You gotta hand it to Abercrombie and Fitch, they certainly know how to make headlines, and not always for the right reasons. IN 2013 the store was the center of attention because comments that their CEO Mike Jeffries made in 2006 went viral. He made some rather discriminatory remarks about how the story only likes certain people to wear their clothes.
“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,” he said.
The internet jumped all over this customers responded in kind. One plus size blogger Jes Baker decided to create a mock campaign shoot called’ Attractive and Fat‘ which was basically a huge middle finger to the brand for saying what they did. It should also be noted that until recently, the store didn’t sell any large or plus size options.
It turns out all the bad media affected the stores sales which saw an increased decline over a number of quarters, and they decided they need to be more inclusionary. They announced they would be selling larger sizes finally! But only up to a size 10.
In light of October being National Bullying Prevention Month (along with domestic violence awareness month) the brand decided to get on board with that by offering a range of anti-bullyig tees. Two for men, two for women, and four for kids. They teamed up with ‘Pretty Little Liars’ actress Lucy Hale for the campaign, asking people “are you an ally?” and creating awareness about bullying.
Here’s the thing about this story, it baffles us that a brand who have come under hot water for being blatantly discriminatory toward peoples bodies are now trying to jump on the empowerment band wagon. Are you guys buying it, or do you think it is just a publicity stunt to win back loyal customers?
If there is any display of how anti-bullying awareness is effective, it should be exactly what A&F are doing. So here’s hoping this range is for realz, and they aren’t going to next do a “thinspiration” campaign soon after or something awful like that.
Take Part also wrote about the new range of tees, and pointed out how ironic it is that they are promoting bullying prevention, when they are about to be taken to the Supreme Court over an incident concerning a young Muslim woman Samantha Elauf who was interviewing for a job at sister store Hollister in California. The manager gave her a “low score” in the looks department, and refused to hire her because according to the company’s “look policy” employees aren’t allowed to wear “hats”. Umm, yeah, coz a Hijab falls under that category…
We understand that every workplace has some sort of a dress code and uniform, but the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who are taking up Samantha’s case argue their policy forces people to deny their religious freedoms, which in turn becomes a constitutional issue.
Take Part also mentions the hypocrisy of the store, because shirtless men outside the doors are ok, yet a young woman working inside can’t adhere to her own religious beliefs? It sounds absurd, and takes the whole “cool kids” comments to a whole other level.
Teen Vogue seems to be completely on board with the ‘Are you an Ally’ campaign, saying “If this campaign is a sign of even more positive things to come for A&F, we’re feeling pretty good about the company’s rebranding efforts.”
Us on the other hand, we are well aware that damaging comments like the ones made by CEO Mike Jeffries, and the court case pending against the company are a clear example of systemic bullying and why bullying is still so prevalent in our culture.
It is the duty of Abercrombie & Fitch to now lead the way in showing society they were wrong, they realize their mistake and do a huge about-face with their campaigns. They will indeed have to work hard to regain their huge losses, because with the world of online retail and plenty of other quality brands available for a much better price, they are going to have to do much more than simply apologize.
We’re not here to bash them in any way, we want to point out all the facts and make sure our readers are aware of how far bullying can go. It could be worse, they could lose in court and eventually disappear into retail obscurity. But if they are serious about staying on trend and catering to a wider range of bodies (read: increased profits) they need to be doing exactly what they are with this anti-bullying campaign.
Don’t let us down again A&F. Judging from the photos above taken from their Facebook page, they are certainly making a push for diversity also. Here is the video with Lucy Hale talking about bullying prevention: