these ads, she freaked out. It's important for me to be a part of this, because I see how hard it is for girls my sister's age with social media, and feeling like they need to look a certain way. I want to promote the idea that it's okay to look like yourself — you don't have to Photoshop your Instagrams!"

Earlier this year, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) awarded the #AerieReal campaign its first NEDA Inspires "Seal of Approval" accolade.

"The fashion industry has always been a huge part of the portrayal of unrealistic beauty ideals in our society," the release states. "Many companies photoshop their models to extremely unrealistic “perfect” bodies, which influences many people to believe they are not good enough."

Foyle said in a statement regarding the honor that "“Aerie is committed to challenging super model standards to spark a conversation with the fashion industry and champion consumers with the true meaning of real and unretouched beauty. We are proud of our partnership with NEDA and hope others will join us in creating authentic advertising and marketing.”

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