American Eagle vice president of women’s design Lara Knight keeps a finger on the pulse of the women's denim category.
With the mom jeans buzz hitting hard this year, Lara Knight has shown her knack for tapping into the right trends at the right time. More than just stoking FOMO, though, the American Eagle vice president of women’s design is using her talents to cultivate inclusivity and bring good-fitting jeans to more people than ever—while still embracing denim’s roots and championing authenticity.
Along with offering extended sizing in stores, American Eagle and Knight are addressing common fit woes with styles like a new Curvy fit designed to eliminate waistband gapping. Looking forward, Knight is heading into 2020 with an eye on new technology, an ear toward the sustainability conversation, and a nod to denim’s history.
Describe your design aesthetic.
Young and fun, trend-driven yet approachable and inclusive. I like to take inspiration from the past and incorporate that into innovative and bold styles that are classic and timeless.
Why do you think your designs are resonating with consumers today?
I’m so proud that American Eagle (AE) is the No. 1 jeans brand for women of all ages in the U.S. Every design choice I make is with the AE customer in mind. This includes big-picture trend ideas, to creating the perfect back pocket placement. The goal is to design jeans to make every girl feel her best self no matter her shape or size. I am really excited about the launch of our Curvy fit, which was designed with a little more room in the hip and thigh and a smaller waist to eliminate waistband gapping. AE jeans’ vast assortment of styles and size ranges are unparalleled. We offer the customer premium washes and fabrics, amazing fits and the best value.
I also believe in selling products that are marketed in an authentic way. By featuring our customers in our campaigns—wearing our jeans—and encouraging them to express their unique individual style, we have gained a trust and loyalty between the customer and the product. That is priceless.
If you could change one thing about the denim industry, what would it be?
Accessibility to new technologies. I’d love for all manufacturers and brands to have the opportunity to take advantage of the exciting new tech innovation that is driving increased sustainability of the denim industry. At AE, we are committed to reducing our environmental impact and improving the materials we use.
What advice would you give to a new denim designer?
Get to know your brand and your customer as quickly as possible. New designers also need to learn and understand vintage denim—its roots and the history, and the impact of culture and music and how it has influenced the evolution of denim. If you don’t understand the past, you can’t design for the future.
What’s exciting you about denim in 2019?
Everything! This is one of most exciting times to be in our industry. Fabrics are more innovative than ever, especially with a focus on recycled fibers. And manufacturing is transforming with robotics, new dye processing and yarn spinning. All of these things continue to evolve, allowing for the impossible to become possible. Additionally, finding new ways to relate and communicate with our customers is pushing us to think outside the box and create new ways of engaging with customers.