“Hot White. The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch”, fame, beauty and controversies


Abercrombie & Fitch is a very old brand. Founded in 1892, remember the documentary warm white The rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, by Alison Klayman, dressed hunters, fishermen, including the president, from 1901 to 1909, of the United States Theodore Roosevelt and the writer Ernest Hemingway. After declaring bankruptcy in 1970, the company was relaunched in 1992, targeting a clientele of cool, well-educated young WASPs (“White Anglo-Saxon Protestants”).

Mike Jeffries, its CEO, is inspired by competitors Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. But, if these last two brands pose or dress African-American models and celebrities, Calvin Klein almost always refrains from doing so: it is this path that Abercrombie & Fitch follows, which becomes the antithesis of the famous “United Colors by Benetton” , released in 1984…

The image of the brand is entrusted to photographer Bruce Weber, to whom Calvin Klein had turned: while Abercombie & Fitch is a mixed bag, these photos mainly show young men, shirtless, sometimes in tight, wet shorts. This highly sexualized bias attracts girls, homosexuals, and obviously doesn’t repel straight people.

Racism and discrimination

T-shirts emblazoned with questionable slogans spark anti-racist protests: After selling by the thousands, they were pulled from shelves in 2002. Like many other brands, Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t offer plus sizes. But, in 2006, Mike Jeffries exposes himself to scandal by declaring: “A lot of people are out of place. [dans nos vêtements] and it will never be there. Are we exclusive? Absolutely. »

But what will undermine the brand’s image and spark high-profile lawsuits is the revelation that Abercrombie & Fitch discriminates against candidates based on their physical appearance when recruiting: it’s not about spoiling the shops with trendy nightclubs with booming music.

From 1996 to 2008, the financial results are growing. Then they fall continuously and the mark goes down. Mike Jeffries resigns in 2014 while, three years later, Bruce Weber is accused of sexual assault by male models. Today, Abercrombie & Fitch is still around, exhibiting the inclusivity of its time and proud to offer plus-size designs. But your brand image is blurred.

read also Abercrombie & Fitch boss fired

The weak point of Alison Klayman’s documentary –very rich in testimonies but which is lengthy and repetitive– is rereading the history of this brand with today’s reading grid. It is true, however, that if social media and mindsets had been what they are in 2022, Abercrombie & Fitch would have sunk under controversy faster.

warm white The rise and fall of Abercrombie & FitchAlison Klayman documentary (EU, 2022, 88 min.) on Netflix.com

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