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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Introducing: Vintage & 1977

Introducing: Vintage & 1977

Where did you pull inspiration from to create the newest fragrances (Vintage and 1977)?
We pull inspiration from all over. Often times we pull ideas straight from the runway to help guide color or print. Other times it could be a really amazing one-off item found at a thrift store. I think the best inspiration is where it is unexpected. The camouflage for 1977 came from the runway and the print on the Vintage bottle was actually inspired by the yoke of a beautiful top.

What part do “noses”—people who have an elevated sense of smell and often work in perfuming—play in the development of AEO fragrances?
We work with some of the best fragrance houses and “noses” in the world. The process starts with perfumers from different fragrance houses creating scents based on the concepts/direction provided. Our fragrance vendor, another “nose,” narrows down the scents provided by the fragrance houses and presents the top 15-30+ scents to us. Next, Katherine and I review, wear and spray everyone around us until we have 3-4 per gender we love. Those favorite fragrances then move forward to in-store testing where the winning scent is determined.

How many people test the fragrance before it is finished? Explain the process a little bit!
Normally, there are about 2-3 people involved in narrowing 30+ fragrances down to three scents. Once we have 3-4 fragrances that we feel really strongly about, we put it in our customers’ hands to make the final choice. We typically survey around 200 customers in AEO stores to pick our fragrances.

What are the base notes used in the fragrance?
Each fragrance has notes separated into three groups: top notes, middle notes and base notes. The top notes are the initial impression, the mid notes are the “heart” of the fragrance and the base notes are the longest lasting, normally not perceived until 30 minutes after application.

Women’s Vintage – Base Notes: Praline, Musk, Blonde Woods

Men’s 1977 – Base Notes: Precious Woods, Patchouli, Warm Musk

What are the middle notes in the fragrance?
Women’s Vintage – Mid Notes: White Flowers, Lotus Flower, Rose

Men’s 1977 – Mid Notes: Cedarleaf, Clary Sage, Flowering Basil

What are the unique top notes in the fragrance?
Women’s Vintage – Top Notes: Mandarin, Juicy Apple, Red Mango

Men’s 1977 – Top Notes: Dewy Greens, Ozone, Bergamot

Describe the newest scents with one adjective.
Women’s Vintage: Glamorous

Men’s 1977: Masculine

What kind of situations are the fragrances best suited for (day, night, summer, winter, special occasion, etc.)?
All of our fragrances are created with everyday wear in mind; however, I love having different fragrances for different occasions. I think scent should be treated like a shoe and no shoe goes with everything (I honestly have a beach scent, a night scent, a date scent, etc.). Vintage is really glamorous so I think it is perfect for special occasions. 1977 is a man’s fragranceit’s very masculine and great for a night out with the guys (plus the ladies will love it)!

How do you design a fragrance bottle? What special details are included in these bottle?
Creating a fragrance bottle is a very detailed process. We have established a bottle shape that is unique to American Eagle, so our challenge is making new launches look and feel special on the same bottle shape. A good example of this is Women’s Methis bottle was inspired by mercury glass. We worked with our vendor for months to achieve the beautiful metallic finish. There are so many techniques and processes that can be done so it is really trial and error until you have the perfect bottle.

Can you explain the best places to spray fragrance and why?
“Where should one use perfume?” a young woman asked. “Wherever one wants to be kissed.” – Coco Chanel

Fragrance creation is thousands of years old. What do you think is the allure of fragrance?
Scent is very personal and a driving force behind attraction. It has also evolved greatly over time but has always been an item of prestige. I think the allure is a combination of both attraction and prestige.

How do you develop fragrances that are fresh and current?
Fragrance houses are always on top of scent trend and they help guide us. They will tell us what notes are trending, like rose or black pepper. Then we incorporate those notes when we deem appropriate for our customer.

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AE Friends & Family: Ashley R., Associate Fragrance Buyer

AE Friends & Family: Ashley R., Associate Fragrance Buyer

Meet Ashley R., Associate Fragrance Buyer for American Eagle Outfitters. She will spend nearly a year helping to develop and test each fragrance you find in our stores and online! Read on to learn more about her career at AEO.

How did you get your start with American Eagle?

I spent three years working for Bath & Body Works developing my love for scent. When I was approached by AE for a job in fragrance, I was thrilled.  AE was a brand I grew up loving and I couldn’t wait to be a part of the team.

What do you love most about being a fragrance buyer?

I’ve always had a passion for fragrance and beauty so being involved during the entire concept to reality process is just amazing.  When you see something that you’ve spent nearly a year developing hit the shelves – nothing can describe the feeling!  I’m like a proud mom!  Then, you just sit and hope that customers and associates love it as much as you do.

What’s your favorite AE scent?

My favorite Women’s scent is Vintage and my favorite Men’s is 1977.  I’ve worked on all of the fragrances that are currently in the store and LOVE them all but these are two are very special to me.  We go through a LOT of different fragrances before we narrow down and test scents with our customers.  When I first tried the Vintage scent I knew it was going to be our winner – it was amazing and so right for the AE customer!  For 1977, the camouflage print was very hard to achieve and we are actually some of the first in the beauty industry to be able to accomplish that type of finish on a rounded bottle.

What’s the coolest place you’ve traveled for your job?

I grew up in super small town Kansas (Home, Kansas to be exact) so moving to New York City was a big adventure.  I also loved my latest trip to Atlanta to help with in store fragrance testing.  It’s so amazing to hear feedback directly from our customers.

Where do you find inspiration in fragrance buying?

Everywhere!  I’m known for asking people on the subway what scent they are wearing.  When you are a buyer what’s next is always in the back of your head.  I could be at a cute shop in Brooklyn and see a cool bottle that could inspire the next finish on a fragrance bottle.

What’s your favorite AE jean fit?

The new Skinny Skinny Jeans, of course!  Painted on is the only way to go. Okay, not really.  My actual favorite jeans are the Skinny Crop in any of the darker washes.

What’s on your summer playlist?

I love all music but in the summer I’m totally into reggae!  Nappy Roots, Iration, The Expendables, The Roots, K’Naan and Rebelution are some of my favorite summer time bands.

What are your other interests and hobbies?

I love to try and experience new things.  My latest adventure was a trapeze class which was so much fun – I even learned how to do a back flip!  Other than that, I enjoy live music, exploring the city, running and going to the beach as often as possible.

Ashley learning how to do a back flip on the trapeze!

Ashley learning how to do a back flip on the trapeze!

What’s next on your “life to do” list?

I’m about to turn 28, so I’ve spent the past few months creating a list of 30 things I want to do before I’m 30 – “30 before 30”.  Some of the highlights that I will complete over the next two years will be a half marathon, a balloon holder in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a coast to coast road trip with my best friends, supporting a child overseas and freeing a lobster (I’m a vegetarian and it breaks my heart to see them at the grocery store in tanks).

Next on Ashley's to-do list? Run a half-marathon!

Next on Ashley’s to-do list? Run a half-marathon!

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