I´m sure you all have heard about it. Most of you have things from it, and some of you even adore it. I must confess I also have pictures with the hot, half naked guy that greets us at the door. Yes people, I am talking about Abercrombie & Fitch. Those stores that can be smelled 500 meters away from the building. Those stores, which appear to be a hardcore disco, with practically no light on the insides and a combination of gorgeous people and mini winy t shirts, shorts and vests all around us.
Abercrombie & Fitch was founded in 1989 and began operating as a store that sold hunting clothes and materials. Of course, a lot of water has flowed since then. If you want to read the whole history of the company, click here. Anyway, we don’t really need a lot of history to judge the following quotes. Let me tell you an interesting story about their current CEO. Our protagonist´s name is Mike Jeffreys and has some really…”interesting” views about his business which he doesn’t really try to hide from public knowledge. These are just some of the testimonies he makes with relative frequency:
“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. We don’t market to anyone other than that.” (Yes Mr Jeffreys…you are SO handsome…)
“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.”
Click here if you want to read more… “interesting” quotes.
I´ll try to handle this in an objective way. I guess in the “companies’ world” at the end, we are always left out with two different ways of looking at things: the economic perspective, where making money is what really counts, and the moral one: where the important thing is to owe fidelity to our principles and values on the firsthand. There are very different kinds of people, as well as very different kinds of businesses and CEO´s. And Abercrombie is certainly one which looks at things with an economic approach. BUT… feeding a superficial society only brings problems…for the people, of course. Companies establish beauty canons and we must adapt to them, no matter if this will cause us traumas, psychologic and physical illnesses, insecurity and therefore… sadness. We will always try to adapt to them, because we feel that this is what will make us truly happy (if so many people think that, and so many companies sell that, they are probably not that wrong… aren´t they?)
This same week, I spoke with a friend who had been working in Abercrombie for 9 months. To work in Abercrombie, as old Mickey says, you have to meet certain physical requirements: height, width, have a pretty smile, good hair… you have to be hot as hell, to make it short. I asked him what he thought of that, and he argued in favor of hiring whoever you want, selling whatever you want and under the conditions you prefer… it´s a free market I guess. I can understand this approach…sort of.
What I don’t understand is how a company that exists to serve society and to make our lives… “better” can have that mentality. I think social responsibility is extremely important. If you are aware of the huge worldwide impact you have on teenagers and young people you should not, under any possible marketing excuse, contribute to the segregation of the “cool – thin – pretty” and the “geek – fat – ugly”. Because, at the end, beauty is nothing more than a lottery, transient and far… very far away from the really important things in life.
So, what do you think?… Economy or morality?