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Abercrombie & Fitch meets Foot-in-Mouth
Earlier this year, Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO, Michael Jeffries, was asked about why it was that his company didn't produce plus-sized clothing. His response was thus:
"In every school there are cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with great attitude and lots of friends. A lot of people don't belong in our clothes, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.
That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking attack other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."
Wow. When I first was shown this quote, I seriously researched it for some time until I was convinced it was genuine. The diatribe sounds like something out of a Saturday Night Light skit, ridiculing the narrow-mindedness of the fashion industry. However, much to my dismay, it turns out the quote is accurate and, thanks to some shots volleyed back at Abercrombie from Kirstie Alley, this is a lot less low-key than it was a short time ago. (http://news.yahoo.com/video/kirstie-alley-slams-abercrombie-fitch-124001199.html)
Let's ignore for a moment that the man openly admits to discriminatory hiring practices in his own chain - which is what we in the biz call "kind of illegal" - and focus on the rest of the sentiment. It's rare to see such hateful, shallow thinking displayed in such a raw, open fashion. Rarer still is it to see a man go through life lacking the tact necessary to simply sidestep a question. I hope for Mr. Jeffries' sake he never runs for elected office.
What one might consider is an analogy to the movie industry, but which I mean a film starring those aforementioned "cool kids" and "not-so-cool kids". Which of these groups tends to be seen as heroes and which ones are portrayed as little more than bullies? I think it's telling when you view it in that lighting, is it not?
Under normal circumstances, this would be the time when I rallied the troops together for action but - as it turns out - someone has already lead that charge. Greg Karber, a fantastic Los Angeles-based film maker, has launched a viral video campaign (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O95DBxnXiSo ) instructing those who haven't bought clothes from A&F to remain those who haven't and those who have already, to donate their clothes to the poor and less-fortunate. His stated goal is to "To make Abercrombie & Fitch the world's number one brand of homeless apparel." I whole-heartedly endorse the same and encourage you to spread that lovely link to his video around as much as you can.
As much as I love being on the cutting edge of battles yet ongoing, there are people already doing above and beyond what I can do from my station. So, instead, all I will do is urge you to not take this vitriolic hatred to heart. The narrow-minded ravings of a man who doesn't even meet his own criterion has no power over you, and you can answer by simply not buying the rhetoric or the brand. I know how frustrating and upsetting it can be, but you need not answer in anger. Personally, I find answering in passive-aggression to be far more entertaining. Here's to the Fitch the Homeless campaign, the ever-growing enraged bloggers of Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, and the rebirth of a brand - the #1 brand for the so-called "not-so-cool kids".
Written by: Jeff M.
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
"Henry James once defined life as that predicament which precedes death, and certainly nobody owes you a debt of honor or gratitude for getting him into that predicament. But a child does owe his father a debt, if Dad, having gotten him into this peck of trouble, takes off his coat and buckles down to the job of showing his son how best to crash through it."