Hot and young. These are two of the tamer adjectives that spring to mind when we think of Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s hypersexual brand aesthetic. But slinky descriptors like these might not stick, not if the retailer’s new top brass have their way.
Last week, the New Albany, Ohio-based casual wear company turned over what its framing as a more conservative, more chaste leaf, announcing that its ditching the jaw-dropping sexualized photos plastered all over its stores, shopping bags and gift cards. Also, it will no longer hire store associates “based on body type or physical attractiveness,” reports the Associated Press.
The 123-year-old company, which also operates sister brands Hollister Co. and Abercrombie Kids, said that it will now call store employees “brand representatives,” rather than “models.” On top of no longer hiring strictly eye candy-level clerks, Abercrombie will now allow store associates to sport something really racy -- eyeliner.
‘‘Abercrombie & Fitch will recruit and hire the best associates whose focus will be on offering our customers an excellent in-store experience,’’ a letter distributed last week to the company’s regional and district managers read. ‘‘We will not tolerate discrimination based on body type or physical attractiveness and will not tolerate discrimination in hiring based on any category protected under the law.’’
The sweeping image, dress code and hiring practice cleanup is being spearheaded by two newcomers to the troubled retailer: Fran Horowitz, president of Hollister, and Christos Angelides, president of Abercrombie & Fitch. The much-ballyhooed reform comes on the heels of sluggish sales, racism and discrimination lawsuits, a detour from logo-littered merchandise and, most notably, the abrupt resignation of former CEO Mike Jeffries. During his reign of more than two decades, the polarizing retail veteran twisted what was long a wholesome sporting-goods chain into a pretty darn horned-up, basically soft-core caricature of youth culture. He famously declared that he wanted Abercrombie to “sizzle with sex” and it sure did, all the way down to there.
Well, not anymore. Maybe. Abercrombie may say its doing away with sexy beefcake abs, but flashes of tight, sunkissed tummies like these are still heating up its official Twitter feed. Judge for yourself.
Er, just one more.