Remember in the early 2000s when Abercrombie & Fitch was synonymous with popular? When the A&F logo was a symbol of social status among teens? That was a time when Abercrombie was at the height of its popularity. A time before former CEO Mike Jefferies sat down for an interview with Salon.
“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,” said Jefferies back in 2006. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
On a separate occasion, Jefferies stated, "Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they're about to jump on a surfboard."
He drew further backlash when he commented on the companies hiring practices. "We hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people."
Consumers criticized his comments. An online petition collected more than 68,000 signatures and called for the company to take action against Jefferies. It was a PR nightmare. A&F issued their apologies in hopes the brand wouldn’t lose any momentum. But in the decade that followed, sales dwindled, Jefferies stepped down, and the name every teen once wore was replaced by new clothing companies.
Now, on the cusp of the holiday season, Abercrombie & Fitch hopes to redefine the brand with a goal that aims to include, rather than alienate. In a statement released by A&F, the new brand conviction will be launched with the Company's largest ever advertising campaign. At the same time, A&F will introduce a completely redesigned website, all-new digital advertising across video streaming websites, music platforms, and social media, and out-of-home marketing in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
"Rather than buying clothes that symbolize membership in an exclusive group, today's consumer celebrates individuality and uniqueness. Our new brand reflects that confidence and independence of spirit as well as our own dedication to a more diverse and inclusive culture," said Fran Horowitz, President and Chief Merchandising Officer of Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
While the campaign progresses towards inclusion, the fashion remains familiar. Will Abercrombie's reinvention influence wish lists this season, or will consumers continue to opt for new brands in the new year?