Abercrombie & Fitch models are in many cases nearly all white
American retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has found itself at the centre of yet more discrimination charges after a female employee published her experiences of working in what she discovered to be both a racist and sexist environment.
Writing for xoJane, the anonymous employee detailed numerous examples of the company’s blatant discrimination which has created a “toxic and superficial environment” and made her job thoroughly unenjoyable.
The employee, who began working for the company after being scouted by two of its male models, initially enjoyed her work but soon began to notice ugly aspects to the company and its values.
In particular, the student employee noted that when the company CEO, Mike Jeffries, visited the store, discriminatory action was stepped up. “On one particularly horrifying instance, most of the black models were sent home an hour early before their shifts ended and before Jeffries was scheduled to visit,” revealed the employee. Following the incident, “[o]ne of the models complained to the confidential company hotline of racism on the manager’s part, and the security team conducted an investigation,” but there was no outcome since the manager “denied any racial bias” and there wasn’t enough “substantial evidence” to prove racial motivation.
Further to this, the employee said that there was only a single black greeter in the store – and them being the first in five years – and that one black model was rejected because he did not look “exotic” enough.
The female employee also mentioned cases where she felt sexually objectified by customers. Wearing the skimpy uniform that it is compulsory for the stores’ models to wear and she “reluctantly squeezed into,” the student recalled one incident where she was “followed by a group of men across the store, while the men made profane comments under their breaths about my ‘nice ass’.”
This is not the first time that Abercrombie & Fitch – whose offshoot brand is Hollister Co. – has come under fire because of its discriminatory practices.
In 2004 the company had to settle a £26m discrimination lawsuit in the US over charges that its shops were disproportionately (almost entirely) filled with only white staff.
Then, just two years later, the company executive, Mr Jeffries, admitted that the company is discriminatory, something which he did not believe to be a problem. Mr Jeffries, 70, explained: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,' he told Salon. '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.” He added, “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Mr Jeffries, who resigned in December last year, has also infamously made extremely controversial comments about why the brand only stocks smaller sizes, saying: “Good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people… a lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong.”
In 2009 the company found itself yet again embroiled in a discrimination law suit, this time forced to pay £9,000 to a British employee who was born without a left forearm and found that she was always made to work in a stockroom where customers could not see her.
The employee who has made the recent accusations against the company says it has failed to work on improving its diversity, saying: “It is still the vapid, superficial brand that it was 10 years ago when the racial lawsuits surfaced.”
A spokesperson for Abercrombie and Fitch said: “A&F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.” He added, “We take any allegations of this nature very seriously, and are investigating this matter.”