Abercrombie & Fitch is making policy changes. Attempting to tone down the sexual nature of their notorious marketing strategy, store employees will now be called “brand representatives” instead of models, as they were previously referred to. The brand made famous for celebrating conventional beauty only is also looking to employ people who are not model-like. Applicants will no longer be required to look a certain way to work at the retail stores.
These changes are as a result of the new leadership of the company. Former Chief Executive Mike Jeffries retired in December 2014 after 20 years. He got into trouble in the past for saying that people who wear Abercrombie & Fitch should feel like one of the “cool kids,” justifying why the company didn’t carry large sizes for women. This resulted in boycotts and a fall in stock prices.
The clothing retailer also launched its “Are you an Ally?” anti-bullying campaign. They manufactured T-shirts with the phrases “Real is the new black,” “Be yourself,” and “Stand Strong” printed on them. They also produced a video featuring Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale about National Bullying Prevention Month. The video encourages teens to refrain from name calling and to “think before they act.”
Abercrombie & Fitch is in a difficult position. It’s tough to claim diversity and inclusion when your entire business model is built around conventional beauty and subtle superiority and has been for the last 20 years. These policy changes, though welcome, feels like too little too late for the brand. While this might not be their intent, it appears as though the company is making these changes because it has to and not because it wants to.
Kudos to the new leadership for making these much needed changes, but they shouldn’t expect an immediate turnaround. Now that the new leadership is taking steps to distance itself from its previous image, it leaves the “new” Abercrombie & Fitch without an identity.
Are these changes enough to make you want to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch? Tell us in the comments section or tweet me @mo_yeen.