Abercrombie and Fitch: the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Retail Giant
Abercrombie and Fitch: “Authentic American clothing since 1892”.
Yet my scepticism challenges this particular adjective. The only “authentic” character that this label could legitimately pride itself on is chick flick heart-throb, Channing Tatum; the athletic private-school type whom shy females dote on and admire in too-tight ‘A&F’ t-shirts bursting with a pubescent muscular frame. In other words, the only type that can pull off Abercrombie and Fitch is an American high-school television cliché that doesn’t exist in real life. Authentic? I think not.
But my argument for Abercrombie’s lack of authenticity digs a little deeper than a frivolous sneer at their fan base. Just as I’m not referring to the scandal that emerged last year about the label refusing to manufacture extra-large sizes of their clothing, which merely foregrounds a self-important Abercrombie grandiose that only thin is beautiful enough (indeed, apparently you don’t wear the brand, the brand wears you). What I am referring to is something, perhaps, far darker. Even darker than their nightclub-like interiors that bombard you with pumping subwoofer bass music and agonizingly over-sculpted, half-dressed hunky sales assistants.
In 2011, it was found that Abercrombie and Fitch send all their faulty stock to the incinerator. The CEO, Mike Jeffries, insists that this is for a justifiable cause. According to an online business journal: “any clothing that has any type of blemish, including things such as a stitch missing or a frayed fabric, gets sent back to the company for immediate disposal.” Furthermore, any seasonal stock rejected in the last survivals of their clearance sales is also promptly returned for incineration, rather than donated to charity shops or homeless shelters- the more logical solution.
The brand validates this as, “Abercrombie and 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.” Initially, this quote attributed to an anonymous Abercrombie brand manager, sheds light on a human of conceit and ostentation (incidentally, two traits I tend to associate with the Hollywood prep character referred to earlier). But on second reflection, it actually demonstrates a truly disgraceful and backward attitude in a twenty-first century world that still harbours very real and relevant global issues like homelessness. Jeffries is ultimately a powerful and wealthy individual who is in a position to help but actively chooses not to. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, over ten thousand people were left homeless.
Even in a so-called modernised Western society, this clothing giant would turn their backs on them- almost literally speaking. Statistically, Abercrombie reported a loss of $15.6 million in 2013, or 20 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $84 million, or $1.02 a share. One considers how much of that $15.6 million loss was due to surplus stock that was deemed unprofitable, and therefore purposely incinerated with flames of prejudice and philistinism.
Yet the term “authentic” has endured for the brand since 1892, apparently. This slogan offers a semi-nostalgic flair for the yesteryear foundations of U.S. culture, reminiscent of July 4th celebrations that asks us to appreciate American independence. Though it is ironic to consider that the War of Independence that America engaged in to relieve them of transatlantic authority resulted in thousands being injured and impoverished; if Abercrombie and Fitch had existed in 1780, they would not have supported the men who helped make America the nation it is today (indeed, the one they so proudly associate themselves with). The reality is: Abercrombie and Fitch believe that only those with class and elegance would purchase their clothing. But in reality, their appalling prejudice demonstrates that they are not all that they seem.
One individual did something incredibly mischievous, but brilliant, in response to this. YouTube filmmaker Greg Karber scavenged a Los Angeles Goodwill store for Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, proceeding to then hand them out to homeless people on Skid Row, notorious for the impoverished and destitute. He then called on his viewers to do the same through social media using the hashtag #FitchTheHomeless. As a matter of fact, the label has received a lot of negative press regarding this issue. Online magazine ‘Elite Daily’ commented: “it seems like the world is finally figuring out that the glamorous ideals of A&F were really implemented by some of the most hideous personalities known to man. It’s people who dedicate their lives to helping those in need who should be endorsed and idolized, not those who don’t value compassion and generosity.” I couldn’t agree more with this. In a sick and twisted way, a malicious personality surfaces behind that sickly-sweet Californian smile their too-thin model wears in their website photographs. One that is backward and indisposed with sadistic policies unbeknown to their adolescent shoppers. Let’s pray that they won’t inherit these like-minded classist beliefs.
This article was written and submitted by Emily Lyhne-Gold for Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition,18 -21 category. Emily was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submissions.