About the new Netflix Rise and Fall documentary

Netflix documents the history of fashion label company Abercrombie & Fitch. (Image: Netflix)

Netflix Documentary “Abercrombie & Fitch”

Beautiful people, they have never been as valuable as they are today – social media keeps us a filtered mirror. At the same time, the demand for diversity and inclusion is more urgent than ever. Abercrombie & Fitch argued the opposite: exclusion and miscalculation entirely.

Abercrombie & Fitch, founded in downtown Manhattan in 1892, was originally a fishing tackle shop. In addition, the athlete with heels was brought tents and rifles, soon also containers for camping. Keywords outdoor sports. Prominent clientele included the great writer and great game hunter Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.

The sales figures were accurate and a related film with Rock Hudson (“A Goldfish on a Leash”) made the company known beyond national borders and fishing counties in 1964. But it would be a long time before the fashion company was more than just flourishing.

Abercrombie & Fitch relied on exclusion and miscalculated entirely.  (Image: Netflix)

Abercrombie & Fitch relied on exclusion and miscalculated entirely. (Image: Netflix)

This period actually lasted about a quarter of a century before the once well-positioned company became a modern money machine that replaced the golden donkey. It goes without saying that Abercrombie & Fitch used to be a strictly patriarchal company – from men to men, so to speak – because in the 1960s and 1970s business women were an absolute exception.

First of all, the company, which lived comfortably from the excess testosterone of a white male elite, was left breathless – in 1976 Abercrombie & Fitch, which had already passed from David Abercrombie to Ezra Fitch in 1907, had to file for bankruptcy. .

In 1988, Oshman’s Sporting Goods, the brand new owner, sold Abercrombie & Fitch to Limited Brands owned by American entrepreneur and billionaire Leslie Wexner, who appointed Michael Jeffries as CEO. He is the leading figure in the history of the company. Limited Brands removed itself from all shares after the IPO in 1996, which allowed Michael Jeffries to do as he pleased. And Michael Jeffries’s ideal was masculine, young and handsome. That he was married and the father of a son: a footnote.


Michael “Mike” Jeffries was CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch until December 2014. (Image: Netflix)

Synonymous with preppy

Jeffries took over the renaming of the old men brand and quickly turned it into the hottest trend label in the world for young people aged 18 to 22 years old. Abercrombie & Fitch switched to the preppy look, which up to that point was dominated by three other American brands: Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Nautica.

Michael Jeffries threw the fashionable hierarchical order into the sea and at no point did Abercrombie & Fitch become synonymous with the preppy look, which is closely related to the so-called Wasps (for white Anglo-Saxon Protestants), who are mostly made up of Assembly members. middle and upper classes.

The preferences of Michael Jeffries and thus those of Abercrombie & Fitch are ideally expressed in the original English title of the Netflix documentary: “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” refers to the target group, which is supposed to be white and hot, so white and beautiful. Asian, Latin or black? They did not fit the picture.

Male bust, topless and defined

Marketing promoted the creation of an American elite that was bursting with health and hunger for life and whose pride was captured by photographs that shaped the all-white images of the emerging company like no other; Bruce Weber, who was also married and, like Michael Jeffries, was more interested in men than women.

Jeffries and Weber were of the same heart and soul in this regard, meaning that they were “in the closet” and not “out of the closet”, ie hidden and not openly gay. While Jeffries is now living with a man, the photo star, who has since fallen in favor of alleged assaults, is still not declaring his sexual orientation. But male and sparrow models have long whistled from the rooftops. Coincidentally, the Netflix poster shows a bottle of the brand’s eau de cologne. A masculine bust, topless and defined, just as Bruce Weber liked.

The Netflix documentary is available for broadcast from April 19, 2022. (Image: Netflix)

The Netflix documentary is available for broadcast from April 19, 2022. (Image: Netflix)

The Netflix documentary was directed by a woman, 38-year-old Alison Klayman, who won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.” In “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” she gives the floor to those who were fired from the company because they were not white. Which, of course, Abercrombie & Fitch did not want to admit.

Instead, the flower was used to convey to them that it was not because they did not have the wrong skin color, but simply because they were not beautiful enough to be in front of the store. Not as beautiful as Olivia Wilde, Taylor Swift, Heidi Klum and certainly not like the Channing Tatum prototype she posed for Abercrombie & Fitch early in her career.

The film deals with how lists should be kept of employees’s appearance, who was delightful, who was not, who should have worked in the back of the store or was allowed to work in the front – or just suddenly was no more. I have a full tour. The company later described front-line vendors as models to get out of the exclusion affair because the exclusion allegations became more vocal, unmistakable.

Clear brand identity: well-trained, young (heterosexual) men.  (Image: Keystone)

Clear brand identity: well-trained, young (heterosexual) men. (Image: Keystone)

Abercrombie & Fitch consciously saw themselves as a brand for the “delightful kids”, those who are in charge of high school because of their attractiveness. Children not very riding, healthy, weak, others were not part of the brand image, as Michael Jeffries openly admitted in a 2006 interview. What he failed to do: apologize. This was rewarded.

The “young and thin” ideal remains

What a perfidious message to almost 20-year-olds who are often still not sure of their effect and have not dared to protest for a long time. Against racism and discrimination by a brand that significantly wrote the all-American children’s beauty ideal on the American flag and got the right to determine who passed as a typical American and who did not.

Shirtless male models, with which customers could be photographed, were part of the worldwide store concept.  (Image: Getty Images)

Shirtless male models, with which customers could be photographed, were part of the worldwide store concept. (Image: Getty Images)

As we know, pride comes before falling. Has the fashion industry learned from the preventative example? It is doubtful. Although social media is calling on both influencers and activists on stage, the song of praise for the diversity, inclusion and positivity of the body that dominates the international hits parades still shows bigotry. The sharpest and brightest thoughts in this film about exaggeration of assumptions come from Robin Givhan, former Washington Post fashion editor and Pulitzer Prize winner.

In the end, brands want to sell their goods, the more the better. It’s not just Americans who are gaining weight, while “normal weight” is aging. But no one wants to be old and fat, on the contrary the ideal is young, slender and handsome. Like the staff ready for models at Abercrombie & Fitch in the ’90s and early’ 00s. And, please, the attractive clientele of that time, paying carefully without asking stupid questions.

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