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Inside Abercrombie & Fitch – ‘racist’ abuse, staff ‘ranked by appearance’ and toxic culture

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Abercrombie & Fitch is not a traditional workplace – it hires ‘models’ instead of shop assistants and topless men taking pictures with customers outside.

When the American chain opened a flagship store in London’s Savile Row, it launched club-style shirts, while men in three-piece suits protested the ‘low-brow’ website alongside high-class tailors.

A&F is considered great – with singers like Taylor Swift and actors Channing Tatum and Jennifer Lawrence posing for its advertising campaigns.

But the all-American chain’s enormous success dwindled in the mid-2010s – when it faced accusations of racist and sexist conduct, which A&F claims has since change.

The new Netflix documentary White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch examines toxic culture.







Well-dressed protesters protest outside the Abercrombie & Fitch store in London
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Employees are ranked based on appearance

Most employees are said to be hired on the basis of their looks, with some attractive people managed to keep an eye on during their visits.

A brutal hiring and firing policy has led managers to allegedly rank employees by how great they are considered to be – and your sales don’t matter, according to the Netflix show.

Black employee Carla Barrientos talks about discrimination she claims to have encountered while working there.

She asked to swap work from the night shift to the day shift, and when her boss refused, she told him a co-worker had agreed to do it.

Carla added: “After that, I wasn’t on schedule. I remember asking him, ‘What do I do? Am I still working here? I haven’t had a schedule for two months,’ and he did. said, “No, no, you know. Please continue to call us.







This chain of stores is famous for its topless male models
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Jennifer Sheahan of Irvine, California told the documentary that she was told there were too many Asian employees and that she was fired, after bosses from A&F headquarters came to visit.

“We’ve come to the end of the holiday season and have been told that if you don’t have a paycheck, you’ll be given away during the season,” she stated.

After checking with a manager, she was told it was due to her ethnicity.

She added: ‘They noticed a bunch of Asians in the store. They said “You need more staff who look like this” and pointed to a poster and it was a white model “.”

Two employees and seven others sued A&F for racial discrimination in 2003 – with the store shockingly claiming that employees weren’t attractive enough for the store’s premises.

The retailer settled for £30m and also signed a court agreement to increase diversity but was later accused of not making any real changes.







Netflix says US chain ‘thrives when excluded’
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In 2015, America’s highest court ruled in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job by A&F because of her hijab.

The chain refused to hire Samantha Elauf because her outfit violated the retailer’s dress code for salespeople.

Elauf wore a headscarf during the interview but did not say she was Muslim. Christian, Jewish and Sikh groups also support Elauf’s case.

Strict rules

In the shops, electric music plays, while the extremely dimly lit shops are decorated with giant black and white posters of naked men and women – people actually works for strings.

At peak, busy times, topless male models with six packs stand in doorways and spend hours posing with teenage clients.

Employees have been trained to represent the brand’s principles – with a rigorous AAA style guide created by CEO Mike Jeffries, deciding what employees can wear in next three months.

It also states what looks and hairstyles are acceptable – no nail polish or makeup is allowed, nor excessive rings or jewelry is allowed.

On the Netflix show, a former employee called employees “terrible,” adding: “It’s not their job to be attentive at all. Their job is to act like you’re bothering them. .”







Employees have strict rules to follow
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Secret shoppers will note whether employees greet them with the correct greeting – and get into trouble if they don’t.

“We built the posters and we put ‘This is what Abercrombie’ and ‘This is what Abercrombie is not’,” said Charles Martin, a former vice president of design.

Model Ryan Daharsl told the crew how he was used to posing topless with Abercrombie – without the clothes they were meant to sell.

American photographer Bruce Weber posed for Abercrombie – which included a lot of pictures of men messing around in their panties.

On the show, former model Bobby Blanksi said: “Abercrombie sold a dream, it was a young person’s fantasy. They actually made a lot of money by marketing men without clothes. “.

Controversial CEO







Mike Jeffries CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch left
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The elusive CEO Mark Jeffries faced a lot of backlash in 2006 after an interview with a US attorney.

He say : “In every school there are cool and famous kids, and then there’s kids who aren’t so cool.

“In fact, we go after great kids. We go after attractive American kids with great attitudes and lots of friends. A lot of people don’t and they can’t.”

He quit in 2014 – and declined to speak to Netflix for the documentary.

‘Racist’ T-shirt







The chain’s culture has been started
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In recent years, the retailer has been extremely popular – after a major rebranding. Abercrombie actually dates back to 1892, when it sold hunting and riding gear.

In 1998, it was acquired by businessman Leslie Wexner, now 84, who already owns lingerie chain Victoria’s Secret, as a struggling chain.

US owner L Brands hired CEO Jeffries, now 77, to make the brand relevant again, who modeled it on preppy fashion.

It worked – and the chain was worth £760m in 1999.

Former A&F design director Kelly Blumberg said: “The brand was on top. We had quarterly meetings and they were like big rallies around the fireplace to discuss how much money we had. are earning.”

Teenagers flock to print T-shirts with cheeky slogans—something they can produce cheaply and charge sky-high prices.

But some of the designs have sparked a racist streak – with one t-shirt promoting the fictional brand Wong Brothers Laundry Service’ and featuring two featuring two Asian men above the tagline: “Two can make it white.”

Blogger Phil Yu said: “It’s all based on people’s understanding of Asians if you just watch American TV and movies. So it’s the confusing fonts and the caricatures of it. Asian people with protruding teeth and slanted eyes.

“Asian Americans are often taught that you have to keep your head down, not rock the boat, because so many of us are children of immigrants. But at the time, I said, ‘It’s okay. even angry about this’.”

After the protests, A&F burned the shirt but was later criticized for revealing a shirt featuring a donkey and tacos that read: ‘Juan more for the road’.

Abercrombie and Fitch . CEO Fran Horowitz “At Abercrombie & Fitch Co., we live our purpose and act out for our customers, associates and partners on their journey to becoming and being exactly who they are,” said.

“Our ongoing development is commendable and we want to make it clear that the recently released documentary is not a reflection of who we are now.

“We own and confirm that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under previous leadership.

“Since I became CEO in 2017, we’ve overhauled Abercrombie and transformed it with the intention of being a place to belong.

“We’ve grown the organization, including implementing management changes, prioritizing representation, implementing new policies, reimagining our store experience, and updating information, coverage size and style of our products.

“We’re focused on inclusivity — and continuing that transformation is our enduring promise to you, to our community. Because without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank you for accompanying us.

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