Monday, November 07, 2005

Abercrombie & Fitch to pull line of T-shirts

Abercrombie & Fitch to pull line of T-shirts Saturday, November 05, 2005
By Monica Haynes and Moustafa Ayad, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch, bowing to increasing national pressure started by a local girls group, has agreed to stop selling several controversial T-shirts.


Anonymous said...

Abercrombie & Fitch to pull line of T-shirts
Saturday, November 05, 2005

By Monica Haynes and Moustafa Ayad, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch, bowing to increasing national pressure started by a local girls group, has agreed to stop selling several controversial T-shirts.

In a statement released yesterday the company said: "We recognize that the shirts in question, while meant to be humorous, might be troubling to some."

Members of the Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers program said the T-shirts with slogans like "Who Needs Brains When You Have These" were demeaning to young women and launched a "girlcott" Sunday against the controversial retailer. The protest garnered national media attention, including a segment on the "Today" show and huge public response.

"I think it's really amazing that a group of 20 girls between the ages of 13 and 16 can start and end this kind of movement in less than a week," said Emma Blackman-Mathis, co-chair of the grantmakers program, which is overseen by the Women's & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania.

"We're actually very happy with how things have turned out," said Heather Arnet, the foundation's executive director. "This all started with a discussion with the girls about social change and how a small group can make a difference."

She said Abercrombie & Fitch was very responsive to the girlcott because it came from the company's customer base. "We're very proud with how they've handled it and how the girls have handled it," Ms. Arnet said.

Amitte Rosenfield, a sophomore at Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill and a member of the grantmakers group, said the girlcott was important because young women must not think "it's OK to see them for their bodies, not their minds."

The next step for both sides is scheduling a time for members of the grantmakers program to visit the company's headquarters in New Albany, Ohio, to discuss developing apparel that can empower young women.

"One of our underlining goals for this movement was to actually show girls that they have a voice and that their voice and their dollars have significant value," Ms. Blackman-Mathis said.

The controversy surrounding the shirts is nothing new for Abercrombie & Fitch. The company continually walks a tightrope on the edge of fashion, fending off its retail competitors while thriving on media attention and controversy to remain in its coveted No. 1 position, retail merchandisers, industry analysts and advertisers say."This is really a tough competitive market and it is often difficult to stand out," said Alan Andreasen, a marketing professor at Georgetown University who specializes in consumer behavior and social marketing. "The problem is that it only works for a while and there tends to be a wear out in the long-term."

When the company released a line of shirts following the United States' unsuccessful attempt to garner a gold medal at the U.S. Olympics that read "L is for Loser" alongside a picture of a gymnast, U.S. gymnasts called for a boycott and the shirts were eventually pulled from stores.

In 2003, a catalog bearing pictures of scantily clad men and women caused an uproar that eventually led to the company's retraction of the catalog.

Yet while these instances drew media attention and galvanized groups of people against the company, registers still rang across the country. Last month, Abercrombie reported sales were up 41 percent from last year during the month of October.

Andrea Fitting, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh advertising agency Fitting Group, says Abercrombie's desperate grasp for market share and attention will eventually lead to a serious public backlash -- the key is when.

"It's hard to stay No. 1 when competition is always nipping at your heels," said Ms. Fitting. "So, for them it's this sexual stuff and the hope is this really is going to get people talking about you. But there is going to come a point when this is detrimental to sales because in the end people vote with their wallets and it's not just a few girls and women."

(Staff writer Moustafa Ayad can be reached at or 412-263-1731.)

Mark Rauterkus said...

Some clips from elsewhere, Retailer online news forum, about this story.

Abercrombie should pull the offending t-shirts and apologize for the error ASAP. A sexy image is a great image. Apologizing for being sexy would be a foolish error. Insulting people isn't usually considered sexy. Nothing I saw in the (late lamented) Abercrombie magazine seemed insulting. To some people, anything that is erotic is insulting. The t-shirts cross the line. 99% of the other Abercrombie positioning doesn't.
- Mark Lilien, BrainTrust Panelist

I admire the girls for taking a stand. We have reached a point in our culture where we tend to vilify people that try and stand for something. I am encouraged that we have young people trying to raise the bar.
Nothing good can come from the t-shirts and you can certainly see where they might cause harm. I hope A&F sees that in their sales and they make different decisions going forward.
- cstorexpert

The women I know would smack you up the side of the head if you bought them one of those shirts. And then, when you got up, they'd hit you again.
- Warren Thayer, RW Commentator

Let's talk about it from the perspective of a parent. I have two teen-agers, the issues they deal with, the pressures they face in school are huge. Thanks to the desire to make a buck too many people and companies are willing to market stuff like this. Would I want my daughter wearing a t-shirt like this? Absolutely not, and I'm thankful my daughter has enough brains to not wear a shirt like it. And as for my teenage son, I don't need for him to see girls wearing a shirt that says something like that. Teenage boys/men have enough issues already, we don't need to fuel the fire even more.
- Mark Hunter, BrainTrust Panelist

You'd think A&F would learn their lesson. They got blasted a few years ago for a line of t-shirts grossly offensive to Asian Americans. One tee said "Wong Brothers Laundry Service - Two Wongs Can Make It White." Another said, "Abercrombie & Fitch Buddha Bash - Get Your Buddha on the Floor."
The company said they thought Asian Americans would appreciate the humor. They didn't, and the company later apologized.

It's amazing that so many companies, politicians and celebrities continue to make sexist, racist or homophobic gaffes when the stakes are so high. As funny as you think you're being, as much as you think that people are too uptight and need to loosen up, why anyone would want to risk alienating an entire demographic group for a cheap laugh and some PR is beyond me.
- David Morse, BrainTrust Panelist

Foolish, foolish, foolish. Abercrombie is already overpriced for the average American household. Now you've given Mom a reason to say "no" to shopping there. My local high school would round up any child with a sexually explicit shirt, and ask them to change it or go home.
- Shade2

I admire the Alleghany County Girls, they are doing what you do in a semi-free society when you don't like something. You fight speech with speech; you use the economic power you have to fight marketing. In this case, it sounds like a lot of women are buying these shirts, so they must not feel that it demeans them. Perhaps they don't understand how it demeans them (which could prove the point on the t-shirt, but I won't go there), so it's great that others will step up and try to help them and A&F see the damage.
- Jeff Weitzman, BrainTrust Panelist

.... But the fact is that an unfortunate mainstream element here is going to see some of these shirts and take them at face value, perhaps as something that merely strengthens their bigotry, or perhaps as a welcoming invitation for sex with a cute teenager. Sorry, folks, it's a reality. (WRONG)

WRONG in that the kids who did the girl-cott are not what I'd call “mainstream.” WRONG reality.

Who needs it? I'm not saying ban them, because I still feel strongly about free speech. I'm not even saying boycott the store; I just wouldn't buy them, and would discourage people from doing so. Yes, I have a daughter. And I suggest that anybody wanting a clearer understanding of where I'm coming from, would do well to read "Reviving Ophelia" by Mary Pipher.
Warren Thayer, RW Commentator

If all you get is negative publicity, sooner or later, it turns into a negative.

Sure, if you don't like it, don't buy it. But, at some point it is heartening to see young women stand up for themselves in a positive way instead of a negative way. These appear to be young women that we should be proud of.

Anonymous said...

DePaul alum making national news

Please join us in congratulating Elena LaQuatra. She is one of the young women involved in Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers, the group taking the lead in protesting T-shirts degrading to women that were being marketed by Abercrombie & Fitch. FISA Foundation invited DePaul teenage girls to participate in this group last Spring. Elena took up the opportunity and is now embroiled in the national fervor to take these shirts off the shelves. (Abercrombie pulled the shirts last Friday.) Representatives from the group have been on CNN, Larry King Live, Today Show et al.

Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers provides young women the opportunity to review, discuss and award grants to 501(c)3 organizations that support programming for youth. The T-shirt campaign is a side activity of the group. Imagine!

Elena is to be double congratulated. She was chosen once again to be a dancer with the Russian Ballet. Performances in Pittsburgh will be during the first week in December.

Amos_thePokerCat said...

Positive way? These little girls are just yet another incarnation of the bitter politically correct thought police.

Mark Rauterkus said...

These kids are kids. Sorta like "little girls." Sure. But that does not mean that they don't count, nor that they mean little.

Next, the bitter part isn't the acts of the girls. Really, the bitter part is the act of the corporate clothing chain.

If somone does NOT behave -- I want the police. What's wrong with the police?

But, here, there was no need for police -- but rather PEER PRESSURE of sorts.

I would not want to call the police when the police are not needed. But, I do want to counter the bitter with better messages.

This stuff from A&F was garbate. Garbage should go to the trash. That is where it ended. Thankfully. That's positive in my book.