11.Brands in the Hot Seat: A&F

Abercrombie Sign
There has been some recent activity with the brand Abercrombie & Fitch. Call it good, call it bad, but CEO Mike Jeffries says he’s sticking to his ideals regarding the brand and who should be wearing it.

mike-jeffries-ceo-abercrombie-fitch

According to Jeffries, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” Basically Jeffries says if you’re not cool, you can’t wear his shit. Ouch! Regardless of his brand being exclusionary, the fact remains that he is so against a certain body type he is not only propagandizing an image of what beauty is, he is reinforcing this negative image towards young women and men. Furthermore the brand is reflected through Jeffries’ viewpoints, and thus A&F becomes the bully in high school who kicks the smaller or bigger kids around saying their fat, ugly, or uncool.

From a brand perspective, it’s fine to be exclusionary and only target a specific audience. But going around publicly crying that only attractive people to buy your product is not how you set your brand in a positive light. A&F isn’t the first to implement exclusionary tactics, other luxury style brands have been doing the same for years. Yet, the difference between A&F and say, Tiffany’s, is Tiffany & Co. only advertises to a high luxury upper class but still has jewelry that is available to everyone. A&F, says we aren’t even going to bother making our product available to everyone and we also don’t want unattractive people buying our brand. If this doesn’t come as a huge warning sign to A&F, I don’t know what will.

To make matters worse (not better), Jeffries’ issued an apology over the controversial remarks with a half-assed attempt.

Jeffries Apology

It was a P.R. move gone wrong and reminded me of another failed attempt to apologize to consumers.

To say the least, people had, had enough. Greg Karber decided he wanted to do something and made a video to protest the brand’s fault. In a move called “Fitch the Homeless,” Karber goes around and donates A&F clothes to the homeless. Brilliant! Hopefully A&F has seen this and is planning on doing something, who knows if it is good or not. The only downside to Karber’s thesis is the way he represents the homeless in his video-painting them as the epitome of “uncool.” But his heart is in the right place by looking at who really needs clothes.