A Netflix documentary about Abercrombie & Fitch’s (A&F) reign of pop culture in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and how it thrived on exclusion. The film is called “White Hot: the Rise and Fall Of Abercrombie & Fitch”. It debuts on Netflix on April 19th. The documentary examines the many scandals that have plagued the label, beginning with the 2004 class action that accused it of discriminating against blacks, Latinos, and office workers. The documentary also features the testimony of a Muslim female who was denied employment because she wore a headscarf in 2015. One journalist interviewed said that they did not invent discrimination or asocial differences. They simply bundled them up.
A&F’s success was based on exclusion
The fashion industry’s embrace of inclusivity seems out of touch with A&F’s past strategies. A former employee claimed that the brand had a manual that specified the physical requirements employees needed to meet in order to be hired. “Recruiting attractive people” was the dictate.
A&F responded on social media to the release, saying that the documentary covered “an era which occurred under previous leadership.” Although the problematic elements of this era have been widely criticized over the years, we want it to be clear that these are actions, behaviors, and decisions that would not allow or be tolerated at the company currently. It thanked its supporters for their support during its journey to be more inclusive. “We are aware that the work is never finished and we remain determined to continue creating a company of excellence for all.”
In the 90s, A&F’s CEO Mike Jeffries was most well-known for its sexualized advertising. Bruce Weber took photos of catalogs and in-store models wearing topless sex in those days. The company thrived on the exclusion of women, and hired handsome staff to improve their looks. Most of them had muscular bodies and model looks. The company’s practices began to change after Jeffries was relieved of his duties and stepped down in 2014.
Christos Angelides was fired abruptly from the post of president of A&F in 2015. This marked a new era at the retailer, which is now a more inclusive brand, workplace, and business. Fran Horowitz was appointed CEO by A&F in 2017. She still holds that position 5 years later.
A&F reported Q4 net sales of 1.2 Billion Dollars, up 4 percent over last year but down 2 percent compared to 2019.