Friday, May 10, 2013

Abercrombie and Something That Rhymes with Fitch

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Yeah, I know. You're totally expecting another blog post about Paris. Don’t worry your pretty little head; more tales of Paris fashion are on their way. But right now, I want to talk about a more troubling aspect of fashion: The marketing techniques of Abercrombie and Fitch.

I'm sorry about the scandalous picture. It's the least offensive one I could find.

The reason I’m doing this is because I believe that part of doing fashion well—and yes, it’s something that can be done well—is understanding what it is you are buying, or rather, buying into. When you buy something as intimate and personal as clothing, you are not just buying a yardage of fabric and some thread. You are buying a message. If a company is selling a message that is degrading to you or others, you shouldn’t bother buying it. A company like this doesn’t deserve your money.

Earlier this week an old comment made by A&F’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, resurfaced.

"We want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that."

He also said:

"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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."

That’s rich coming from a company that doesn’t even come close to having the leading market share in its category (it's quite embarrassing).

Anyone who says something like this is operating under two huge misconceptions. The first is that heavy-set people are unhealthy. There is a myriad of reasons why this isn’t necessarily true

At this point you might be thinking about everything you have ever learned about weight health. You probably even thought about BMI charts. Get ready to unlearn everything you ever knew about health and weight.

BMI charts are an INCREDIBLY inaccurate way to measure a person's health for a myriad of reasons. It doesn’t take into consideration individual circumstances; for instance, a bodybuilder can be considered obese because of the sheer weight of his or her muscles. Even thin people can be very unhealthy simply due to the fact that they might be sedentary, but research shows that heavier people who exercise are more healthy to the aforementioned thin people in comparison. Also, the BMI scores qualifying for overweight have changed over the years because insurance companies were looking for a way to charge higher premiums.

The second of the misconceptions is that larger people aren’t beautiful. I could talk about how I think that larger people are just as beautiful as thin people, but it wouldn’t matter. The fact is that as a culture, we have been conditioned to believe that thin people are the only ones who are beautiful. If you don’t believe me, look in an art history book or an old magazine. You will see that every culture in every time period has a different ideal of what was considered beautiful.

Marylin Monroe. One of the most beautiful women in the world.
She was larger  and considered beautiful, and this was only in the last century.

Woman of Willendorf. One of the oldest pieces of art in the world.
Yes, this was easily could've been considered beautiful to our prehistoric ancestors.

Zoeey Deschanel is a thinner woman and is as beautiful as anyone else.

I also can’t ignore the fact that A&F is unbelievably off base when it comes to its marketing practices. Why they make any of the choices that they do is beyond me. Here are a few examples:
  • The plus-size sector of the fashion industry brought in $13.9 billion in the year ending March 2013. A&F only offers a pant size up to a size 10 and a t-shirt size up to a large.
  • A&F’s clothing is as unoriginal as it was in the early 2000’s.
  • This is not the only time that A&F has been under fire for being exclusionary. They have a history of only hiring Caucasian people.
  • They continually circulate print materials that are not far from soft-core porn despite the angry mass’ complaints. How are these materials even useful? I need clothes and I have no idea what they are selling.
  • A&F has lost a huge chunk of its market share to its cousin, American Eagle Outfitters, and its trendier contemporaries, H&M and Forever 21. Each of these stores offers a wider range of sizes, cheaper clothes, and let’s face it, more originality.

Instead of feeding the machine, let’s buy our clothes from people who respect us. Here are some stores that do a great job at inclusive marketing.

Debenhams UK has a great advertising campaign with all different kinds of people.

They took a really unique approach by showing not only old,
large and non-white people, but they also used amputees.

H&M recently launched a campaign showing a larger-looking model.

I love that they didn't photoshop out her fat rolls or cellulite.

À toute à l'heure. A Paris post is coming soon.

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