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Hollister is “reintroducing” its lingerie brand Gilly Hicks in hopes of taking advantage of the growth opportunities that have popped up in the intimates market. The brand had closed Gilly Hicks stores in 2013 while keeping the products available in Hollister stores and online. But in the meantime, it’s turned into a slumbering giant.
“We recognized an opportunity to redefine the Gilly Hicks brand,” Kristin Scott, brand president of Hollister, said in a press release from parent company Abercrombie & Fitch on Friday. The opportunity, of course, is that other brands have enjoyed success selling intimates to the teen girl market, namely Aerie.
American Eagle’s Aerie has been a rare win in a tough retail environment that has been downright cruel to other mall brands like BCBG and The Limited, as well as teen-oriented brands like Aeropostale. As Forbes put it in a report on Aerie’s success, “Amid an otherwise dismal retail environment, Aerie’s sales increased 32% in Q1 2016.”
Aerie’s rise is due in large part to a campaign that highlighted natural, a.k.a. not airbrushed, female models. Sales went up 20 percent after the launch of the #AerieReal campaign, as young women responded to the positive message.
Another boon for Aerie has been the rise of the bralette, embraced by comfort-loving teens and athleisure fans. “It’s definitely been a big portion of the business, and we went after it,” American Eagle global brand president Jennifer Foyle said on a 2016 earnings call.
Early images from Gilly Hicks’s new #GillyGirl campaign, launched this week, are a stark contrast from Victoria Secret’s shiny, sultry produced ads. Instead, it’s young women having fun — and, very clearly, wearing bralettes. The style was explicitly called out in the press release Friday.
(Also take note of the branded bands, a design trick famously used by Calvin Klein, which is also enjoying better sales these days.)
Gilly Hicks returns the same week that Hollister’s parent company, Abercrombie, was just forced to lay off 150 people at the corporate level. Can lingerie be the savior? Tellingly, in addition to Aerie, Madewell (another brand with a suffering parent company in J.Crew) just announced the launch of its first intimates collection.
Or it may be that Aerie was the pioneer, and other brands like Gilly Hicks will have to fight for the largest crumbs.