Remember how Abercrombie & Fitch CEO and Biff-a-like Mike Jeffries told the world that A&F clothes are just for cool kids? Or how he explained that A&F lady sizes only went up to 10 because he didn’t want fat women wearing his designs and preferred “thin and beautiful” women buying his clothes? That was awesome. What’s even better? Now Jeffries and the notoriously elitist brand (that hasn’t grasped that its main demo is now insurance sales guys in their 30s) have decided to do something to backpedal on their already damaged reputation. On Tuesday, the beleaguered company announced that they’d sponsor an anti-bullying scholarship program.
“We’ve listened to the conversations and hear the message and as a company look forward to increasing our commitment to anti-bullying efforts,” said Jeffries in a press release. “We are fully committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion – one in which no young person should ever feel intimidated, especially at school, whether for the clothes they wear or because someone perceives them as different.” Hahaha: He said “inclusion.”
Jeffries obviously thinks that consumers have a short memory or something. That we won’t remember that just last month a teen started a petition against the company for its exclusionary practices. And the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) isn’t buying it either. “While we most certainly would support a national anti-bullying campaign and scholarships for young people who have been bullied, it makes no sense for such a campaign to be led by a company that apparently will continue to discriminate against young people of diverse sizes,” said NEDA CEO & President Lynn Grefe. “That is certainly its own form of bullying and goes back to how this story all got started. Young people come in all shapes and sizes and being ‘cool’ is about accepting who you are. Making young people feel excluded is not smart marketing. An anti-bullying campaign by A&F is an oxymoron. We are disappointed.”
Why the sudden sea change in Jeffries and A&F? Well, it could be because recent reports have seen sales rapidly decrease and Abercrombie’s stock value plummet. And while it’s difficult to ascribe all of the responsibility to Jeffries and his comments, it’s understandable that a company that has such an exclusive vision of its customer would have a difficult time in an increasingly diverse marketplace.
Of course, bullying is a worthwhile cause, but it should be taken up by someone who isn’t actively bullying while trying to prevent bullying. As Benjamin O’Keefe, the young man who started the anti-A&F petition noted, “The battle against bullying is an imperative one, but by refusing to make larger sizes, they are failing to see that they are still being the bullies on the playground.”