Well, folks, it’s been a long eight years since Abercombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries gave an infamous interview to Salon where he explicitly stated that, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” Those comments were almost the undoing of the brand, which became the target of (highly deserved) criticism from celebrities, consumers, and even A&F employees alike. Now, eight years later, the people behind the moose logo have finally made a real attempt to undue the damage done by Hurricane Jeffries with the announcement of their new anti-bullying campaign, “Are You An Ally?”
As part of the campaign, A&F has released a 20-minute long video staring Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale. The video, which is to be distributed to middle schools and high schools across the country, features interviews with teens who share their thoughts on bullying and how to prevent it. Abercrombie is also selling a line of graphic tees emblazoned with anti-bullying messages, and they’re donating all proceeds from the shirts to the nonprofit organization No Bully.
First of all, kudos to Abercrombie. I think it’s great that they’re finally taking a stand against exclusionary practices, and the fact that they’re donating all of the proceeds (and not just a paltry 10 or 15 percent) from the line of t-shirts is fantastic. But I’m afraid that after this campaign runs its course, the people at A&F will pat themselves on the back and continue on with their “cool kids only” ways. This “Are You An Ally?” campaign is a great first step in the road to redemption, but it’s not a Band-Aid solution.
So, what would make a good second step for the brand? The most obvious answer is selling clothes in sizes that go beyond a 14. Why not employ models with a little extra meat on their bones too? And while you’re at it, hire some big and beautiful guys and gals to work in your stores! And for the love of all that is holy, stop discriminating against people of color and people with prosthetic limbs!
And finally, I can’t help but feel that it’s a little hypocritical to let Jeffries continue on as CEO of the company. I mean, the man seems to be against everything that the “Are You An Ally?” campaign stands for. Sending Jeffries packing and hiring someone with a real track record of inclusivity and body-positive practices would be the cherry on top of this image-saving sundae.
So, great first step, Abercrombie, but it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Are you an ally?