Fashion company Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries stirred up public outcry after flat out declaring that overweight people don’t belong in his company’s clothes. Does he have a point?
You Don’t Belong
So far Abercrombie & Fitch, if at all, only registered on the very boundaries of my attention radar, located somewhere in the same area as solar eclipses as seen from Mars or the mating habits of sea cucumbers – I store those bits of information but don’t think much about them.
A&F, to me, was a company that simply sold clothes on the principle of creating a faux exclusive in-club, their style imitating Tommy Hilfiger, who in turn imitated Ralph Lauren, who imitated Brooks Brothers, who imitated Savile Row. Why should anyone care about a company that is a xerox squared? Especially when its CEO Mike Jeffries makes statements like these in an interview with salon.com:
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.
That’s why 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.
When you read this and then look at a photo of the man, one can only wonder on what grounds he considers himself suitable to wear his own brand and why, given that discrepancy, anyone could possibly give a fig about his opinion.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not so much, a lot of people do, which to me simply is a sign of Jeffries’ marketing strategy working: here is a brand that not only advertises with attractive people, no, it even demands of its customers to be attractive. The club that lets in anybody is not very desirable to get into.
Is Jeffries Right?
In a way that is actually more honest than a whole lot of advertising: Jeffries matter-of-factly states that it’s not Abercrombie & Fitch’s clothes that make you attractive on their own, you have to be attractive in the first place. It is quasi the direct opposite of companies like Apple or Calvin Klein, who sell people the illusion that buying one of their products gives them the aura of being cool, good-looking, intellectual and sophisticated.
Jeffries, as much as I have an aversion against the man, is simply brutally honest in calling out overweight people, and I wonder if we couldn’t do with a bit more of that honesty. Not because we direly need more people judged attractive by the standards of Mike Jeffries, but because being overweight is a serious health risk.
Picture courtesy of Daniel Spils.