We sat down with Merchandise Manager of Men’s Accessories and Underwear, AJ Burkett. to get the scoop on daily life at the office. Not only did we learn about his role, and what makes him tick, we scored a rapid fire interview full of humorous questions with him as well. Check out his answers below and get to the “bottom” of who he is… no and’s, if’s or “butts” about it (see what we did there?).
There are so many great underwear fits at AEO – what is your favorite?
We love all of the great prints & pattern this season. What was the inspiration for the Spring assortment?
The idea is to translate apparel trends into underwear. We don’t want to be six months behind or even a month behind apparel trends. Lately we have been right where we need to be. The assortment feels fresh, optimistic and fun for our customer. It fits right in with what is going on in the store and I think we are ahead of the competition.
Speaking of patterns, do you get to choose which patterns make the cut?
It’s a collaborative effort between our merchandising team and design team. Sometimes there are great patterns that might not make the cut simply because of how they will look packaged and displayed on in store fixtures. But you can generally tell by the reaction of the room what will make it and what won’t.
What has been your favorite pattern to date?
I love the photo real prints. There are also a lot of 90’s sort of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air prints coming in for the May Floorset that are really cool.
What is the latest & greatest coming down the pipeline – what are you most excited about?
More exciting photoreal ideas as well as waist band treatments. I wont give anything away but there are some insane ideas coming down the pike.
AEO’s underwear has such an iconic waistband. We’ve heard rumors that it is just going to get better over the next couple seasons – do tell?!?
There is some very exciting in the development stage. You can look forward to printed waistbands and metallic ideas to name a few. The classics will always be there, but we want the most diverse assortment out there.
What makes our underwear stand out from our competitors?
First, we have a fit for everyone. Secondly, we stand behind each fit with neutrals, pop colors, prints, pattern etc. Lastly, is the price – you can’t beat our quality at our price point.
How did you get into merchandising?
I started working in retail in college and fashion was always something I kept my eye on. I graduated with a Business Management degree but really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I went to AEO because I loved the store and eventually got hired as an Assistant Manager in a store near Albany, NY. I worked there for a year and a half when corporate sent a memo to stores looking for Assistant Buyers. I read the job description and instantly knew that was what I was looking for all along. I applied, interviewed and was hired in January 2005 and have been here ever since.
Describe your personal style in two sentences or less.
AEO used a tag line a few years ago that I always liked called ‘preppy with an edge’. On trend, but classic with staple wardrobe peices.
List some of your favorite current trends and how you are wearing them.
Some of the trends we are doing really well with right now are Americana and print and pattern which we already mentioned. Personally I like to wear them more as accent pieces to classic looks. For example, I have been carrying our camo backback and I love it. I also picked up our Americana pattern swim trunks as well.
Name one go-to piece in your closet and why.
I think I would have to say denim. First piece you need to complete an outfit.
What inspires your style and how would you describe it?
Really everything around me. People most importantly but magazines, blogs, websites, music. The more you see the more versatile you can be with your style. I guess that would be my word….
One thing on your bucket list…
Travel everywhere I can.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Life is a marathon not a sprint” is something my Dad said that has always rung true. And less eloquently but just as important my brother always said “If you are not going to die or go to jail, it’s not that big of a deal”. Basically saying roll with the punches and things are never as bad as they seem.
And the advice you’d offer aspiring merchandisers?
Make your opinion heard. You are here for a reason. No one ever gets ahead sitting in the background.
Five words to describe you…
Laid back, fun, outgoing, a good friend and hopefully well dressed.
At the moment – Austin, TX.
“Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” – Ron Swanson