The clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch received extra attention this week when a Los Angeles writer started an online campaign to rebrand the company’s “exclusionary” reputation. The writer’s pitch: Making A&F “the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.”
Greg Karber started the “FitchTheHomeless” campaign in an attempt to undermine the company’s “cool kid” and “holier than thou” persona. He released a video on YouTube Monday, which shows him scouring a Goodwill store for A&F clothes and then handing them out to the homeless on the streets of East Los Angeles; the video has since received more than 1.2 million hits.
Reportedly, when A&F items are damaged, the store is required to burn them instead of selling them at discount or donating them to the homeless.
Karber’s campaign has received mixed reviews from viewers. Some have lauded him for doing “something to turn that negative energy into a positive social good,” as he told Mashable in an email. Others have rejected the way that Karber went about the campaign, accusing him of simply using the homeless to make a point rather than genuinely helping them out.
“The irony is that, you did to the homeless, what A&F did to the uncool kids. You used them as an example of the lowest people you could find to pull off your trashing of A&F,” reads a comment on the video’s YouTube page.
Controversy over the company’s branding is nothing new. In 2006, A&F CEO Mike Jeffries implied in an article for Salon magazine that the company only markets to “cool and popular kids,” excluding the “the not-so-popular kids”.
“In every school there are cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told Salon’s Benoit Denizet-Lewis. “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.”
Earlier this month Business Insider published an article discussing the company’s refusal to sell X-large and XXL-sized clothing for women - apparently for a similar reason – they don’t want uncool, fat people in their clothes.
“He [Mike Jeffries] doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Robin Lewis, the co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of The Robin Report, told Business Insider. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids’.”
Watch the “FitchTheHomeless” video below: