The Abercrombie & Fitch story is the main evidence. How brand management is important, as well as opening the doors to inclusion and diversity in a market that is fed up with stereotypes.
Ok, so you can catch up on this whole thing a little bit, you have to watch “White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” has just premiered on Netflix and there is a lot to say.
Just to put them in context, it addresses the way in which fashion brands become famous from marginalization and exclusion. Creating an aspirational halo in the young crowd, becoming that have to thing that makes you feel ‘cool’.
From recruiting people who fill the aspirational profile and the stereotype with which the brand seeks to be related, to creating a certain prestige of exclusivity, even when that means being racist and excluding certain groups.
During the period in which they relaunched the brand, being white, privileged, rich and with a statuesque or slim body was the canon in which the brands moved, this in the mid-90s. But they were also concepts with which the youth sought to fit.
Concepts that now the blessed crystal generation has been in charge of sending to the versh. Thank you generation Z! (I love you, but leave the pants to the hips in oblivion).
For that stage, the person in charge of the brand was Mike Jeffries (1992-2014), the man did everything possible to raise the brand’s cannon, which became very strong with hunting and figures like Teddy Roosevelt.
In order not to make the thread so long and not to tell you the whole documentary, I will summarize the A&F formula as follows:
Inheritance + elitism + sex + exclusivity = sure success.
First the inheritance, they mixed the idea of super fresh country boys, with the sex that Calvin Klein sold and the elegance of Ralph Lauren. A super white and strawberry hybrid of an American life.
Then they put it next to a little word that has ruled the industry for years: ASPIRATIONAL. Enough to generate exclusivity, but not so much that an upper-middle class guy can afford it. And in turn, marginalizing those who do not have access to this style.
Then comes sex
Because it is what sells and generates morbidity. Showing the way in which the eroticization of the body and the bodies oversaturated with muscles or thin were the ideal instrument to increase sales, in turn, mixed with the ideal of an athletic body.
Here I open a small parenthesis, to say that behind a brand focused on a heterosexual market, of frat boys, there was a particular aesthetic of homosexual culture, marked by homoeroticism and the cult of the hypermasculine body.
Generated in large part by Mr. Bruce Weber, a friend of Franca Sozzani and responsible for Calvin Klein’s erotic advertising, he was also the target of multiple accusations of harassment by the models he photographed, generally young men.
And from there they made all that exclusive, only for a small market where if you weren’t attractive enough, then bye. To that they put layers and layers of racism, xenophobia, lgbtphobia, fatphobia and a lot of phobias more related to aesthetics.
After movements such as body positivity and racial, sexual and cultural inclusion, the brands whose DNA was based on excluding these groups have remained as outcasts, because their thoughts are no longer part of a society that seeks to leave behind stereotypes and forms of discrimination.
I am left with this paraphrase of one of the interviews: «In society there will always be that need to look the same as the coolest person, fortunately we are in an era in which there is no longer a single type of ‘cool person’ but there are many types, of all forms.
Watch “White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch”