Abercrombie & Fitch Apologizes After Backlash From Mike Jeffries' Comments

Image: Abercrombie & Fitch Apologizes After Backlash From Mike Jeffries' Comments 2012 photo of Mike Jeffries, CEO of US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, leaving the store on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris.

Thursday, 23 May 2013 12:47 PM

By Megan Anderle

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After two weeks of intense backlash over the sizing of their clothes and CEO Mike Jeffries' controversial comments about only dressing beautiful and thin people, Abercrombie and Fitch has finally apologized for what some say is egregious behavior.

Realizing their brand's reputation has taken a serious hit, with high-profile celebrities criticizing the brand, teens protesting, and a filmmaker's anti-Abercrombie campaign, the company apologized in a brief statement on Wednesday.

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“We look forward to continuing this dialogue and taking concrete steps to demonstrate our commitment to anti-bullying in addition to our ongoing support of diversity and inclusion," the company said in a press release. "We want to reiterate that we sincerely regret and apologize for any offense caused by comments we have made in the past which are contrary to these values."

The backlash began when comments Jeffries made seven years ago about the brand's demographic resurfaced. The comments about only appealing to "cool kids" in school reemerged when Business Insider reported two weeks ago that Abercrombie doesn't carry XL or XXL sizes while competitors like H&M and American Eagle do.

“A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely," he told Salon.com in 2006.

That was just the first straw. Then, Jeffries offered an explanation that didn't help much.

“While I believe this 7-year-old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense,” he wrote on the company's Facebook page last week, adding that he stands by their original size policies. “A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers.”

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Jeffries' comments incited a group of teens to travel to the company's Columbus, Ohio, headquarters to protest, a change.org petition with more than 71,000 signatures calling for larger sizes, and several celebrities to slam the brand, including Kirstie Alley and Ellen DeGeneres. Abercrombie also took a hit when a Los Angeles filmmaker launched a campaign to give Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to the homeless.

Despite their attempt to improve their image with an apology this week, Abercrombie faced another setback in their road to redemption. On Thursday a judge ruled that nearly 250 Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister clothing stores have limited access for customers in wheelchairs and that the sales countertops are too high. The judge determined the only remedy is an injunction ordering the problems to be fixed.

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