Backlash Over Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Comments Go Viral

People walk by an Abercrombie and Fitch store on February 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For the good portion of May, clothing designer Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) has come under fire (again) for comments made by its CEO candidly admitting the brand is exclusionary and meant for “cool, good-looking people.”

On May 3, Business Insider pointed out that unlike other clothing lines popular among teens and young adults (American Eagle, H&M, etc.), A&F doesn’t carry extra large sizes for women and its pants size for females only reach a size 10. Interviewing Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of newsletter The Robin Report, BI reported him saying CEO Mike Jeffries “doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people.”

This revelation is hardly new, but BI dredged up comments by Jeffries made in a 2006 Salon article that have caused outrage again, spurring protests, op-eds and celebrity statements against the brand.

Elite Daily has pulled together “13 most ridiculous things” Jeffries has said over the years that have sparked controversy. Here are a few to give you an idea of why the recent backlash:

  • “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Abercrombie is only interested in people with washboard stomachs who look like they’re about to jump on a surfboard.”
  • “I don’t want our core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing our clothing.”
Backlash Over Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Comments Go Viral

Young women pose for photographs with male models outside the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship clothing store during the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch Munich flagship store on October 25, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo: Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images)

A video by filmmaker Greg Karber posted on YouTube last Monday showing A&F’s brand “readjustment” has nearly 7 millions views a week later. The video calling for #FitchTheHomeless shows Karber going to local Goodwill where clothes have been donated, seeking out anything with the A&F brand and then giving it to the homeless.

Watch the viral video, which was number one on YouTube’s trend map last week:

Actress Kirstie Alley, while speaking with Entertainment Tonight about her own health and body image, blasted Jeffries saying his comments “would make me never buy anything from Abercrombie even if I was cool and thin. She noted that her children will never walk into one of his stories “because of his view of people.”

Ellen Degeneres on her show made a statement against the CEO’s comments as well. Her clip “Fitch, please,” which is meant to be reminiscent of “b*tch, please,” has more than 1.5 million hits on YouTube:

Even at the local level, people are getting involved in voicing their discontent. A Florida advertising agency posted six “FU AF” posters on his store front in response. Watch WKMG’s report:

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Jefferies has responded to the resurrected comments that launched the recent decrying of his brand, issuing a statement to Entertainment Tonight. He said that while he believes his quote was taken out of context, he does “sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.”

“A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values,” he said.  ”We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics.”

Commenters on Facebook, where Jeffries also posted his statement, are not quite buying it though. Here are a few of the more than 3,500 comments on his apology:

Backlash Over Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Comments Go Viral

Backlash Over Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Comments Go Viral

In 2011, two Muslim women claimed A&F discriminated against them for religious reasons. One woman claimed she wasn’t hired at a store because she was wearing a hijab, which is the Islamic head scarf. The other woman said she was fired because she wouldn’t remove her hijab. This article of clothing was supposedly against A&F’s “look policy.”

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