The rise and fall and rise again of Abercrombie and Fitch

Netflix’s new release of a critically honest depiction of the famous Abercombie and Fitch clothing company titled White Hot has been released, therefore releasing the tragic and disturbing past of the company.

The transformation of a company that once thrived on exclusivity is now a brand that is attempting to be as inclusive as possible.

The transformation of a company that once thrived on exclusivity is now a brand that is attempting to be as inclusive as possible.

Makayla Bech, Staff Writer

How does a company that thrived on exclusion survive in a world of constant change? The famous clothing company Abercombie and Fitch, established in 1892, has seen extensive amounts of rebranding. When the company first began with the original owner, David T. Abercombie, the store sold mostly men’s wear, including an influx of fishing and hunting gear, as opposed to how the brand sells to teenagers today. However, the most infamous of these so-called rebrandings was when Mike Jefferies became the CEO of the company in 1992. Vast changes began to occur and suddenly the company was where the ‘cool kids’ shopped and the style showcasing the “all-American vibe.” The entire company seemed to be extremely Gatsby, employees and corporate leaders coming together to throw magnificent parties. Be that as it may, these parties entailed corporate punishments based on the attractiveness of employees and how they sought to fit into the Abercombie standards of beauty. It is no secret that Abercombie stores, including A&F itself and stores owned by the company, like Hollister, hired prospective employees based on appearance, particularly their skin color and weight. A direct quote from former CEO Mike Jefferies himself: “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends.” And when asked if the company is exclusionary, Jefferies’ response: “Absolutely.”

The Netflix documentary White Hot exposes all the hidden secrets and the personal accounts of discrimination from former corporate leaders and retail associates. Watching this documentary was terrifying. To think that this kind of behavior pulled in billions of dollars is utterly embarrassing for society overall. Even after a lawsuit against the company in 2014 with implementations about inclusion, the company continued to embrace exclusion under Mike Jefferies’ authority. Because they were no longer able to refuse to hire people of non-Caucasian dissent, they formed a new type of hiring process. People of minority groups and people of color would be hired as “Impact” employees, meaning that they would work in the back in stock and shipment shifts, whereas white employees would work out on the sales floor and provide “customer service.” However, being a current Hollister employee myself I am glad to report that this is no longer the case. At my store, there is a lot of diversity in our team and there is a lot of inclusion and support. This is due to a rebranding in 2017 when the new and current CEO Fran Horowitz took over and completely changed the brand.

In 2021, Hollister was voted to be one of the best places to work for high school students and students pursuing higher education. It has also been said to be the most inclusionary retail store as of 2021, selling merchandise that ranges in a vast number of sizes for all body types, and donating to charities such as the Academy Group, a charitable organization to promote the protection of BIPOC youth. Hollister has even started their own organization called The Confidence Project that provides opportunities to teens seeking help for mental health and bringing awareness to the mental health crisis. Despite the long history of discrimination and foul play, I am proud to admit that the company has completely reinvented itself and is now one of the most inclusive retail stores in the United States. Although there is still a long way to go, we are taking the steps to create a better world and society that buries exclusion and thrives on inclusion.