On April 1st 2022, Netflix announced a brand new documentary. It details the rise of the controversial retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch. “White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” is due on 19 April, 2022.
Retail royalty Abercrombie and Fitch became wildly popular in the 90s to early 2000s, with their success eclipsing the competition. In Netflix’s upcoming documentary, White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch, audiences can watch the journey towards the brand’s major success; and how it became tainted by the discrimination inflicted on its customers and staff.
Abercrombie and Fitch was heavily marketed as an ‘All American’ brand, an idea that resonated strongly with their customer base. The public came to realise, however, that ‘All American’ really meant young, able-bodied, thin, well-off white people.
The trailer gives us an insight into Abercrombie and Fitch, and how it became a mega label of the 90s and early 2000s. The main point of discussion is the brand’s discriminatory actions, including accusations of racism towards staff and consumers.
Previous CEO Mike Jeffries was known to promote the exclusivity of this brand. He often stated that its for the “cool kids”. Jeffries enforced that America’s unattractive, obese, or otherwise unwanted teenagers should go shopping elsewhere. In 2006, he said,
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “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. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. 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.”
On numerous occasions, he said that the brand didn’t stock larger female sizes because he didn’t want “fat chicks” to wear his clothes or be in his stores.
Under his reign, the brand became over-sexualised and advertisements mainly featured thin white people. There was a strict hiring process, solely based on appearance. Not to mention the fact that existing staff were grossly mistreated. Basically, this company was a breeding ground of racism, fat-shaming and Islamophobia.
In the trailer, a participant introduces the idea that Abercrombie and fitch didn’t invent the evils that they upheld but they packaged it, which reflected the worst aspects of the white society of America in the 90s and early 2000s. Sadly, it still exists now.
Abercrombie and Fitch’s Response
The response from Abercrombie and Fitch regarding the documentary announcement has been positive. However they turned to social media to explain their viewpoint. They posted a statement on Instagram, with the hashtag #Abercrombietoday.
In the spirit of transparency, we want to directly acknowledge the news of an upcoming documentary that will feature Abercrombie & Fitch and focus on an era that took place under previous leadership. While the problematic elements of that era have already been subject to wide and valid criticism over the years, we want to be clear that they are actions, behaviors and decisions that would not be permitted or tolerated at the company now.
As we’ve evolved, we’ve felt the love from this community. We are grateful for the support you have given us as we’ve taken intentional steps to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
Thank you for giving us the chance to show you who Abercrombie is today, and for being a part of who we will be tomorrow. We know the work is never done and remain committed to continually creating a company of which we can all be proud.
A More Inclusive Brand
The Abercrombie and Fitch of 2022 is vastly different from that of the 90s and early 2000’s. Most importantly, they switched CEO’s. The CEO of A&F today is Franz Horowitz – and she has made big moves towards inclusivity, creating stores where everyone can belong. Things started to change in 2015 – when they got rid of the shirtless boys outside of their stores. They stopped calling their workers ‘models’, and altogether stopped hiring based on looks.
In 2020, they launched the Abercrombie Equity Project which is dedicated to supporting marginalised people and raising awareness of social and racial injustices. Also in 2020, they launched their #FACEYOURFIERCE campaign, a year-long campaign featuring activists, artists, dancers, authors, community trailblazers, and models among many other participants.
Throughout the campaign each person shares thier experiences with body positivity, self-empowerment, overcoming obstacles and their fight for LGBTQI+, Gender and racial equality. The aim is to inspire Abercrombie and Fitches customers to find their inner strength and sense of belonging.
Overall, A&F had a complete overhaul from their ethics to their clothing which was toned down from a preppy style to basics, athleisure wear and comfortable clothing that was more size-inclusive than before. Though this is all great and much needed, it’s still a business. These issues are systematically routed within our capitalist society. Yes, this is a great step in the right direction – but we shouldn’t shift our focus from the issue entirely.
Overall Customers are pleased with the changes, which is reflected in their comment sections on social media.
Community and Audience Response
The comment section on the Netflix Instagram page is full of, mostly positive comments. Basically, Netflix are being commended for making this documentary. Many people are sharing their experiences with Abercrombie and Fitch, which echoes the themes explored in the trailer.
Many flocked to the comment section to share their experiences one commenter stated,
Finally a documentary on this! Even when I was a kid I was like “It’s giving racist and it’s def not for me” I was nine. – @Aizeasowata
Another commenter shared their experience working for the company.
100% true. I was a manager and my DM [District Manager] came in a surprise visit and told me I had “too many Asians” on the floor. We had 2. – @Brooke_g_m
Another commenter also shared a similar experience.
Lol not me being told I gained “Too much fluff” to get promoted to manager. – @tar.tar.binks
Overall, this documentary is one that is already pulling an interested and wide audience.
“White Hot: The rise and fall of Abercrombie and Fitch” is directed by Alison Klayman and is set for release on April 19th 2022.
Until then, check out the trailer below:
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