Our Turn to B**ch about Abercrombie & Fitch

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Size Acceptance and Abercrombie Fitch | Obesity, Body Image and Women's ClothierOkay, so it’s not likely that many of us are shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch to start with (I think the pulsing music and disco lights may be a deterrent to the 20+ crowd), but this week it was confirmed that the CEO doesn’t want the majority of us there anyway.

According to an article in Business Insider magazine:

“Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t stock XL or XXL sizes in women’s clothing because they don’t want overweight women wearing their brand. They want the ‘cool kids,’ and they don’t consider plus-sized women as being a part of that group.”

Indeed, CEO Mike Jeffries has a track record of alluding to his exclusionary vision. In a 2006 Salon article, he stated:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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.”

Jeffries said he thinks that including everyone would make his business boring.

“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.”

“Those companies” can be inferred as rivals H&M and American Eagle, which carry sizes up to 16 and 18. The largest at Abercrombie & Fitch is a 10.

Now, there is evidence of niche marketing being highly effective, and we’ve all heard the old adage “no publicity is bad publicity,” so maybe he’s a retail genius and omitting larger sizes from his stores is part of his master plan as opposed to accommodating the average size-14 woman. But, retail genius or not, we’ll call him a bully. Exclusion is a form of bullying, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

We’ve recently been tackling the issue of self-bullying and how that is a real threat to our self acceptance and body positivity. But people with attitudes like Jeffries do a pretty good job of driving hoards of young women to dark places of body hate, binge eating and shame.

The Internet has exploded this week with news about Jeffries’ statements, and so many people, plus size or not, had strong words for him. We wanted to include a few of those:

So, what do YOU think? What would you say to Jeffries if you could?

14 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Lis Drage says:

    Schools and organizations have spent SO much time and money in programs to stopping bullying, to teach kids to accept themselves and others the way they are and to treat each other and themselves kindly and yet this idiot, just undid so much of that hard work by , not implying, but SAYING that if you don’t fit that “cool” kid skinny look, that you are of no worth. As an overweight adult, I really don’t care. But as a mother of 3 teenage girls I am irate! I know a few of my kids’ friends who aren’t quite the right size for this clothing line. What does this do to them?? How does this make them feel? This is exactly what causes eating disorders and social exclusion amongst kids. He just gave kids permission to look down on others, he’s just empowered the thinner population to think they are better than others by wearing his clothes. He just effectively pointed his finger and called all the other kids losers. Who does that? This should be used in anti-bullying campaigns, that to wear his clothes is to support his views.

  • Lisa Christie says:

    Thanks so much, Lis. This is the hardest part about this story is the impact it will have on the fragile egos of teenage girls who already have to work so hard at body acceptance in this society. To be told by a leading retailer they are not good enough is heartwrenching. I hope that all parents of teens will stop shopping there and encourage others to do the same.

  • Lori says:

    I’m sorry, I just don’t think this is bullying. There are lots of stores where I cannot shop. I can’t shop in Victoria’s Secret either. A&F has a certain look. It’s not for overweight people. If they made their clothes in larger sizes, they – the clothes – would look terrible. This guy has made a business decision to market to a certain group. Now if he starts losing money because he is not making clothes for the average American, he’ll either adapt or go out of business.

    Instead of wishing you could wear A&F clothes, embrace who you are now and find clothes that fit and look good on you.

    • Karen Greene says:

      just thinking if Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart and other stores that have classy clothing, upbeat fashions for women who are not a size 10, would that also be considered bullying? this business model work for them so instead of picking on A&F how about letting it go? we are who we are, we are beautiful in our own ways, or we are ugly..it all depends upon our perspective. as adults, we have had to find our way and if we do not concentrate on what we are instead of what size we wear, our teenage girls..who are still easily influenced…will not have a fighting chance.

  • Lisa Christie says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Lori. I think that bullying is an appropriate word for his comments “they can’t belong.” It’s his company, he can do what he wants, but I won’t condone it. I have come to a better place where I can say “screw them” to companies who don’t make clothes to fit me, but for young women, primarily teenage girls, being told they aren’t good enough to shop where their thinner friends shop can be devastating.

  • Lis Drage says:

    That’s easy to say as an adult. All of us can say that. I have no need to wear a certain brand clothes no matter what my size. And yes, A&F has their look. But I’m sure young overweight teens were already aware of they didn’t fit A&F’s mold without being told outright that they are not meant to wear A&F clothes because they are fat, and therefore are NOT cool. I just find it rather cruel.

  • April Deming says:

    I wouldn’t want to waste my time speaking with this man. Their marketing has always been to the young and adolescent. I had 4 daughters – we did NOT shop there. Never will. All four daughters are part of the ‘cool” kids – (by his standards) as adults now. They don’t shop there either.

  • Harriet Krivit says:

    A & F awful attitude! But I’ll address something more subtle that does the same degrading damage.
    Go into even the great dept. stores. Plus sizes are often relegated to the back or basement level and in Sak’s 5th I remember even with their expensive plus clothes, they were on the top floor separated from the others. And the displays usually lacking altogether or drab. I digress, funny thing about A & F.
    For many years this store was very tweedy and English country style. AND, I could and did find 16′s and 18′s (didn’t call them plus then). I don’t remember even seeing a petite dept. They were just sporty classics…and it was a very sporty classic store.Too bad it was sold and changed. I miss the old A & F. No one felt left out in that store.

    • Lisa Christie says:

      Thanks Harriet, couldn’t agree more. In addition to plus-size clothes being at the back of the store, some retailers only sell them online, not in the store at all, ahem… Old Navy. Ragen Chastain of Dances with Fat said she won’t support them either because they want her money, but they don’t want her in their stores.

  • Lori says:

    Thanks Lisa and Lis, for your comments! I wasn’t thinking from a teenager’s point-of-view. It’s been a long time…thanks for helping me understand!

  • Cheryl says:

    What a terrible public image to have for a clothing retail company. Skinny are welcome but plus size are not. My daughters do not shop here, we do believe in buying from a retailer with principles and one that offers plus size to ‘all’ the products. It’s a shame some retailers hide the plus size or have little variety. Thanks Lisa for the write up, it’s just sad this exists today.

  • Richael says:

    Oh yes this is bullying for sure Lisa. This CEO is he serious? What a unrealistic and morally unsound business strategy. I wonder how fast he changes his tune, when America starts to reject this marketing strategy. I hope more parents read this and further bring awareness to their children of this demonstrative negative behavior.

  • […] the news is reminiscent of the recent Abercrombie & Fitch fiasco, in which the CEO unapologetically admitted that he didn’t want plus-size shoppers because […]

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