AEO Friends and Family: Lakwena, Street Artist

Meet Lakwena, the super-talented artist behind our Alternative Spring Break project at the Wynwood Walls in Miami, #HEARTTHISCITY. We spoke with Lakwena about how she got her start, what it was like to work with the AEO cast and crew and where she finds her inspiration.

lakwena street artist i remember paradise american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Lakwena with her team in front of our #HEARTTHISCITY mural. Photo from Lakwena’s Instagram.

When did you first discover your love for art?
I’ve always loved art. My earliest memory of art is learning to write in school when I was about 4. It was my first introduction to typography.

Did you attend university for art or are you self-trained?
I studied at the University of the Arts London.

Tell us a little bit about your style and work.
I like to play with typography, colour, and pattern. I love working on a large scale.

Who has been a mentor or inspiration to your career in art?
My mother. She always knew I was an artist and encouraged me and believed in me.

What piece of your work has the most meaning to you? Why?
Hard question. Maybe my recent piece in Wynwood, ‘I remember Paradise’. Being given the opportunity to paint on such a large scale is an actual dream come true. Regardless of what happens from here onwards, that’s something that I’m really proud to have accomplished.

lakwena street artist i remember paradise american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Lakwena’s “I remember Paradise”. Photo from Lakwena.com.

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?
At least with commercial work, having to be creative on demand, often with very little time.

How did you get involved with the installation art at Wynwood Walls?
A friend who has a gallery in Los Angeles put my name forward to be involved, the curators liked my work, so I was invited out.

What was your inspiration for #HEARTTHISCITY?
The designs came from sketches that I’d been experimenting with, playing around with quite intricate patterns inspired by memphis patterns amongst other things. A friend described the original sketch works as ‘afro-futuristic circuit boards’, which I liked a lot.

What is your favorite memory of working with American Eagle Outfitters and Project Live Your Life?
Seeing lots of people working together on my designs.

What do you heart about your hometown, Bromley in the United Kingdom?
I love the trees there. What I love most about East London is the creative energy there.

What do you heart about Miami?
The creative community.

Tell us a fun fact about you.
I’m a wrestling champion!

AEO Friends and Family: Cara McLeay from A Fashion Love Affair

In case you hadn’t guessed it yet, we’ve been blogger-crushing on Cara McLeay from A Fashion Love Affair for years. We were so thrilled we had the chance to partner with her for spring break and feature her favorite pieces from our latest collection in a shop on AE.com. Read on to learn more about the girl behind the blog!

cara mcleay a fashion love affair american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Cara McLeay from A Fashion Love Affair.

When did you discover your interest in fashion and writing?
I have always loved fashion for as long as I can remember and I really got into writing and reading in high school, and then went onto study English in University.

What prompted you to start A Fashion Love Affair?
I started A Fashion Love Affair to share my daily inspiration and love of fashion and style. I had no idea what an amazing community I would find–it is so much fun to connect with people who share your same passion!

What is your favorite thing about blogging?
Blogging offers so many amazing experiences and opportunities–but my favourite thing by far is the people it allows me to meet.

cara mcleay a fashion love affair american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Cara in Florence.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?
I love being outside so I try to spend as much time as I can walking my dog, swimming, hiking and running. I also love to travel and am always planning my next trip.

What is your favorite fit of AEO denim?
The Tomboy Jean. I love dressing them up with heels or looking casual with a t-shirt and flats. I am a big fan of the boy-meets-girl look.

What trends from AEO do you love most for Spring?
Floral prints.

Where do you find your inspiration?
Traveling, Pinterest, music, movies, magazines–and everywhere in between!

What is the last song you listened to?
Drunk in Love by Beyonce–on repeat!

Where is the coolest place you have ever traveled?
I try to travel as much as possible so have been lucky enough to see some pretty amazing things! I think the coolest places have been South Africa, Vietnam and Turkey.

cara mcleay a fashion love affair american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Cara in Hawaii.

What fashion trend do you hope to never see again?
Wedge sneakers & Uggs!

What fashion trend do you hope comes back in style?
Off the shoulder tops! I was a big fan of the Flashdance off-the-shoulder sweatshirt.

Tell us a few fun facts about you.
I have a 7 year old beagle named Gus
I have a Bacherlor’s Degree in Women’s Studies.
My favorite fruit is pineapple.

cara mcleay a fashion love affair american eagle outfitters spring 2014

Cara with her beagle, Gus.

What’s next on your life to-do list?
More traveling! I really wanted to visit Peru and climb Machu Picchu.

Follow Cara:

Blog: A Fashion Love Affair

Twitter: @carajourdan

Instagram: @carajourdan

AEO Friends & Family: George E., NYFW Photographer

AEO Friends & Family: George E., NYFW Photographer

Did you catch our coverage of New York Fashion Week with Preston and Lauren? They hit the streets with photographer George Evan to capture some of the awesome street style they spotted while attending the fall shows. Read on to learn more about the photographer behind the lens and follow him on Instagram at @thevagabound.

american eagle outfitters new york fashion week spring 2014 george evan photographer

George in the Premium Slim Jean and the Denim Jacket.

How did you discover your interest for photography?

When I was young, I encountered the pinhole effect, which is a lighting phenomenon discovered in the times of Aristotle, and became fascinated with the way lighting could create and manipulate a mood. My parents had a film camera I would use. I began using it as a bridge into other people’s lives and using it as a way to portray a person while expressing ideas and opinions.

How did you get your start as a professional photographer?

I attended photography school in Santa Barbara. While I was there, I interned for David LaChapelle and then started working for him at his studio, which was an invaluable education in itself. After a while, I came back home to the East Coast and settled in. New York has been a home base for me ever since. Photography, like life, can be an exciting journey.

What is your favorite style of photography?

I am drawn to conceptual portraits – images that convey who a person is in an aesthetically moving way. Fashion and adventure photography also have their own beauty to me. I’m obsessed with learning about new styles, new cultures and meeting new people.

What is your favorite camera to shoot with?

I grew up shooting film and later printing in the darkroom and I still use many alternative techniques in some of my work. In addition to shooting digital, I usually will use a few different vintage cameras that I’ve gathered over the years. Each has its own advantages and unique way of seeing.

What is something surprising about being a photographer that people don’t usually know?

It feels more like a lifestyle than a job. One that provides both freedom and challenges. For me, starting out has been a balance between left and right brain.

Where is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled for your job?

I recently spent a few weeks working in Zambia and I had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredibly inspirational people.

american eagle outfitters new york fashion week spring 2014 george evan photographer

George captured this photo of Victoria Falls during a recent trip to Zambia. Click through to see more of his photos on his website.

What is your favorite style of AEO jeans?

The Slim Jean is cozy and durable. The Denim Jacket is great either on its own or with other layers.

Does your work influence your fashion? How?

Absolutely. Fashion, like photography, is a way of expressing myself. I’m thankful to have worked with amazing brands and stylists and I hope some of that style has rubbed off on me.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I can find ideas and inspiration inside myself as a result of looking everywhere: in clothes, cultures, nature, memories and most of all, love.

What was the most fun part of shooting New York Fashion Week with Preston, Lauren and AEO?

The entire experience with AEO, Preston and Lauren has been really productive, which is always inspiring. Working with a great crew to photograph amazing people and cool clothes has been a dream come true.

AEO Friends and Family: Sangam S., Assistant Buyer – Women’s Denim

AEO Friends and Family: Sangam S., Assistant Buyer – Women’s Denim

Meet Sangam S., Assistant Buyer of Women’s Denim at American Eagle Outfitters. Sangam spends her days researching the next big trends to bring you the coolest jeans imaginable. We interviewed Sangam to learn more about her career path with AEO and what inspires her.

 

Sangam S., Assistant Buyer of Women's Denim

Sangam S., Assistant Buyer of Women’s Denim

How did you get your start with AEO?

I started in the Assistant Buyer Training Program in June 2011. This is my first job out of college.

What is your favorite AEO jean fit?

I absolutely LOVE our Jegging fit! It is so comfortable and flattering. I am also really excited for our new  Jegging Crop fit for the spring season. It is my favorite Jegging fit but just in a crop length. It will be perfect for the warm spring days ahead!

There are so many washes to choose from in denim. What’s your favorite and why?

Our designers have created some really cool destroy washes recently. My favorite is this beautiful Sunfaded Medium Wash with Mended Destroy in the Jegging Crop fit. It is really different from anything I have seen before and perfect for spring.

How do you style your favorite jeans?

All winter, I have been wearing my Jeggings with cozy sweaters and booties! In the spring, I will be wearing my Jegging Crops with soft T-shirts and sandals.

What’s currently playing on your iPod?

I have been listening to Beyonce’s new album on repeat.

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

Next on my life to do list is to run a half marathon. I haven’t ever run more than 6 miles before so this is going to be a big personal challenge for me, but I am really excited for it!

sangam s american eagle outfitters assistant buyer women's denim pittsburgh great race

Sangam ran the Great Race in Pittsburgh this past fall.

 

Where do you find inspiration for buying jeans?

I am constantly looking at fashion blogs, magazines and runway shows to see what is happening out there. I also spend a lot of time in the mall and other public places to understand what our customer is wearing and what she wants.

AEO Friends and Family: Emily W., Web Designer

AEO Friends and Family: Emily W., Web Designer

Meet Emily W., a web designer for American Eagle Outfitters. Emily isn’t just creative at work—she has a full range of hobbies and hopes to open an Etsy store this year. We sat down with Emily to learn more about her and what it’s like to be a web designer at AEO.

How did you get your start with AEO?

I started here in January 2009 as a freelancer. My friend John was already a designer on the AEO web team and he told me they were looking for someone. I didn’t even understand what the job was exactly but I came in for an interview and got the job! Pretty soon after starting, I worked on the 77kids team, which I loved. Last year I switched gears and took a position to design for AEO/Aerie’s mobile site and app.

How do you think your work influences your style?

I love being so close to the fashion world. I read so many fashion blogs now and I try with what I am wearing every day. I don’t think I would be as fashion focused and hyper aware to designers if I didn’t work at AEO. One really awesome thing about working here is everyone gives each other so many compliments all the time! Anytime I try something new or put a lot of thought into an outfit, people notice and let me know they like what I’m wearing. It’s a great confidence boost for trying new trends.

 

Emily W American Eagle Outfitters

Emily in a shirt she made herself and the Moto Jegging Pant at the AEO offices.

 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Work-wise, I try to stay up to date with the App Store to make sure I am aware of new apps. I am amazed with the innovation that’s happening right now with usability and functionality. I love when I find an app that’s designed beautifully and functions flawlessly.

Outside of work, I am an avid knitter and sewer. I love Stephen West, Jared Flood, Twist Collective and a bunch of other really talented knitters. I love to aimlessly surf away on Ravelry to find inspiration for my next project. Sewing-wise, I try to keep up to date with the indie pattern designers like By Hand London, Deer and Doe, and Colette Patterns because they frequently release new and easy-to-follow patterns that have modern fits.

Besides design, what are your other hobbies?

I have a lot of hobbies…

Knitting: I love trying new techniques and patterns—I just started my 4th sweater and I’m really excited about it! I was very productive this past year with knitting—I had a bunch of projects just sitting, making me feel guilty, so I pushed through and completed them! Felt so good to have it off my plate. Time to fill it back up!

Sewing: My goal is to transition over to an all-homemade wardrobe, which is a lofty goal for sure! So far I have made several dresses and some woven blouses. Next on my list is working with knits, which is quite intimidating.

Running: I am running my 3rd half marathon this spring, which I am very excited about! I love going on a weekend morning run, with freshly melted snow so everything looks extra bare and grimy. I like to think about how different it will all look in four months when summer is here and everything looks lush and beautiful again.

Gardening: Last year I planted my first ever bulbs! I did dahlias and every time a new bud bloomed, it was so enchanting. I have lots of houseplants, and I do window-boxes and have planted shrubs and herbs, but there is something so magical about flower bulbs.

 

Photo of Emily's delilahs from @emilywools on Instagram.

Photo of Emily’s dahlias from her Instagram account. Follow her at @emilywools.

 

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

I’d really like to open an Etsy shop this year.

What do you think the next big trend in graphic design will be (i.e. we’ve seen image as text, font overlay, etc.)?

I think it will be enhancing the service a retail store can provide utilizing the customer’s mobile device (you must be in store to access certain features on the phone). With online retailers having so many cool features, stores have got to step it up to get people to come out to the mall.

You have friends from out of town visiting. Where is the first place in Pittsburgh you take them?

Wow—I don’t even know where to start. The Mattress Factory if they haven’t been, it’s a great installation museum on the North Side. I also really love the Frick Art Museum in Point Breeze—it’s free, super small and they get really great traveling exhibits. Their permanent collection is also interesting: they have some really old (1500’s) altarpieces that make you think about how insignificant we are in the great scheme of things.

I am pretty food-centric too, so I would probably give the guest a laundry list of restaurants to choose from. Breakfast would be La Gourmandine pastries or E2’s breakfast. My favorite lunch-y place right now is Everyday Noodles—they have great dumplings. Smoke is also a great taco option. My dinner go-tos are Fukuda (sushi), Legume (fancy “local”) and Park Bruges (Belgian). Lots of choices here!

AEO Friends and Family: Freddy Rodriguez- Blue Perk

AEO Friends and Family: Freddy Rodriguez- Blue Perk

At 22, Freddy Rodriguez. is pretty busy. He’s the editor of the menswear site Blue Perk, consults for PROJECT trade fair, works alongside Alicia Quarles of E! News and for Details Magazine, and he’s a full-time student at FIT in New York City. Although Freddy is on the verge of graduating college, his drive and resume are quite impressive. And the best part about all of this? He’s humble as all get out! Read on to learn more about how he got his start as a fashion blogger and where he gets his inspiration.

Please introduce yourself.

Hello cyber universe, my name is Freddy Rodriguez and I am the editor behind the popular menswear site Blue Perk. I am originally from small town Texas—Robstown, Texas to be exact. With a population just over 12 thousand, I had always been itching for big city life, which is what brought me to New York City three years ago.

AEO Friends and Family Freddy R.

Freddy Rodriguez the editor behind Blue Perk.

How did you get your start in the blogging world?

My start in the blogging world was just after my first semester at FIT. I went back to Texas for the summer and wanted a way to stay proactive and express myself while away from the city. What started out as fashion trending articles, movie reviews and whatever caught my interest slowly shifted to personal style, after noticing the womenswear market was already saturated and the menswear market was dismal with lots of room to grow. After two years of consistency, I have become fortunate enough to be respected for what is still a fun hobby and way to document my life.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration is drawn from everywhere, whether it be in Central Park or looking out my window in the Lower East Side. I am constantly absorbing my surroundings and taking inspiration to stay fresh.

How would you describe your style?

The best way to describe my style is comfortable. Basically I’m not the traditional menswear guy, but I do love a great jacket, black skinny jean and comfortable shoes, all while wearing a watch and some other wrist accessory with sunglasses.

AEO Friends and Family Freddy R.

Freddy R., Blue Perk describes his style as non traditional and comfortable.

Is there an item of clothing or an accessory that you can’t live without? What’s your staple piece?

An item that I can’t live without would first be my iPhone, but second would be a watch. This is something I used to dislike wearing as a kid, but have learned to appreciate. A nice watch completes every outfit and is distinguishing.

You’re currently a senior in college. What is next on your to do list in life?

The million dollar question! My next to do list in life is to travel through Europe and Asia for a year. I’m not ready to be tied down to a desk job. Freedom to travel and check off as many bucket list items is my next goal, then I’ll take it from there in a year.

A lot of people admire you and your line of work. What advice would you give to those who want to start their own blog?

My advice for work and blogging is to be consistent, do everything the best you can, don’t be afraid to take risks and remember that networking is honestly your best friend for success.

You’re an extremely humble individual so I can see why so many people admire you. How do you stay true to yourself in a world that can be crazy at times?

This is something my mother engraved in me growing up. She always knew I was special and that I should never forget where I came from. Three years later, I haven’t forgotten the 10 acres of land I grew up on outside of a small lower middle class community. We all had to start somewhere and I don’t ever want to not be true to the kid that moved here with a dream and ambition.

AEO Friends and Family Freddy R.

Freddy and his mom

Have you ever had an OMG moment in your line of work?

Actually, I have OMG moments all the time. I am extremely fortunate to work alongside Alicia Quarles of E! News and for Details Magazine, these two alone are OMG moments. One exact moment recently would be covering the menswear shows during Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week this past season and attending the VMAs at Barclays Center.

AEO Friends and Family Freddy R.

Freddy with Alicia Quarles of E! News

How do you Live Your Life?

I live my life by seizing everyday to its fullest. #carpediem

 

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