Abercrombie & Fitch CEO: We Want the Cool Kids, Not the Fat Ones
And now the golden question: is it okay for clothing brands to intentionally prevent fat people from wearing their clothes?
Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail, shared with Business Insider that clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is practicing some villainous sales tactics, including creating a brand that (gasp!) doesn’t cater to American obesity.
The company’s CEO Mike Jeffries, Lewis said, “”doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store. He wants thin and beautiful people.“
“He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing,” Lewis added. “People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the “cool kids.”
Abercrombie is famous for its sexy storefronts of half-clad men—and women—whom it uses as bait to attract customers. The store does not stock women’s sizes above a large (or size 10), though the menswear is extended to size XXL; Lewis believed this was to allow for sculpted sportsmen to also wear his fashions.
Jeffries detailed his marketing plan in a 2006 Salon interview. “We hire good-looking people in our stores,” he admitted, “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.”
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the cool kids,” he explained. “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 argues that his exclusionary tactics mold his brand into an elite status symbol commanded only by the thin and beautiful, and his loyal customers lap it up with their perfect pretty little mouths.
“Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla,” he said. “You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
These comments have enraged women on well-known feminist websites like Jezebel.com, a Gawker Media spinoff that advertises itself as a general women’s interest source.
“Fat people won’t be able to shed the stigma of being unfashionable frumps until we’re actually able to purchase fashionable clothes with the freedom and diversity that straight-size people do,” writer Lindy West fumed. “Dear stores, I have money. Let me fucking give it to you.”
But all stores use some form of branding as a marketing tool, and if that branding happens to be six packs and slender hips, that’s okay. Businesses should not be required to market to larger Americans, and it’s time people realized that the old adage is still true: Sex sells. (And not the fat-people kind of sex.)