Perhaps it was the immediately familiar and signature scent Fierce, or maybe it was the throbbing house music that coursed through the seemingly endless (and dimly lit) cavernous retail spaces, but the Abercrombie & Fitch brand truly defined the fashion for a generation. T-shirts with ultra-cheeky sayings paired with prices that convinced teens and young adults all over America that A&F was most definitely, the brand they had to have. What we didn’t realize at the time though, is that Abercrombie & Fitch was behind the scenes, shaping an exclusionary culture & class that would in turn, come perilously close to crashing their entire brand.
The ascension (and subsequent earth-shattering tumble) that Abercrombie took is documented in the new Netflix documentary “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” (premiering April 19th). While the models chosen for Abercrombie & Fitch ads were consistently gorgeous (including the men sometimes strategically positioned outside of the stores shirtless) they also had one other quality in common-they were almost always white. Whether it was a “no-headscarf policy” or having consistently problematic hiring policies, the documentary looks to serve as a referendum on the clothing juggernaut’s now previous iteration, which in today’s hyper-aware culture, almost serves as a time capsule example of how not to run a billion dollar brand.
Today, Abercrombie & Fitch has gone through an evident and much-needed evolution. The This Is Abercrombie Today campaign encapsulates people from all backgrounds and cultures. They also have partnered with The Trevor Project on a collection co-designed by the organization, and according to their website, have to date raised two million dollars for The Trevor Project. They’re also working towards amplifying other voices, through both The Abercrombie Equity Project as well as the For Justice For Growth collection, a gender inclusive collection which is amplifying black voice, “during Black History Month and beyond”.
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