June 7, 2013; New York Daily News
Abercrombie and Fitch has recently come under media scrutiny for statements made by its CEO, Mike Jeffries, about their archetypal consumer. “We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” Jeffries said. “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
This “exclusionary” policy seems to be aimed only at their female customers, because although they provide XL and XXL in men’s tops, they do not provide any other plus sizes. Business Insider reported that 67 percent of the U.S. population fit the “plus-sized” marketing label Abercrombie and Fitch is trying to disavow.
Jeffries has made similar hateful comments in the past, particularly in an interview with Salon in 2006, but in this new age of online activism, the controversy caught fire. Other horrid A&F policies resurfaced, like the fact that the company chooses to burn all their damaged clothes rather than donate them to the homeless. A video by Greg Karber asking the public to donate all their A&F items to the homeless in retaliation went viral and gained over a million views within days. Some criticized the video for exploiting the homeless in the campaign, but the message to boycott A&F was spread far and wide nonetheless.
The staff of DoSomething.org also took to the streets last week to protest at Abercrombie and Fitch on 5th Avenue in New York City, as their online petition to call for A&F to provide clothes for all body types reached 15,000 signatures. Over thirty activists stormed the retail store wearing oversized t-shirts that read, “We may not wear this size, but 15,000 people respect people who do.” The protest was tied into DoSomething.org’s online activism campaign, which asked the public to text “SIZE” to 38383 to support the petition, using the clever hashtag #FitchPlease.
Colleen Wormsley, protester and marketing associate for DoSomething.org, said, “We don’t think being cool depends on what size you are. All kids should be considered cool no matter what their size. These are Abercrombie’s target market.”
This battle isn’t just about creating bigger sizes, but fighting A&F’s clear message to support discrimination within a teenage demographic that struggles immensely with bullying issues. Since the start of the Jeffries controversy, A&F’s sales have plummeted, suggesting that the company may need to rethink their organizational leadership to bounce back from this scandal.—Aine Creedon