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Will Old Navy and Aerie’s New Back-to-School Collections Save a Virus-Shaken Season?

Two giants of mass fashion have new styles in store for a back-to-school season that has parents and students wondering what learning will look like this year.

With Ascena Retail Group planning to close the majority of its tween-oriented Justice stores to focus on selling the brand online, rivals have an opportunity to grow their share of the juniors market. And with many people still wary of visiting stores and rising coronavirus cases threatening to reverse lifted lockdowns, some retailers seem to be hoping newness will inspire wary consumers to shop and spend amid the uncertainty.

Gap Inc.’s Old Navy brand is introducing its first-ever tween apparel collection in partnership with PopSugar. The limited-edition PS x ON capsule offers gender-neutral essentials for tweens ages 10 to 13. The apparel chain designed the capsule with input from a trio of tween advisors, including aspiring designer Kheris Rogers, gymnast and YouTube personality Alizé Lee and musician Jensen Gereng. “The line,” Old Navy said on Monday, “is intended to make this next generation feel confident, channel kindness and make a statement for whatever back-to-school looks like this year.”

The 25-piece capsule includes athleisure staples and denim fashion essentials ranging from hoodies and jogger fleece bottoms to graphic tees, emblazoned with upbeat phrases such as “Radiate Good Vibes,” “We’re Gonna Be Alright” and “Make the World a Better Place.” Price points span $9.99 to $39.99 for the gender-neutral tween collection, available now at and in Old Navy stores across the U.S. and Canada beginning next month.

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Both Old Navy and PopSugar are also planning a series of philanthropic initiatives for the Boys & Girls Clubs, including a social sweepstakes and an in-store fundraising campaign.

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) also unveiled new fashion for the back-to-school season. AEO’s intimates brand Aerie created Offline, an active lifestyle sub-brand oriented around health, wellness and body positivity focus for Gen Z and millennial consumers between 15 to 25.

“Building on the growing success of our leggings and activewear, Offline provides another powerful platform to grow our community, while uniquely complementing Aerie’s full lifestyle collection of bras, undies, lounge and soft apparel. We’re here for your journey as you fly and as you fall, and even the slant of the I in our name is a reminder that there is no straight path to the finish line,” said Jennifer Foyle, Aerie global brand president.

The collection, available online at, features an activewear assortment of items including leggings, bike shorts, tops, sports bras and fleece garments. Aerie said its signature OG legging is a popular choice for class, brunch outings, work and couch surfing.

Aerie said Offline advances its efforts in sustainable sourcing by using recycled fabrics. Items with an eco-friendly profile bear its Real Good badge, it added.

And British label Jack Wills is set to introduce its first kidswear collection for apparel and accessories for boys and girls up to age 16. Working with licensing partner Brands Machine Group for a lineup that includes T-shirts, sweaters and outerwear, the launch date for the collection from the Frasers Group-owned brand remains uncertain, although the product line could become available as early as October if enough retail partners sign up in time for the early distribution. The expectation is that additional size ranges for toddlers and babies will be added later on. Jack Wills offers “sporting classics, lazy-day staples and boardroom-ready looks” inspired by its coastal origins across the English Channel from France.

The Gap brand also has newness in store for the start of a new academic year, whatever that might look like this year. The new Gap Teen collection of sustainable denim girls has also launched in time for the back-to-school season, adapting popular women’s styles for younger generations. The first collection features blue-and-white tie-dye as a common theme, in addition to a tie-dye hooded sweatshirt and a pair of destroyed denim “shortalls” in washed black. The line, priced between $16.95 for a tank top and $64.95 for a denim jacket, is available in teen sizes 8 to 16. A boys’ collection also could be on horizon.