Okay, 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.
“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:
- The Huffington Post ran an open letter from Sheila Moeschen to Jeffries, in which she said she’d “rather die a thousand deaths of paper cuts and lemon juice than to tarnish your glorious, vapid empire with my mediocrity.”
- Ragen Chastain of the blogs Never Say Diet and Dances with Fat wonders who else they would keep out of their clothes if they could find a way.
- And Brittany of the Curvy Girl Guide hilariously said, “my immediate response was… Abercrombie & Fitch is still the in-crowd?”
So, what do YOU think? What would you say to Jeffries if you could?