Abercrombie and Fitch have taken a battering in the media over the past couple of months, and rightly so. But this hardly comes as a surprise, the seeds were sown seven years ago. Mike Jeffries, CEO of A&F, gave an interview in 2006 where he was quoted saying:
“A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Thoroughly charming man. The fact that A&F do not stock XL and XXL womens sizes has recently come back to media attention as has his “exclusionary” interview. Jeffries is very clear in outlining his target market as young, thin and “beautiful” all Americans, and frankly, he does not wish to see his clothes on anyone else. I should note Jeffries recently put out a statement confirming that although he did say these things, they have been taken wildly out of context and he never meant to cause offense. I think he was pretty clear with what he meant and to quote him again:
“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
Look at me twisting his words by repeating exactly what he said showing the full context of his meaning. What a bastard I am.
To play devil’s advocate, a business needs to segment the market and effectively target their core customer base in order to successfully make a profit. If he wants to make clothes only for skinny “cool” people, let him. Having looked at their website to marvel at their “unique” look, I can conclude that the only unique thing about their clothes is that they have an A&F label stitched into them. For the most part, almost identical fashions can be found elsewhere on the high street, cheaper and in a wider range of sizes. I say we let A&F’s cool kids do what they want and leave them to wallow in their douchebaggery.
But what is alarmingly offensive is the way Jeffries segregates the market into those he deems beautiful and “not beautiful”. Apparently the Dove campaign showing the real beauty of women was wrong. If you aren’t skinny, you cannot be beautiful or cool, so might as well give up now right? It is rich getting lessons on the concept of beauty from a man whose face looks like it is slowly melting under a bright light. You are hardly an Adonis yourself Mike.
The Dove campaign a couple years back was a wonderful piece of work telling us what we all knew, but what advertisers used to avoid saying – beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We live in a time where we are surrounded by enough fakery and exclusion, all the while knowing that the world SHOULD be a more open and welcoming place. So when karma rears its head to bite Mr Melty in the ass, you can’t help but take vindictive satisfaction from it.
I am not referring to the righteous uproar caused by A&F only selling to skinny folk, even though I must admit some level of joy seeing their brand image crashing around them. No I am referring to them being refused listed building consent, scuppering their plans to open a store on the illustrious and EXCLUSIVE Savile Row.
While they acquired the leasehold for the historic building last year and are well within their rights to open a store, the alterations they want to make to the building have been firmly turned down by Westminster City Council. A&F were seeking to change the building to have a nightclub style atmosphere to help lure skinny and vapid folk through the doors. But this would be wholly unsuitable for area.
So dear Abercrombie and Fitch, you have gained infamy through your methods of exclusion, refusing to cater for those you deem undesirable, predominantly hiring white “beautiful” people who have the tendency to be topless, sticking your less than perfect looking staff in the stock rooms so customers don’t have to suffer having ugly people around them, releasing thongs targeted at schoolgirls and burning unused inventory because donating clothes to the poor would be bad for your company image (who would have thought an act of charity was bad for your image?) Holy crap you are a walking PR disaster, but these things are your prerogative. But with such beautiful and perfect irony, your brand is not welcome on Savile Row. Is Savile Row exclusionary? Absolutely. Kindly do one.
Anyone who wants to do something to voice their displeasure at Abercrombie and Fitch, consider taking part in the Fitch the Homeless campaign. A campaign looking to readjust A&F’s coveted brand image, find out more in the video below.
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