“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 [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely” That is what CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, said in a 2006 interview with Salon.com about his marketing tactics.
Since it’s re-opening in 1988, Abercrombie & Fitch has faced countless accusations regarding its employment practices, merchandise, and advertising campaigns, which have been described as sexually explicit, and racist. He sparked more controversy last week when publicly announced that he wants to exclude plus-size women from wearing his clothing. Unlike its competitors, H&M and American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch does not offer XXL sizes for both men and women. The largest women’s pants available at A&F are a size 10, while H&M goes up to 16 and American Eagle goes up to a size 18.
Robin Lewis, author of The New Rules of Retail, spoke to Business Insider about the kind of people Jeffries wants advertising his brand. “He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”
This drew critic from the public as social media networks became the outlet for public expression of the brand. ToonQueen, a plus-sized blogger who runs a personal Tumblr, posted a picture of herself on her site wearing a A&F shirt, she captioned the photo, “I hope the fact that I’m a fatass that wears some A & F keeps that CEO up at night. He wakes up in a cold sweat. “Omg! someone not skinny is wearing my clothes.” WHO’S THE COOL KID NOW MOTHER F*CKER!”
Even the workers are aware of the openly discriminatory ways of their boss who says, “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,” he said.
Sherry Ramphall, who has been working for the company for four months says, she has seen discrimination at it’s worst while working there. Ramphall says that employees much fit the “image to get hired”.
“I don’t condone his practices and I’m not trying to be bias or conceited but I got hired because they only hire pretty people. You are not allowed to wear nail polish or wear a stich of makeup because they actually want naturally pretty people to represent them. I was written up my second week for using makeup to conceal my blemish. And the other day my manager asked me I was under stress because apparently, I look bigger.”
Ramphall says that in their store race, religion or gender does not matter as long as you are attractive, she says, “If you don’t fit their physical standards of beauty they will not put you on the floor to serve customers, they make them stock shelves in the back. I’ve seen a few of my female coworkers lifting heavy boxes various times, and they are only there because they don’t fit the look.”
She also confirmed the recent controversy that is that Jeffries rather burns the clothing than donate them to the homeless. “During closing time, we have to pull the damaged clothes off the racks and put them in a box for disposal,” says Ramphall.
A undisclosed source for the company says, “Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t want to create the image that just anybody, poor people, can wear their clothing. Only people of a certain stature are able to purchase and wear the company name.”
However, the companies exclusionary policies are being protested by filmmaker Greg Karber, who thinks that the retailer needs a “brand readjustment.” He launched an online campaign to protest the discrimination of homeless people. He shows his efforts in a YouTube video where he scourers the “douchebag section” of a Goodwill store for Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. He then goes to one of the nations most, homeless infested areas, Skid Row, to hand out the merchandise.
Karber is now urging the public to make his video “Fitch the Homeless” go viral to bring more awareness to the issue of discrimination. He encourages the consumers who were offended by this brand to look through their closets or their friends’ closets for Abercrombie clothing and donate them to a homeless shelter, then share their efforts through social media to make Abercrombie the “world’s No. 1 brand of homeless apparel.”