Help Us Give 20,000 Back Packs to Students in High-Need Communities

As we know all too well, students in high-need communities can face many barriers in their pursuit of a high-quality education. Having access to school supplies doesn’t have to be one of them. That’s why American Eagle Outfitters, STATE Bags, and Teach For America are teaming up to give away 20,000 backpacks to students across the country – with your critical support.

For every STATE backpack purchased at American Eagle Outfitters this back-to-school season, we’ll be giving away a backpack to a child in need.  You can click here to purchase the backpacks online or find your local American Eagle Outfitters store here and turn your next shopping trip into one with far-reaching benefits.

Our partnership will equip students across 20 urban and rural communities with the supplies they need to enter the classroom ready to learn. In addition to receiving STATE bags, students at participating schools will also receive essential tools such as pencils, crayons and binders.

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In New York and Los Angeles, we’re excited for students to receive their bags during STATE’s signature bag drop events – motivational rallies led by STATE’s dedicated team of “PackMen” and “PackWomen” that leave participating kids with a renewed spirit and belief in themselves. Packmen and Packwomen are experienced child development specialists who grew up in low-income neighborhoods themselves and serve as role models and mentors.

In addition to purchasing bags to support deserving students, you can donate at the register of American Eagle Outfitters stores to support Teach For America. Funds will be matched by the retailer – up to $100,000 – to help Teach For America recruit, train, and place committed individuals to serve in our nation’s highest-need classrooms and open doors of opportunity to students.

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Our three organizations are committed to providing all students with access to opportunities that will allow them to succeed in school and life. We’re thrilled that with your support we can put essential school supplies into the hands of 20,000 students and can help make the 2015-16 school year one that’s filled with endless promise and potential.

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AEO, STATE & Teach for America “GiveBackPack”

You walk to the register to buy your annual new backpack. The usual scenario plays out. You decide which color suits your vibe, pull it off the rack to check out all the features, throw it on to make sure it’s comfy and then of course casually glance in the mirror. You then decide, “Yup…I’m getting this bag.”

Maybe it’s not a big deal to spend $59. Perhaps you’ve been working all summer to pay for the bag you’ve been coveting since seeing it in the American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) stores. Or maybe it’s a future gift from your parents. Whatever the case may be, we want to say thank you. Because you’re not just buying a backpack for yourself, through your purchase AEO will donate another STATE backpack to a local child in need.

Back in 2009, we created Camp POWER – a nonprofit summer camp for hundreds of kids growing up in Brooklyn’s most underfunded, turbulent neighborhoods. The goal of the program was to get kids out of the loud, hot city. But more than that, we wanted to provide positive role models, and give kids a space to try different things and meet new friends. A place that allows them to simply act their age. So many kids in these neighborhoods grow up far too fast. What our program does is slow down the speed of life, and remind them of their incredible value and remarkable potential.

Each summer, we witnessed countless kids carrying all their belongings in trash bags. It became more and more clear that in addition to a week away from Brooklyn, the kids also needed new bags, new jackets, shoes, and a whole bunch of “stuff.” But we also noticed that “stuff” could only go so far. It was encouragement from aspirational figures and love that would propel them to beat the odds stacked against them. All of this inspired us to create STATE Bags.

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We built STATE on two cornerstones: 1) for every bag sold, one will be donated to an American child in need – bringing the buy one give one model to our own backyard, and 2) providing inspirational role models in the STATE PackMen/Women – young men and women who have successfully risen from the very neighborhoods we help serve. This is what our GiveBackPack Program is all about.

So as you make your way to the register this season with your (very) cool new bag, take pride in the fact that you’re not just wearing a backpack, but a GiveBackPack. A statement that you made a choice to help improve the world around you.

Thank you to American Eagle Outfitters, its millions of dedicated customers, and Teach For America for making our dream come true in donating thousands of brand new bags – packed with supplies donated by AEO associates – to kids across the US this back to school season.

We promise that every purchase makes a difference. STATE and AEO have your back!

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Love is Love 2015

Pittsburgh, Toronto, New York City and San Francisco are not only some of the greatest cities in the world – they also happen to be just a few of the many cities that support a cause that is near and dear to our hearts… Love.

For the third year, American Eagle Outfitters is proud to be a supporter of Pittsburgh Pride on June 13th taking place on the streets of downtown close to our Headquarters. Following Pittsburgh, a series of events will take place starting on June 19th to make up the WorldPride Festival in Toronto.  On June 28th, New York City will kickoff it’s pride events with a rally and on June 27th-28th, San Francisco will host it’s annual themed Pride Celebration. We wanted to support the cause too!  So we designed limited edition tanks and t-shirts for men and women and are selling them online and in select AEO stores!  To help ensure that these events continue to take place all over the globe, we will be donating 15% of the proceeds from every purchase to InterPride. Read on to learn more about InterPride, what they stand for and the amazing work that they do.

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Shop the rest of the designs at ae.com

InterPride is the international organization that ties Pride together globally.  Members of their organization are dedicated volunteers who organize and work to put on Pride events all over the world.  InterPride’s Vision is a world where there is full cultural, social and legal equality for all.  InterPride’s Mission is to increase the capacity of their network of LGBTI Pride organizations around the world to raise awareness of cultural, social and legal inequality, and to effect positive change through education, collaboration, advocacy and outreach. InterPride acts as a source of education and a stepping-stone to elevating community interaction for PRIDE events worldwide.  They promote Pride on an international level and increase networking opportunities and communication among Pride Organizations. Learn more at interpride.org.

If you are going to one of these events or live close by, check out the following United States and Canada stores that are selling the shirts: SoHo, Times Square, 34th Street, Union Square, San Fran Center, Ross Park, South Side Works and available in the following Canada locations: Queens Street West, Eaton Centre and St. Cats.

Going to a Pride event? Tell us where in the comments below.

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AEO x Make It Right

Reuse, repair, recycle, upcycle – every day brings a new list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint and conserve resources. Most of us are happy to toss our plastic bottles and cereal boxes into a nearby bin – but Americans still produce three pounds of unrecycled garbage per person every day.

Part of the problem is that we don’t often see the end results of our efforts. Would we be more enthusiastic about recycling if we knew our trash was being used to produce something beautiful, useful or innovative? Maybe.

Make It Right is a non-profit organization building sustainable homes for people in need around the United States. Founded by Brad Pitt, Make It Right began by building homes for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. Today Make It Right works across the country – from apartments for disabled veterans in New Jersey to single-family homes for Native American families in Montana.

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Founder of Make It Right, Brad Pitt

And some of the products people recycle every day around the country end up in Make It Right homes. The countertops in the kitchens and bathrooms are made of 75% recycled content – things like glass bottles and broken porcelain dishes. Carpet is made of recycled carpet – and is recycled into new carpet when its reached the end of its use in a home. In some homes, Make It Right uses drywall made of recycled paper.

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A countertop made of recycled material

Together these products make well-designed, green homes for people in need of a safe place to live. When you choose to toss a bottle or a magazine into the recycling bin, your trash could end up helping build a home for a young person transitioning out of foster care, senior citizen, single mom, firefighter or veteran.

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 Families enjoying quality time together in their new home

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New homes made possible by Make It Right 

For Earth Day 2015, AEO is helping customers turn their old jeans into new homes. Used denim jeans can be turned into safe, sustainable insulation for homes. Better insulation increases energy-efficiency, leading to lower power bills for people in need.

More than 22.3 billion pounds of unwanted clothing, shoes and other textiles end up in U.S. landfills annually – 22.3 billion pounds! Wouldn’t you rather your favorite old jeans end up keeping someone’s home warm at night than ending up in a smelly pile of trash? Those jeans served you well – they deserve better!

It takes about 2.5 pairs of jeans to make a square foot of denim insulation. So grab your old jeans – and a friend – and bring them to your local American Eagle Outfitters store to start their new life. Even better, AEO will give you 20% off a new pair of jeans when you donate your old ones. Win-win, right?

This Earth Day your recycling effort really does make a difference to hundreds of families around the country.

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Behind the scenes: the making of the LOVE bracelet

It’s just before 7pm as the three of us watch the larger-than-life burnt orange African sun set on the edge of the Ngong Hills. Each of us covered head to toe in the deep red dirt of the Great Rift Valley, smiling from ear to ear and drinking down an ice cold Tusker beer. It’s been one of those days when you’ve worked so hard that your brain hurts and your body aches yet your face is shining because of the deep satisfaction from the day.

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Just over a decade ago I purchased a one-way ticket to Kenya. I had no idea when I got on that plane just how much the people of Kenya would change my life and what that change would create for many others. I knew very little about Africa then and about the world of international development. I was just a kid from Texas recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a heart on fire wanting to know more about my purpose in life, who I was, and where I fit in the world.

I am so grateful that I did jump on that plane, despite the well intentioned wisdom of so many who kept telling me to go to medical school first and then go help the people in Africa. I am thankful that I was too ignorant or stubborn or whatever it was to get on that plane. As a result I quickly realized it wasn’t about my helping the people of Africa, or about the people of Africa helping me, but about us learning how to love and appreciate one another. During that year of living in Kenya my understanding of the world broke wide open and for the first time I realized how intertwined our lives are to one another, even those we may never meet. My heart was shattered in such a beautiful way that I expanded and began to see how much I had to learn from my new friends and family in Kenya. For the first time I began to know the abundance of LOVE.

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And that brings us to the present moment, drinking a few Tusker beers, watching the sun set after a long day in the Kenyan wilderness overseeing the creation of our new product, the LOVE bracelet. Jeremiah, Jim and I had just spent the day visiting the 10 Maasai community groups totaling more than 400 women who had recently been employed as artisans through our collaboration with American Eagle Outfitters (AEO). It was one of those work days that you couldn’t possibly dream up even if you tried. Three friends meeting with more than 400 Maasai artisans, talking with them about life, about what it means to them to hand-stitch LOVE each day with their friends as they sit under acacia trees near their homes.

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The LOVE bracelet was designed by my friend, Chrissie Lam, during a collaborative trip to Kenya with our fashion brand, LIFE Line. We had been in partnership for a few years and wanted to partner on a product that would continue to empower the people of Kenya through job creation. One of the key elements I have learned over the past decade is that much harm has been done in Africa under the intentions of doing good. The reason for this is that much of the Western worlds efforts to “help” Africa actually perpetuates a culture of dependency where African communities literally wait on Western aid to “help” them rather than give them opportunities to live empowered lives. I have found that the best way to do this is by creating jobs where people are able to take control of their own lives by becoming business men and women providing for their families just like any of us here in the West want for our own families.

I couldn’t be more excited about our latest partnership with American Eagle Outfitters and the launch of the LOVE bracelet. Over the last 3 months during the production of the LOVE bracelet AEO has empowered LIFE Line to create more than 400 jobs for Maasai women in the Great Rift Valley. Not only have we created jobs, but the Maasai women have made these beautiful bracelets through their ancient tradition of beading under acacia trees near their homes. These products were not made in a factory. They were literally hand-stitched under acacia trees by women community groups gathered in love to stitch LOVE for you!

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Together, we have empowered these women to earn a living, care for their children, and provide for their households. It puts a smile on their faces as they wake up, walk with their community of women to live into purpose-filled work of a quality product. Their efforts also connect us here in America to a powerful story of LOVE that we then get to share via the hashtag, #loveisproject.

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As the three of us sat there watching the sun go down we all smiled knowing that such a product handcrafted in the African wilderness would soon be front in center in the 1,000 American Eagle Outfitters stores across America. What an incredible feeling and what an amazing collaboration between The Supply ChangeLIFE Line and American Eagle Outfitters to believe in something greater than ourselves and to live that belief out loud across the world through LOVE. I hope you enjoy the LOVE bracelet and ask that you please share the love via the hashtag #loveisproject. Thanks to everyone for doing your part to open this door, including our personal TRIBE and the original #loveisproject backers, for believing in us and for seeing the opportunities created when we leverage the influence of fashion to empower lives though job creation.

Big LOVE,

Zane

More about LIFE Line: lifelinefashion.org and @lifelinefashion on Instagram

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LIVE YOUR LOVE. Be a part of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

I worked in Concept Design for American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) just shy of a decade. It was an incredible job, allowing me to travel the world, searching for the coolest trends. In 2008, AEO supported my efforts during a 3 month sabbatical volunteering in Rwanda. That trip inspired me to follow my passion to merge design and international development. In June of 2012, I left AEO to start The Supply Change, an initiative that connects artisan groups with brands and creates products for collaborations. Everything has come full circle with AEO’s partnership of the Love bracelet I designed for Lifeline Fashion in Kenya. I couldn’t be happier.

Love is proportional to your will. It is an axiom.” The #loveisproject is a true testament to that and the exponential power of love. The dream is now a reality.

In April of 2013, I visited LIFE Line’s Maasai mums in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley to design new products. Finding myself inspired by the vibrant colors and patterns of the tribe, we developed an idea to design a simple and bold message bracelet in their traditional beading.

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Just over a year later, with the LOVE bracelet in hand on a flight to Russia, I struck up a conversation with two perfect strangers, girls from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. On a whim, I asked them about love. Upon landing at the Moscow airport, inspired by their answers, I snapped and uploaded a photo of them wearing the LOVE Bracelet to Instagram. The #loveisproject had begun. Coincidentally, one of the girls, Shahlo (pictured below), wore American Eagle denim.

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Four months and 31 countries later, 330 people representing 75 nationalities have worn the first LOVE bracelet. Using social media to link their love stories together, what started as a personal passion project began to blossom into a global movement of love.

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On my quest across the world searching for the meaning of love, tumultuous world events have unfolded simultaneously, juxtaposing  two passionate energies, love and hate. The profiles of people from the #loveisproject give voice to positivity rather than to the minority extremists dominating headlines.

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To see more of Chrissie’s inspirational images of her journey around the world check out her instagram page @thesupplychange

I’m so thankful for American Eagle Outfitters’ support and partnership in launching the #loveisproject this Valentine’s Day.  AEO is the largest employer of Maasai in Kenya through this collaboration, creating hundred of jobs and in turn supporting thousands in the community through economic empowerment.

I’m grateful for my friend, Zane Wilemon, Founder of LIFE Line, and the LIFE Line team who ran a stellar Indiegogo campaign raising more than $33,000 with bracelets purchased in 30 countries. Love is a shared purpose – achieving things together that you never thought were possible. This is just the beginning. Let’s celebrate Love every single day. Please join us in creating the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. May the stories of love inspire you as they have inspired us. Dream on.​

To learn more about The Supply Change click here.

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