Who can forget the chiseled abs, the strong smell of cologne, and the megawatt smiles when they greet you at the door? Abercrombie & Fitch was a clothing brand staple in the late 1990s that has since been overshadowed by claims of a toxic workplace culture.
the long awaited Red hot: The rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitch The documentary premieres tonight on Netflix, detailing the dark side of one of America’s hottest retail companies that was once a “pop culture phenomenon.”
“Ambercrombie was ingrained in discrimination at every level,” said one interviewee. “There is a reason why people like that brand. Exclusion is part of our society”.
Ex employee Carla Barrientoswho was 19 years old when he got a job at his local A&F in the Valley Plaza Mall, echoed those statements.
“The whole culture of what’s cool and who’s cool is just fluff, it’s not important. The culture at that time really was exclusion, it looks very different to where we are, and the good times have changed,” he explained as the doctor immersed himself in the brand’s controversial past hiring and firing practices, as well as its work culture. .
“I mean this was the practice,” he added. “Walking into a store, I started to notice that I was hired to work on the floor and everyone who worked on the floor was white. There was something going on that didn’t reflect my real life.”
Mike Jeffriesthe former CEO of A&F, also faced criticism for admitting that they were “going after the cool kids” in terms of their marketing strategy, stating, “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they cannot belong. Are we exclusive? Absolutely.”
He later apologized for the comments, clarifying that “we are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations, or other antisocial behavior based on race, gender, body type, or other individual characteristics.”
The document notes that Barrientos, along with several other former employees, were plaintiffs in a 2003 class action lawsuit against A&F alleging discrimination. The suit was settled for $40 million the following year.
Subsequently, Abercrombie & Fitch hired Fran Horowitz-Bonadies as CEO in 2017, who reportedly told CNBC that “we are no longer the brand we used to be” and will move in a positive direction.