Abercrombie & Fitch fiasco
May 9, 2013
Top O the morning to ya!
If you’ve lived in a hole in the wall over the past week, you may have missed out on the…controversy that Mike Jeffries C.E.O. Of Abercrombie & Fitch has caused. There is a LOT to review and learn of this situation, but before we jump into it, let’s listen to some LFO singing about Summer Girls:
Now THAT was music people! “New Kids on the Block had a lot of hits…” In that song, the boys admit they like girls in Abercrombie and Fitch because of the aggressive marketing ploy of A&F of course. If you don’t know who Abercrombie & Fitch are, they are a major retail fashion seller. The current C.E.O., Mike Jeffries has been quoted as saying some things that are helping people view the Dove beauty commercials in a whole new light. When you Google Mr. Jeffries, you will see terrible headlines such as “Abercrombie and Fitch C.E.O. NO FAT CHICKS” yet if you take a moment to read the article, these are quotes from someone who allegedly spoken to Mr. Jeffries and these are quotes he allegedly said. That being said, let’s get to some known quotes of Mr. Jeffries:
“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.”
“Listen, do we go too far sometimes? Absolutely. But we push the envelope, and we try to be funny, and we try to stay authentic and relevant to our target customer. I really don’t care what anyone other than our target customer thinks.”
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “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.”
The above quotes are in fact from Mr. Jeffries mouth and can be easily traced back to him. These quotes are pretty damning if you’re looking at them from the eyes of someone looking to bring down an establishment, but that’s not how we’re looking at those comments today. Today, we’re going to look at them from a BUSINESS point of view and see if we can make sense and use his business model in our own business! If I haven’t lost you yet, lets continue and I can have a chance to explain my thought process. Before we go there, let’s look at some A&F images to help distract you from what I’ve said, and about to say:
Photographers are the biggest bunch of hypocrites I’ve encountered in my life. Now I say that with love and smiles, but let’s be honest; our profession is TOTALLY based off looks yet PHOTOGRAPHERS on FB seem to be the ones that have the biggest problem with what Mr. Jeffries has to say! I’ve yet to see a model or someone on my FB bring up the A&F post, yet ALL my photographer friends are doing it. This leads me to think it’s for one of two reasons;
Trying to curb the comments from hitting them.
For several years I was member of a private, highly expensive photography forum where High school senior portrait photographers and some wedding photographers congregated. One of the things these guys used to do is talk about the “fat” girls that come in wanting to look hot. They would gather around and speak terribly about people and insult and make fun. The one thing I did learn from this group of people is that pretty people sell. It was these disgusting convo’s that made me really look at marketing from a fashion point and they were right! Pretty people do sell products! The fashion world has been doing this since the beginning of time, so why stop with high school seniors? This attitude is why I’m a glamour photographer, I love women, big, small, tall or short, they ALL are beautiful and if a photographer is worth a damn, he or she will treat everyone the same. I’m not a member of that forum anymore (I can think of better things to do with $300.00 per year to lurk) but I will bet a significant amount of money that they are discussing this now and there’s a ton of upset photogs there..right before they go talk about the pimples and chubbyness of their 2pm client.
If we go back a few weeks, we will see I made a post about the Sad truth about tattoo’s and even further back is my So you want to be a model? series. In there I discuss very openly and honestly that your looks and body type will determine what kind of modeling you do. This isn’t Jay the photographer speaking, but the industry, and those who are presently in charge of making these decisions.
In my Sad truth about tattoo’s post, I touched on something that is VERY important regarding Mr. Jeffries; Mr. Jeffries was born in 1944 which makes him a Baby Boomer. During Mr. Jeffries childhood, the average American was fit and healthy with well balanced meals and half the stress and trauma of today’s world. Mr. Jeffries grew up seeing this and being attracted to people of that statue; trim and fit and the ideal American. Now remember, obesity is a current thing that we’re dealing with. It wasn’t as big an issue from 1944-1990 (thanks technology for making me fat!) so he grew up thinking those as sexy. When he took over A&F he was aggressive with his vision of the company and he has stuck to that.
What is it that Mr. Jeffries is saying? Basically he is saying beautiful people bring beautiful people and lets be honest, he’s right! I experience this in my business daily! At least twice a week I get an email from a young lady that is wanting a free shoot saying I should shoot her free because she’s hotter than half the girls I have on display. Now not realizing this is offensive to me as I have a relationship with everyone I work with, they continue on telling me that they are more healthy and so on, pointing out the flaws of my clients in an effort to secure a free shoot. Of course it doesn’t work, but it doesn’t stop them.
As photographers, we cater to a specific group of people. When we take jobs that aren’t our specialty it shows in the end product. Here in CO there is a really good kids and family portrait photographer. She is very well known in the conference markets and because of the economy she has taken to shooting weddings. Her wedding work is no where near the quality of her portrait work. How would you as a photographer like being told you couldn’t market to your target audience? Further more, if there were hundreds if not thousands of links bashing your business practice? If people were saying you were “racist” “prejudice” “insensitive” because you’re a model photographer and when someone, an interviewer pushed for your opinion on why you don’t shoot pet photography? Your business, your rules right? Why do we persecute Mr. Jeffries for doing on a larger scale, something we do almost every day?
Do I agree with Mr. Jeffries philosophy? As a proud owner of a size 42inch waist and more french fries than one human should consume in their life time, much less a week, no, I don’t agree with his philosophy but I respect it because I understand it. Do I personally think A&F will suffer? Nope, no more than CK suffered for having under aged girls modeling lingerie and so on. This is fashion people. How many Size 16 girls do you see at NY Fashion Week? Why isn’t DKNY, CK, Chanel, Versce and so on under the same scrutiny? Let’s go with another Baby Boomer philosophy; “Any publicity is good publicity” and A&F will fare A-OK.