Classic Abercrombie & Fitch : The Abs, The Perfume, The End?
For all the Hong Kong people who still remember the craze of A&F half nude models and their flaming red shorts, they may be surprised to found out A&F (and the other 2As including Amercian Eagle and Aeropstale) is in fact no longer the fashion brand that are popular among teenagers. Walking up from Central station and into Pepper street, it is not hard to notice the dimmed light, over-scented perfume and the wall size abs-showing posters have changed to a more welcoming vibes with bright lights and less rude sales associates who can never get you the right size of clothes there.
Owed to A&F CEO Mike Jeffries multiples comment on discrimination against fat people and their exclusivity to attractive people with the former policy of not stocking XL or XXL size, A&F have aroused hate among certain people and the backfire of their brands. In addition, offensive attacks made by an interview with Jeffries 2006 were well-recorded- “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-America kids 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.”which led to an anti-movement “Fitch the Homeless” to make the brand “less-cool” and marked the decline of a former fashion empire.
After struggles on improving their social image and the economic recession (-if you are keen to know, there is a 7% sales drop and weighted down by 11% plunge in comparison), we must now bid farewell to the colourful T-shirt with big and precise A&F logos on their chest. The Abercrombie & Fitch iconic logo is officially announced dead by Jeffries, “In the spring season we are looking to take the North American logo business to practically nothing.” Together with the new policy of cutting down 25% of their fragrance, we can washed down the cliche LKF clubbing smell and the pride of being an A&F brand representatives.
Now that the “cool” era of A&F is history, what can HK teenagers be looking out for next? A&F in Hong Kong is always more than just a fashion brand but a mixture of foreign pride, a self-identity and a symbol. Being in an Asian country is always different from being in the States or any European countries, a more exotic and “foreign” vibes are viewed as more attractive and represent a higher social class. A&F is always considered as more an upper class clothing and a character of wealthy douchebag among teens. Despite the racist t-shirt slogan “Two Wongs make it clean” and the comment on going after “All-Amercia” kid- Oh Merica’, it is still (not surprisingly) extremely popular among Asian people.
As a university student who has a Hollister store literally next to her school campus and own a couple of them from Black Friday Sales, I could not help but notice many of us are still craving on the logos of A&F, Jack Wills, Hollister and considered themselves as a cooler/hipper group of students. Talking with a former Hollister model about the falling of A&F is still unbelievable for them, as her attractiveness (or rather egoistic behavior) is molded by the employment from A&F and the branding effect in HK.
“Even if A&F sales is falling, it still hasn’t change the fact that it only hire attractive people in their stores.” She replied with a grin on her face. “And lots of modelling agency are still looking out for teenagers who have been or are an employee under them.”
The changing of your facebook employment as “Hollister”and “A&F” may still attracts the admiration from fellow friends and a solid evidence of you being cool, but there is also a notable trend among my friends who would rather choose to dress more fashionably than showing off the logos of a brand. (Or rather show off a more luxurious brand)
With the rising of fast fashion in Hong Kong, including H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear and Forever 21, these brands have a clear advantage of being a cheaper replica of high street fashion- a checked polo shirt costs $720 on A&F website, while a similar one costs around $100 under the seasonal sales of H&M and the constant change of collections. Although A&F have been changing to fit the market model more, such as putting on plus size clothing on their racks and start selling black colour clothes under the strip off Jeffreis title as the board chairman, these pursuits may not be helpful at all. In addition, a quick research on one of the biggest online market in China- Taobao marking the almost authentic looking A&F hoodies at only $50 per piece, is there any need for us to chase after the brand name again?
When the word “cool” has been considered as uncool for years and all the models are no longer pretty, what does A&F coolness stands for more.