Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Michael Jeffries, has made it clear: fat girls are unwelcome customers.
Robin Lewis, author of “The New Rules of Retail,” recently spoke to Business Insider about Abercrombie & Fitch’s Jeffries and the kind of people he wants wearing his clothes.
“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.’”
Looking at their catalog and in-store advertising, bordering on soft-porn, this outing of Jeffries as a “fat-a-phobe” should not surprise anyone. Since taking the helm in the mid-nineties, Jeffries has turned the store from a heritage outfitters frequented by the likes of Clark Gable and Greta Garbo into a sexed-up retail experience where the lines between selling skin and selling denim are intentionally muddied.
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Abercrombie & Fitch has made headlines with their quarterly catalog full of nude pictorials of young anorexic looking girls and their giant store posters featuring half-dressed male models.
But now we learn that those cheaply made jeans and t-shirts, while excessively overpriced, are not oversized. Apparently Abercrombie & Fitch does not stock XL or XXL sizes in women’s clothing because they don’t want overweight women wearing their brand.
Interestingly however, Abercrombie & Fitch does sell larger sizes for men, supposedly to accommodate the “athletic male.” While I don’t begrudge a company for targeting their niche market, I’ve rarely witnessed such a brazen and borderline-misogynistic attitude displayed by the CEO of a mainstream retailer.
Jeffries justifies his puerile views this way:
“Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
If Jeffries is so concerned about becoming stale, perhaps he should think beyond the overused sex strategy, and use some high-level creativity in his marketing approach. Few things become as tiresome as the constant manipulation of raging teen hormones just to turn a profit.
And certainly nothing is more passé than clinging to juvenile high school social standards that place a greater value on outside appearances …
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries explains. “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.”
Perhaps it’s time to show Mr. Jeffries that weight and height are no determiner of attitude and worth.
While he may not stock clothing designed to fit the curvy girl, that shouldn’t preclude her from darkening the doors of the elitist establishment. It’s time for the fat girl to gather her friends (the ones that Jeffries ignorantly denies she has) and provide some free onsite sensitivity training to Mr. Jeffries.
While a “Fat Girls Sit-In” probably won’t change the backward thinking of one CEO’s warped worldview, it may demonstrate to a watching world that Jeffries’ definition of “cool” and “beautiful” is the intolerable stuff that shallow and small-minded individuals are made of.
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