10 questions with Jon Contino: The graphic designer behind our new Live Your Life Fragrances

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Describe yourself to us in five words?
Passionate. Loyal. Determined. Respectful. Intense.

Where are you from and what led you to where you are today?
I grew up in Long Island just a few miles from New York City in a creative, supportive family. I spent my teens and early twenties playing drums in various hardcore and metal bands, and that’s actually where I got my start doing professional design work. I was constantly working on band merchandise, flyers, record layouts and stuff like that. It wasn’t long before I started working with local businesses as well. In 2005 I opened a design studio called Onetwentysix and eventually that led to starting my first menswear brand, CXXVI, with my longtime friend Matt Gorton. Once CXXVI was rolling, I went back to freelancing and eventually transformed that business into what Jon Contino Studio is today.

You designed our packaging for our new Men’s and Women’s Live Your Life fragrances. What inspired your designs?
The inspiration came from the American culture that most people don’t think about. Stuff that we might take for granted. I felt that American Eagle Outfitters needed some nods to its heritage, but in a unique way. I wanted to focus on the time we spend as kids getting into trouble: running around the neighborhood with friends, getting lost in the woods, making fires on the beach. Whatever we used to occupy our time with in between the world of carelessness and responsibility. I wanted to capture the raw energy of growing up in a culture that’s relatively new in the history of the world. It’s unique to America, and it represents a lot of what American Eagle Outfitters is about.

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Can you share some sketches with us?

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Where is your studio and what are three things we will always find in your workspace?
My studio was in Brooklyn for years until very recently. My wife and I moved about an hour north of Manhattan to the Hudson Valley, where I now run my studio full time. It’s great because in between projects, phone calls, emails and all that stuff, I can take some time and go outside with my daughter and play with her without having to worry about busy streets or whatever else comes with living in a busy city. Actually, my daughter is a good example of something you’ll always find in my studio. Anyone that’s ever gotten on a phone call with me can tell you they hear her in the background most of the time. In terms of working material, you’ll always find pencils, pens and paper. I always design everything by hand, on paper. It’s how I feel most comfortable working. If you want to get into atmospheric stuff, there’s always some kind of Apple technology around me, antique signs and books and lots of family heirlooms.

What is your favorite project you have worked on to date?
That’s such a tough question. Working with different industries means that I have a favorite in each field and can’t truly compare one as better than the other. If I had to call out a project that turned my life upside down though, I think I could pick one. Growing up in the world of New York Hardcore, my favorite band was always a band from Brooklyn called Indecision. To this day, those albums are still my favorite of all time. A couple years ago they were doing a reunion show and asked me to design a shirt for them. It was amazing to have my favorite band reach out to me and tell me they were fans of my work. Still sits with me as one of the coolest moments of my career.

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you cook for them?
Well, I’m not much of a cook… anyone in my family could tell you that. If I had to pick someone though, I think it might be Benjamin Franklin for a lot of reasons. Instead of cooking, though, I’d take him to one of my favorite bagel shops in the Bronx and tell him to get a toasted egg bagel with vegetable cream cheese with a slice of tomato and an Arizona iced tea. It’s a tradition my wife and I have been doing for years and it’s probably the meal I look most forward to eating.

Number one on your bucket list?
The fact that I can design for a living, and do cool stuff on top of that, is pretty much my one and only selfish goal for my life. I’m a family guy at heart, so everything else would be things like having more kids, seeing them grow up… stuff like that.

It’s Friday night in NYC, where can we find you?
Having a 19-month-old daughter usually means I’m in bed by 10pm on Friday nights, but if I actually had the chance to be out and not be exhausted, then I’d probably want to spend it sitting on a stoop somewhere with friends laughing and joking about random nonsense. Life gets so busy, it’s nice just to goof around once in a while.

Go to ae.com and style a head to toe outfit for yourself.

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Shop #AEOStyle Jon’s style: Quilted Bomber Jacket, Plaid Button Down Shirt, Slim Straight Khaki, Speckled Sock, Clarks Originals Desert Boot

Check out the super cool designs of the men’s and women’s fragrance bottles for these amazing new scents on ae.com and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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Do a distressed denim DIY

Do a distressed denim DIY

Denim is a garment that’s all about individuality. Every day that we wear them, they change: telling the story about what we do in them and who we are. It’s why people are so fiercely committed to their favorite pair, wearing them until they practically disintegrate on their bodies.  For people who want a truly unique look but don’t want to wait years and years, denim distressing is something you can do at home with just a few simple tools and tricks.

Do A Distressed Denim DIY - Jean Hacks Infographic

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Know Your Starting Material:
The type of denim you start with will ultimately affect how it wears over time. Denim can be anywhere from 6 ounces (per square yard) in weight up to 20+ ounces. The heavier the denim, the more resilient it will be to wear and tear. It’s important to know where your denim falls in the spectrum, since the weight and amount of distressing you do will greatly affect how long your pair of jeans will last.

Tools of the Trade:
Because how denim wears is such a part of our love affair with blue jeans, brands purposely fade and age their denim to give it a vintage, worn look. For your distressing project, all you need are some items found around the house.

  • Sandpaper (preferably 220 grit or higher): For light distressing and breaking down the denim fabric.
    Single-edge razor blade: For ‘scraping’ away surface threads and cutting seams.
    Scissors: For full-on hole making.
    Block of wood or deck of cards: As a backing to ensure an even surface and that you only distress one layer at a time.
    Bleach: Only for the bold. Make sure to place cardboard under the affected surface to avoid bleeding.

Know Your Natural Wear:
When distressing denim, it’s important to work horizontally across the fabric, since that will break down the ‘warp’ threads and leave the ‘weft’ (vertical threads) intact. Distress the appropriate areas for a look that’s authentic for you.

  • The Knees: Work horizontally with light sandpaper to preserve the weft fibers if you don’t want a full-on hole. Or go at it with scissors for a blown-out rock ‘n roll look.
    Back Pockets: To imitate ‘wallet wear’, take a deck of cards or block of wood and place it in the pocket before sanding.
    Upper Thighs and Backs of Knees: This is where ‘whiskering’ occurs because of how the denim folds and creases. To re-create this look, you’ll have to lightly sand the jeans while wearing them to ensure the right look.
    Side Seams: This is an area where ‘less is more’, because they’re a key structural component of jeans. Lightly sandpaper side seam from the knee up for an authentic look, but be careful not to go too far or your jeans will fall apart on you.

Washing:
Though many people may not think about it, how you wash your denim can affect how it looks in a big way. Ultimately, a rule of thumb for increasing the life of your jeans is to wash them once a month or less.
To lock in the color of your denim, add one cup of white vinegar and a quarter cup of salt to the wash and follow the wash label instructions.

Drying Your Denim:
Since it’s made from cotton, how you dry your denim can greatly affect how it will fit you over multiple washes.

  • Outdoor Drying: This is a general no-no, since exposure to the sun will weaken the denim fibers and also ‘bleach’ your jeans over time.
    Air-Drying: When air-drying, lay the jeans flat. Since denim gets quite heavy when wet, hanging the jeans will result in stretching, ruining the fit.
    On-Body Drying: Purist swear by wearing your denim wet and letting it dry on your body, claiming that it’s the only way to get truly form-fitting jeans.
    Machine Drying: While this is okay for pre-shrunk denim, higher-end raw denim should never see the inside of a dryer, since it’s prone to shrinking up to 10%.

Avoiding the Wash:
If you’re going to go hardcore and avoid washing your jeans for months on end, it’s important to give them a break every now and then. Though the concept of a ‘freezer’ wash – putting your jeans in the freezer to kill odor-causing bacteria – is popular, scientists have proven that it doesn’t work. The best option? For every few days you wear them, let them hang in a well-ventilated closet for a day to allow odor-causing elements to disperse.

No Matter What, It’s Going to Take Time:
With all denim distressing, the old adage ‘less is more’ is worth noting. Even though you may want blown-out holes or intense shredding on your jeans, those things will occur through natural wear; all you want to do is get the process started. Go too far with your distressing and the denim won’t last. The best elements that go into making a pair of jeans uniquely ‘you’ come with time and patience.

Source URLs:

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/top-lists/ask-a-dfw-expert-how-to-distress-your-jeans/

http://jeans.about.com/od/Jeans101/tp/The-Ultimate-Guide-To-How-To-Wash-Your-Jeans.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/22/opinion/robbins-you-should-wash-your-jeans/

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Introducing AEO Wear America

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This season, we partnered with extremely talented designers to bring you awesome products that were created in the USA. We will be introducing you to some of these designers over the next couple of months, sharing the inspiration behind their designs and a look into their studios.

In addition to these collaborations, we’re excited to announce our own collection of T-shirts, jeans and more products that we made in the USA. Here is a little back story from our NYC designers about the denim.

“Our women’s jeans are inspired by the Gold Miner jeans of the 1890’s and hand sewn in L.A.,” says our denim designer, Helen K. “Each pair is unique and takes over two days to make… crafted from 11.75 oz. denim yarns produced in our Greensboro, N.C. mill and finished them with timeworn topstitching, busted outseams, vintage metal shanks and rivet finishes.”

We asked men’s denim Sr. Design Director, Clint G., about the inspiration behind the denim and he said, “Authentic, masculine, old-fashioned American jeans! Inspiration came from our very own AEO vintage denim archives, which I have accumulated over the years. It’s a combination of flea market finds and jeans from vintage dealers. These jeans are crafted from slubbed 11.75 oz. and pure indigo 13 oz. denim in our North Carolina and Georgia mills and finished with hand sanded and whiskered details.”

In addition to our Wear America collection, here are the other brands we are partnering with:  Woolrich, Pendleton, Topo Designs, Baggu, Word., The Urban Smith, Muses & Rebels, Pommes Frites Candle Co., The Great Lakes, Wit & Whistle and Knot & Bow.

 

Keep checking the blog for interviews with the designers from these brands.

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7 things we love…

Welcome to this week’s edition of 7 Things We Love! Get inspired by all the things inspiring US right now, from what we’re reading and eating to what we’re wearing and listening to. Let us know what you think about our picks in the comments—and give us yours, too!

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Image Source: 1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. | 7. |

WHAT WE’RE WEARING: THE AEO SWING TANK DRESS
We’re all about easy, effortless dressing—especially when we can take a piece from boho to moto with a few simple accessories or the addition of a leather biker jacket. And this dress is one that lets us do it all. We love the bold stripes and the swingy silhouette, especially since it’s forgiving—which means we can eat all the cookies we want…

WHAT WE’RE EATING: GLUTEN FREE PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
…Which leads us right to our next love. These. Cookies. Are. Everything. Now that it’s officially fall, we’re craving all things pumpkin—and these are a great way to satisfy our sweet tooth while still, shockingly, not being too unhealthy. Pumpkin’s full of good-for-you stuff like beta-carotine and fiber, but don’t let that fool you—these taste delicious.

WHAT WE’RE READING: FANGIRL BY RAINBOW ROWELL
Now that we’ve read (and are still obsessing over) Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, we’ve been devouring everything else she’s written. Fangirl is written in a similar style but this time follows Cath (short for Cather), a college freshman who writes widely followed fan fiction, has an identical twin and, in short, is struggling to figure out who she really is in the world. While the passages of Cath’s fan fiction seem a bit extraneous (and, if we’re being honest, we ended up skimming them), the story in between is sweet, honest and funny.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING: GONE GIRL
We’re pretty sure we don’t need to give you a synopsis of one of the most widely hyped, must-see movies of the year. So we’ll just say that we’re going to be first in line to see it. It stars Ben Affleck as the protagonist/antagonist and promises to be just as thrilling and captivating as the book (that pretty much never leaves the bestseller list).

WHAT WE’RE DOWNLOADING: THE PARTYPARTY APP
Not only is this app one of the easiest to use EVER, but it’s SO. MUCH. FUN. You can select 4, 9, 16 or literally infinity photos to upload from your camera roll and put into a slideshow that’s shareable on Instagram, Facebook and even your blog. (Definitely good news for Blogger users.) You can add filters, you can add different frames, you can control the slideshow speed. Basically, it’s a party in your pocket.

WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO: ELEVATE BY ST. LUCIA
Want a unique throwback sound with a modern feel… that almost sounds like you’re listening to Phil Collins and Genesis, but in a totally new way? This feel-good song will make you dance in your seat and will put the biggest smile on your face. Guaranteed.

WHERE WE’RE GOING: THE HUDSON VALLEY
Want a really great view of fall foliage? The Hudson Valley is where it’s at. A drive through upstate New York is breathtakingly beautiful in the fall thanks to the leaves changing colors on the trees. There’s a ton to do here, from a visit to the little town of Nyack (filled with cute boutiques and restaurants) to the Mohonk Mountain House, where you can go hiking or visit the spa. There are farmer’s markets and places to go apple picking scattered all over the area, too.

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Fall Must-Have: Feather Light Open Cardigan

Fall reminds us of pumpkin patches, apple cider, football and leaves changing colors, but it is also the season to start adding a layer or two to your outfits to prepare for the chilly days ahead. When the temperature starts to drop a bit, you will need that classic extra layer to keep you warm. Our Feather Light Open Cardigan is the perfect staple to do the trick. A super soft, drapey t-shirt and a sweater in one that doesn’t lose its shape after you wear it… bonus, right?  Check out how we styled two luxe and pulled together looks on Emma, in this timeless and cozy must-have below.

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 Feather Light Open Cardigan: The look of a soft, cozy sweater. The feel of your favorite drapey tee.

Look One:
Feather Light Open Cardigan
Favorite Scoop T-Shirt
Hi-Rise Festival Shortie
Dr. Marten’s 1460 Boot

Look Two:
Feather Light Open Cardigan
Favorite Scoop T-Shirt
Jegging
Ribbed Knit Beanie
Buckle Strap Bootie

Tell us your favorite layering piece for fall in the comments below.

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Introducing: Artisan De Luxe for AEO

We’re excited to announce a brand new partnership at American Eagle Outfitters: Artisan De Luxe for AEO. Artisan De Luxe is deeply rooted in vintage spirit, specifically in denim. Every product is an expression of the American spirit, nodding to nostalgia with a passion for craftsmanship and artistry. Obviously a natural pairing for AEO. We had them design a special collection exclusively for us, all created from premium materials. If you love this collection, snap up your favorites while you can… every piece in this capsule is limited edition.

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The Cable Knit Pocket Sweater takes an icon to the next level with a chest pocket done in distressed denim and deliberately placed stitched details. It pairs perfectly with the Juliet Boyfriend Jean, which is finished with paint splatters and patchwork embellishments.

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Your go-to outfit this fall? Pair the Plaid Button Down Tunic, designed with contrasting plaid patterns and a longer back hem, with the Yvette Skinny Jean. We love that this jean is designed in soft coated denim with zippered details at the pockets and ankles.

0390_9546_001_4989The ultimate boho-inspired dress… the Fringe Dress, designed in a fit and flare silhouette with crochet and embroidery and long bell sleeves. It’s even fully lined, so no slip needed!
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Give your standard denim shirt an update with allover stitching. The Stitched Denim Shirt is designed with buttoned chest patch pockets and goes perfectly with the Shawl Cardigan (lent a heritage feel with leather buttons). Throw on the Destroyed Jean crafted in rugged cotton denim and you have a look that’s ready for any occasion.

Love this line as much as we do? Tell us about your favorite looks in the comments below.

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