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NewsHong Kong

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries under fire for 'harmful' anti-plus-size policy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 May, 2013, 1:33pm
 

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American retailer Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries came under fire on Thursday from a Hong Kong health expert after a writer claimed Jeffries “doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store”.

The comments made by Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail, and CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, to Business Insider on Wednesday have reignited the furore around Jeffries, who is no stranger to controversy when it comes to plus-sizes for women. Those who frequent the retailer will find that A&F – which has a branch in Central, Hong Kong – doesn’t carry XL or XXL in women’s sizes.

Jeffries, Lewis said, “doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people, and he doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids’.

“The only reason Abercrombie offers XL and XXL men’s sizes is probably to appeal to beefy football players and wrestlers,” Lewis, a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology, added.

Dr Daniel Ho Sai-yin, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Community Medicine, branded the comments “harmful”. He said: “I wish the company would be more sensitive to the feelings of people who are not their target customers.

“Direct and indirect weight criticisms could be harmful to psychosocial health.”

H&M, Forever 21, and American Eagle, A&F’s main competitors, all have plus-sized sections; it feels strange that A&F is going in the opposite direction, limiting their sizes from XS to L.

But Jeffries is adamant. In a 2006 interview with Salon, he made it clear that he did not want overweight women in his stores. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Along with refusing to sell to larger people, he also has a discriminatory hiring policy, which has been challenged on several occasions. A company e-mail revealed the presence of a “measuring system” for employees: they were ordered to perform military-style exercises while at work so that they would stay “thin and beautiful”. If the employees failed to meet the standard, they would be “punished” with extra squats and pushups.

We want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that
Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch

Jeffries doesn’t deny it. “It’s… everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

He went on to boast, “Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

The Behavioural Risk Factor Survey, published April last year by the Hong Kong Government’s Department of Health, stated that 36.7 per cent of the population aged 18 to 64 are classified as overweight or obese, including 18.8 per cent as obese. If the unknown/missing/outlier group is excluded, the prevalence is 37.6 per cent. In the United States, the number is much higher, at 67 per cent.

A study conducted by Ho and his colleagues in 2009 elaborates on some of these harms. Perceived fatness and incorrect weight comments predicted psychological health problems, which were confirmed at a follow-up a year later to be headaches, feelings of stress, and feelings of depression. Ho and his colleagues suggest that social contacts, peers, and family members need to be aware of the potential adverse effects of their weight comments.

With such a large percentage of people in the plus-sized demographic, can A&F really afford to ostracise this group?

In 2011, controversy also arose when A&F offered money to the Jersey Shore cast to have its brand removed from the show.

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21

This article is now closed to comments

emilievg
WHAT A FACADE!
How very funny to have such narrow minded ideas in these times, especially coming from such a flabby faced and bad-looking CEO!
All Hong Kongers fat and thin: let's unite and boycott this over-pretentious and over-priced store unfortunately spoiling a great facade at Pedder street, offering very mediocre style and quality merchandise, that is so easy to copy! And no, I am not fat nor old, but one of your perfect young and beautiful customers (according to your outdated standards)
captam
Why does Jeffries use only white male models and with hair-styles broadly similar to his own?
Are they all his clones?
chaz_hen
And to clone him would be easy! Look at the obvious amount of plastic surgery that guy has been through! He looks almost exactly like a male Jocelyn Wildenstein!
Anebbs
His shop smells like a hooker's handbag and he looks like Joan Rivers. What's to admire?
cozmo
I'm not a Abercrombie shopper, but it's a bit difficult for them to be an 'aspirational' brand if people don't have anything to aspire to!!
They are free to set whatever policy they like, if YOU don't like it don't shop there. Simple.
nfld
This is 'aspirational' brand gone wrong. The brand has just shown how superficial they are - even though superficiality is common in today's world, no one likes to admit they are superficial. Superficiality has generally a negative connotation and they've just blatantly associated themselves with it. Pathetic.
HiggsSinglet
This jeffries dude should look at himself in the mirror!!! Boy does he looks ugly and uncool!!!
jadeslair
He said that in 2006, time to move on.
LexingtonBob
Face it, most people that shop there are simply not overweight & obese and only those out-of-shape people are going to complain on this article. It's time people stop making excuses for not eating healthy and being obese and overweight in this country. I exercise 6 times a week, not because I always want to, but because it's the right thing for my body. Kudos to A&F and I will continue shopping there!
cgalysh
To get a job there you can not be fat? If you fat your not good looking? If your fat you have no friends? If your fat you are not cool? If your fat you are not popular? Fat people are not beautiful? If this guy does not want to offer larger sizes in his stores then fine, that is just his companies loss.. But to discriminate publicly like this there is no excuse, this guy need to go down and his company need to go with him. SHOW HIM HE IS WRONG AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED, POST THIS EVERYWHERE ONLINE AND STOP SHOPPING AT HIS STORES!!!

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