American Eagle is a go-to store for young shoppers looking for denim, swimwear, shirts, and just about any other mainstream article of clothing. American Eagle is the parent company to Aerie which is more widely known for specializing in lingerie, swimwear, and athletic apparel. Aerie Real Good is Aerie’s sustainble swimwear line with products being made out of recycled materials. The swimwear is priced between $15-$55 dependent on style, with one-pieces carrying a higher price tag. This relatively cheaper prices makes the sustainable line extremely accessible, as it costs the same price as their regular swimwear line. In 2014, American Eagle also received attention for incorporating untouched and plus size models into their marketing and website, as a part of their REAL campaign. The sub-brand of American Eagle does have some impressive sustainability goals and missions. However, in the end they still follow fast-fashion models prioritizing sales and quantity over quality and sustainability. The Real Good Line is definitely a good alternative to the regular swimsuit line being sold by Aerie, but the companies vaugely worded environmental efforts makes me skeptical of the companies intentions. For example, Aerie writes that they have partnered with various different non-profit’s, but information about their contribution to these partnerships is not included. They also boast that they “have committed to being carbon neutral in [their] own operations, including corporate offices, DC’s, stores, and business travel by 2030. [They’re] also working to reduce the carbon footprint in [their] supply chain by 40% by 2030 & 60% by 2040.” Their carbon neutrality goal does not seem to include their supply chain and manufacturing which I assume to be one of, if not the, largest contributor to GHG emissions. In addition, their goals on reducing their carbon footprint is, again helpful, but not all that impressive in my opinion.
The Real Good swimsuits are made with about 70-85% recycled nylon (depending on the suit style) and 15-30% Elastane. The recycled material comes from Repreve, which is made from 82% rPET (more commonly known as recycled plastic bottles). This is a similar proportion of recycled/elastance as other Repreve based swimsuits in the market. Elastane, otherwise known as spandex, is petroleum based, requires a lot of energy to produce, and is not-biodegradable. Sadly, almost every swimwear fabric contains elastane fabric, as it is necessary to hold the shape when wet and dry quickly.
The Repreve fabric is sourced from REPREVE® which is made by Unifi, a leading global textile solutions company. Aerie uses this recycled fabric instead of newly source nylon. The recycled material swimwear line was introduced in early 2020, so the line is incredibly new to the market. This is a big step for Aerie and one that should celebrated. That being said, Aerie still has a long ways to go before I would consider their business and therefore their products “sustainable”.
In addition, “since 2014, every Aerie & AE store has been converted to LED lighting, which has saved 3,050 tons of carbon dioxide”. They also boost that they have replaced & installed LED lighting at the Pittsburgh corporate office, which reduced energy usage by 40%. However, it is unclear how factories and distribution centers have been impacted by this change. Aerie also says" "Many of our stores have also converted to using an energy management system (EMS) that ensures all lights, heating & cooling systems are placed in energy-saving mode when no one is in the store." In my opinion, this seems like a bare-minimum change and one that likely saves them more money than does good for the earth. The environmental page on Aerie’s website screams green-washing to me.
AEO®. operates more than 1,000 American Eagle and Aerie stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong. Aerie does not communicate any brand-specific social or environmental supply chain practices. Since 2016, Aerie has been part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), an organization committed to measuring & improving social & environmental impacts at factories. However, members of SAC vary greatly on their sustainability as other companies including H&M, Target, and Walmart have all joined the coalition as well. These giant companies, however, are known to fall behind in initiatives and often join these coalitions as a green-washing tactic to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers. As of now, SAC has created some positive change in fast-fashion, but it is not enough to prove to me that Aerie is doing enough to give back to our Planet.