Abercrombie & Fitch Just Picked Up A New Look From Club Monaco

AaronLevineWWDThere are more changes in store for Abercrombie & Fitch since the ouster of the chain's former CEO Mike Jeffries late last year. While the stores' lighting has been turned up, the music has been turned down, the fragrance pumped into the air inside has been reduced dramatically and the staffers have been instructed to keep their shirts on, the main concern for the future of the company has been its product. The khakis, rugby shirts, jeans and polos that form the backbone of its men's merchandise have remained little changed over the years since the chain became a phenomenon in the late 1990s, except for varying degrees of logo decoration. It looks like some profound change is about to hit the brand as it has just stolen a new design director from the contemporary chain Club Monaco. Aaron Levine (pictured above) has just been named head of men's design at Abercrombie & Fitch & Co. according to WWD, which suggests that the brand is looking for a more sophisticated fashion direction in the seasons to come. Levine left Club Monaco earlier this month, and his previous experience includes stints at Jack Spade, Rogues Gallery and Hickey, the fleeting but fondly remembered contemporary offshoot of the classic men's suit brand Hickey Freeman.
While Levine's plans for Abercrombie's fashion direction have yet to be revealed, as vice-president of men's design at Club Monaco he succeeded in transforming its menswear offerings from a pleasant assortment of contemporary sportswear trends at a price to a vastly more cohesive collection of classic menswear with a youthful silhouette and a quirky edge that became a favorite of fashion critics as well as customers. He also brought in select footwear and accessory resources to complement and elevate the chain's products in a manner not unlike that of rival J.Crew.
While we don't expect that Abercrombie & Fitch stores are going to be turned into hipster gentleman's clubs right away, Levine's appointment suggest that the Abercrombie of the future may break free from the collegiate/athletic/preppy style parameters that, up until now, it has maintained to a fault.

Aaron Levine Joining Abercrombie & Fitch (WWD)


Abercrombie & Hollister Guys Put Their Shirts On Forever

Remember these guys?
They used to show up in front of Hollister on Broadway in SoHo just around the time that warm weather fully set in, and hung around saying "what'sup" to every customer who entered the store until Fall's first chill. They haven't really been there for a few years. Even though Abercrombie & Fitch just announced new, more chaste employee guidelines for its main and Hollister stores, it turns out that hiring a couple of model-types to hang out all day at the doorway was an expense that couldn't be justified even by the company's infamous, former CEO Michael Jeffries when its fortunes began to slide a few years ago. The covering of bare chests both in person and on posters will only be the most obvious change we will be seeing in Abercrombie and Hollister stores in the coming months. The particular aesthetic requirements of Jeffries' infamous "look policy" for his retail employees have basically been blown up after years of complaints from minority workers who felt that they were marginalized in the stores because of their race as well as activists who regularly complained that the store's imagery was overly sexualized and lacked both physical and racial diversity.

Sales staff will now be referred to as "brand representatives" instead of as Models which had allowed the company to dictate their appearance and physical type. In short, you will no longer have to look like you walked out of the ad campaign to apply for a job at Abercrombie and Hollister. In addition, workers will have more leeway to choose their own clothes rather than be pressured into buying current merchandise to "model", though visible logos from competing stores will still be banned. Shoe choices, for example, have also been broadened, so don't expect to see a store staff shod entirely in flip-flops, Jeffries' preferred footwear choice which posed multiple safety and support problems for store workers on their feet all day.  You can also say goodbye to other Abercrombie and Hollister signatures that the company clung to despite complaints from workers and ridicule from customers. Lighting has been adjusted presumably so that you will be able to properly see the merchandise for sale, as has music volume which had often been reported to be above safe decibel levels for continuous exposure in many stores.  The continuous house music mix that has been Abercrombie's calling card has been retired in favor of broader pop selections. In-store fragrance has been toned down, and no longer atomized so heavily throughout the stores and outside the entrances to such degrees that you could smell it down the block. Most prominently, the famous, ripped "Abercrombie Guy" will be relegated to the chain's perfume marketing. By July, he will be gone from billboards, in-store marketing images and shopping bags. There will be no more naked straddling of elephants or frolicking in woodland ponds. Abercrombie's new imagery will still feature gorgeous models (as seen below), but they will be a uniformly clothed, diverse cast, and though it hasn't been announced, it appears that Bruce Weber, the star photographer who helped create the sexy Abercrombie brand image and exclusively shot the chain's ad campaigns since the company's repositioning in the 90s, may be off the job.

It is certainly high time for a change, as the chains had long since fallen into self-parody by rigidly sticking to policies that initially brought them attention, but also a healthy helping of mockery —not to mention a slew of lawsuits from frustrated employees. Still, Abercrombie's excesses were entertaining at the very least, and we certainly got more than our fair share of mileage reporting about them. The danger, of course, is that Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch will become nondescript and boring. Now it will be up to the chains' creative staffs to find fresh merchandise that differentiates them from both their pasts and their competitors. And we have to admit, we miss those cheery shirtless guys in front of stores because, well, just look at them. Easy to make fun of, sure, but while we were calling them out, we weren't really complaining about them.

Bye-Bye, Beefcake: Abercrombie’s Hot Salesclerk Policy Is Over (Bloomberg)
A&F Drops ‘Sexualized’ Marketing (WWD)

  • Abercrombie-guy
  • Abercrombie-girl
New advertising images from Abercrombie & Fitch


American Apparel Has Really Fired Dov Charney For Good This Time

DovCharneyRemember last June when the board of American Apparel fired its founder and CEO Dov Charney?
And then he got some backers and bought up even more stock than he already owned, and somehow got to stay on as a consultant? And then, after all the scandalous disclosures of information about Charney, things seemed to settle down.
Well, Happy Chanukah, Dov! You're fired for good now.

According to WWD, and various reports popping up in the media yesterday evening, Charney has been officially fired for cause, and, to emphasize that fact, a new CEO has been hired to replace him permanently. Paula Schneider, who has held executive positions at major companies like Warnaco, BCBG Max Azria and Laundry by Shelli Segal will be taking over the CEO position on January 5th. WWD's report hints that a deal to allow Charney to have some sort of official, ongoing role within American Apparel may have been under discussion as recently as a few weeks ago, but it apparently went sour leading the company's board to revert back to their original plan which was to get rid of him entirely.

Is it all over for Dov? Probably, but even fired, he is still American Apparel's largest shareholder, and his generally combative nature regarding this issue suggests that he can be expected to be something of a thorn in the board's side at the very least for some time to come. Stay tuned to see how this continues to play out.

Dov Charney's Firing Could Spur Lawsuits (WWD)
SCANDAL ROUND-UP: American Apparel Gains Stability Via Hedge Fund -Charney's Future In Question
See all American Apparel coverage HERE


Abercrombie's Infamous CEO Retires

Michael-jeffries-WWDIt has been a long time coming, but Mark Jeffries, the embattled CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch has finally bowed out after several years of scandals, embarrassing press coverage and, most importantly, poor business performance. He was announced to be retired this morning according to WWD. The company will be run by a newly created "Office of the Chairman" to be led by newly promoted executive chairman Arthur Martinez and a group of other managers. An executive search firm has been engaged to find a permanent CEO.
While Jeffries can be credited with transforming Abercrombie & Fitch from a dusty classic sportswear retailer to one of the country's hottest retailers for teens and young adults with racy advertising and youthful product design, the backlash set in hard after numerous insensitive comments to the press and reports of unprofessional behavior behind the scenes including giving his partner responsibilities and influence over business decisions without his actually being an employee. Strong business had often allowed Jeffries to deflect criticism, but the company's recent poor performance coupled with renewed criticism of Jeffries' business practices proved to be too much for him to bear.

While Abercrombie's sexy image was what catapulted it to success in the 1990s, its resolute refusal to update and evolve its signature imagery has allowed it to long since fall into self-parody with its shirtless greeters, dark, over-scented stores and male pinup shopping bags. what was once exciting to shoppers has become stale as its third quarter sales fell 12% and comparable sales online and in-store fell 10%, continuing a downward trajectory. Jeffries' public statement regarding his retirement goes as follows:

"It has been an honor to lead this extraordinarily talented group of people.  I am extremely proud of your accomplishments.  I believe now is the right time for new leadership to take the Company forward in the next phase of its development."

Without him at the helm, maintaining his own creative direction and choices, look for some radical change at the chain as it works to shore up its business and re-invent itself for a new generation of shoppers.

Michael Jeffries Out at A&F (WWD)


The Costume Institute Will Wear Widows' Weeds For The Fall

MourningEnsemble1870-72The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has officially announced that their next exhibition will focus on the tradition of mourning clothes. If you are thinking that that will make for a very somber Met Ball, don't worry. Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire (Not to be confused with the 1992 Robert Zemeckis film Death Becomes Her about the quest for eternal youth starring Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) will open on October 21, well before the next gala. Since the opening of the newly renovated Anna Wintour Costume Center earluier this year, the Costume Institiute will once again be mounting two shows a year, and this one will be the museums first fall show since 2007. You can be sure that when the next gala rolls around, the theme will be somewhat more festive.

And speaking of the show, don't presume that it will necessarily be a downer. Curated by Harold Koda, the Institute's Curator in Charge along with Assistant Curator Jessica Regan, Death Becomes Her will chronicle 100 years of mourning dress from 1815 to 1915 allowing it to easily cover, among several other periods, the death-obsessed Victorian Era. The show will be designed to offer more than just sociological insight, and there's a lot more than weeping involved. “The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes,” says Koda,  “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances.  As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order."

Like the current Charles James show, the upcoming exhibition will allow for greater display of the museum's costume collection than in the past few years, and will include mourning gowns worn by both Queen Victoria and her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra, who, as royals, had a great influence on the mourning traditions of their times. So don't expect just a dour parade of dreary dresses. This Fall, the Costume Institute will use a little death to tell us more about life.


Abercrombie & Fitch To Become
A Lot Less Like A Gay Bar

One of the reasons you are even reading this blog is because one of our early posts likened the Abercrombie & Fitch store on Fifth Avenue to a gay nightclcub. 
That one went viral and played for a while, and several years later, it still seems like an accurate assessment of the boilerplate Abercrombie aesthetic (if we do say so ourself). That's all going to change, finally. Bloomberg is reporting that since the chain's sales, and those of its sibling Hollister, have been dropping faster than American Idol's ratings, management has finally decided to turn down the blasting music, brighten the lights, open up the shutters on the windows and start experimenting with revolutionary ideas like window displays, larger size ranges and, for the first time since the chain was transformed in the 1990s, selling clothes in the color black. Even the noxious perfumes that are atomized throughout the stores are expected to be substantially reduced —though, sadly, not eliminated altogether.
Baby steps.

Why all the adjustment now? The chains' sales have dipped before, but there was no rush to respond to customer pressures in the past from Abercrombie. It turns out that the impending changes in the stores reflects a hard won victory in the boardroom for activist investors who were finally fed up with Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries' autocratic management style. Essentially, since he took control of the company, he has personally dictated nearly every detail of the stores' operations and merchandising. His likes captured the target market's attention at the beginning, but like any group of consumers, they eventually moved to other, newer, shinier things. Jeffries resisted any major changes in strategy, and shrugged off complaints that became high-profile public issues ranging from sizing to diversity in hiring, much to the concern of stockholders who saw their once unstoppable stock holdings decrease in value in the face of competition from the H&Ms and Forever 21s of the world. Finally, the board stripped Jeffries of his chairmanship and has forced him to name presidents for both chains as well as a new CEO for the company that is not himself. Jeffries was almost pushed out altogether until he negotiated a truce last month with the main activist investor, Engaged Capital LLC, resulting in his demotion and the naming of four independent members to the company's board.

What all of these boardroom battles have resulted in is what is expected to be a noticeably different atmosphere in Abercrombie and Hollister stores over the coming months. Do you like those beefcake pictures on the walls? Take a long look, because they are headed for the dumpster. Shoppers can expect to see smaller logos, a larger size range and generally freshened up product offerings in the coming seasons —and they will actually be able to see them since brighter lighting is a major part of the store makeover plan. All of these changes at Abercrombie and Hollister are long overdue, but we have to admit that we will miss the idea of having an analog of a gay discothèque in every mall in America. The question that remains is: Now that the stores' tired attributes are being jettisoned, will they be replaced with anything exciting enough that will bring those free-spending teens back through their doors?

Abercrombie Tones Down Nightclub Vibe to Win Back Teens By Lindsey Rupp (Bloomberg via The Cut)
What, No Drink Tickets?: Abercrombie & Fitch (5.12.2006)


Hollister May Abandon Its
"Epic" SoHo Flagship

Remember these guys?
Everybody was all excited in the middle of the Summer of 2009 when they showed up at the corner of Houston Street and Broadway to greet customers in front of what would be Manhattan's first Hollister store. At the time, we called the dramatic environment an "astonishing feat of art direction and casting", but despite its size, it has never been much of a store, just a retail funhouse. It's looking like the immense "Epic" flagship, as it was meant to be called has seen its best days. To be honest, that was the first and last time we even went into the store, for many reasons, but mainly becasue the "fragrance" that gets pumped through the air and onto the sidewalks at most Hollister and Abercrombie stores usually makes The Shophound want to barf. Sadly, Hollister gave up its signature shirtless summer greeters a couple of summers ago, but now the chain is reportedly ready to abandon its gigantic SoHo flagship altogether. If you thought that the lavish space was just a bit more than the sportswear chain needed, you were probably right. The New York Post is reporting that parent company Abercrombe & Fitch has been quietly shopping the space to potential tenants to sub-lease. Other options, however, may include a complete buyout by the landlord which would allow them to court entirely new tenants at a much higher market rate than the one Abercrombie signed when it took the space.

Abercrombie's fortunes have been erratic in general since the financial crisis in 2008, and are currently on a downturn again. While Abercrombie and Hollister stores are both pervasive in malls all over America, in Manhattan, they have relied on splashy outsized flagship stores in pricey retail neighborhoods that have become tourist magnets. At the same time, they have avoided more prosaic but still upscale neighborhoods on the Upper East or West Sides or around Lower Fifth Avenue where its competitors like Banana Republic or J.Crew have traditionally thrived, trading that steady, more locally based business for gawking tourists. At any rate, the Epic flagship is apparently now too much of an expense for Hollister and Abercrombie to bear. What will eventually take its place remains to be seen, but whoever it is will be losing one of Hollister's greatest assets. The massive northern outside wall of the building that has served as a billboard for the store will soon be obscured by a new building over the service station and fruit stand that currently stand on the plot of land that borders Houston Street. 42,000 square feet on a prime stretch in SoHo will still command a hefty rent, though, so look for something major to take Hollister's place, eventually. If you are feeling nostalgic already, have a look back at some of the charming, young, shirtless and flip-flop-shod gentlemen who made Summer at the corner of Houston and Broadway just a bit more entertaining in the gallery below.

Big deal on West 43rd Street -2nd Item (NYPost via Racked)
Hey, What'sup? It's Hollister, Dude! (5/16/2009)

  • Hollisterboys1
  • Hollisterboys2
  • Hollisterboys3


Reports Of An Abercrombie & Fitch Gay Kiss May Be Somewhat Exaggerated

AbercrombieKissYes, it's a kiss.
No, it doesn't belong to Abercrombie & Fitch.
Or does it?

You may see a bit of news racing through the magical interwebs that Abercrombie & Fitch, the gayest not-gay chain store in the world, has finally broken its self constructed glass closet and released a promotional video featuring (gasp) a gay kiss (pictured in the screenshot at right). We have embedded the video after the jump if you want to know exactly what we are talking about. It's suggestive, but actually less revealing than some Madonna videos we could mention. The video is by photographer Bruce Weber, who has been shooting for the retailer since the mid 1990s when the brand changed from a classic, conservative apparel chain to a youth-focused sportswear store whose advertising imagery suddenly featured cavalcades of naked young men innocently frolicking about. WeberFacebookIt is, apparently, one of four new "Webersodes" which have been presumed to be part of Abercrombie's ad campaign and can be found on his website HERE. Titled, "Other sports require one ball. Wrestling requires two.", it features a bunch of sexy wrestlers in an idyllic outdoor shower, uh, still frolicking to the tune of James Brown's "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose". At one point, one guy kisses another on the forehead in a non-wrestling kind of hold. It's not quite the mack session you might be expecting given the hype, though it definitely crosses a fuzzy line that Abercrombie hasn't crossed in the past.
And maybe they still haven't?

If you know us, you know that we gleefully revel in almost every wacky move that Abercrombie & Fitch and their various subsidiaries make, but even this sounded too good to be true. The Shophound picked up the phone and called Abercrombie & Fitch to find out if this in fact was part of their campaign or just one of Bruce Weber's own video projects. While we initially reached a representative who is likely used to be taking clothing orders, we gave her a chance to find someone who could answer our question, and was told that it was not actually part of the retailers advertising campaign. Bruce Weber's Facebook page, however identifies them has having been made for Abercrombie & Fitch as of february 9th. So, were they made for Abercrombie and rejected, or are they meant to be sort of underground and viral? Somebody please clarify.

AbercrombieKissLogoIn fact, there isn't any indication on this particular video that it was filmed specifically for Abercrombie & Fitch. Usually their official videos will feature a company logo on the screen at some point, which this one does not have —even though some of the guys are wearing Abercrombie clothes (when they are wearing anything at all, at left). There's no trace of it on Abercrombie's website nor has it been uploaded by them to Facebook or YouTube (where it would probably be given an age verification requirement to view). We are pretty sure about this because we watched it a couple of time just to be certain (as you might want to). We might even watch it again later. Was the film meant for Abercrombie and then deemed a little bit too hot even for them?

Anyway, this story is making its way around the web, as sexy videos will do. We were initially skeptical because Abercrombie has been using homoerotic imagery for quite some time without ever including anything that is specifically gay. Sure there are lots of hot, shirtless guys in their ads and in their stores, but never has there been a kiss, or something that would definitively identify as gay. Abercrombie stores are just like gay bars, but the strategy of walking this ostensibly ambiguous line where gay people can identify the brand's imagery as gay while straight people can blithely dismiss it as a couple of shirtless guys just hanging out has worked exceptionally well for the company, however disingenuous it may be. Why would they change things now?

A NOTE: We have been revising this post over the course of a couple of hours since it was originally published as we have discovered more information. We will continue to adjust, noting updates as necessary.

UPDATE: The video has been removed from the hosting service that allowed us to embed it, but can still be seen on Bruce Weber's own website HERE.

Abercrombie & Fitch Promo Clip Features Gay Kiss Between Two Models (Huffington Post via Towleroad & Homorazzi)


Summer Officially Arrives
At Hollister

Yes, folks, the season has been heralded. Forget Memorial Day, the real beginning of Summer happens when the models in front of SoHo's Hollister change into their bathing suits. Beach slobs take note of the newly trimmed down, above-the-knee surfing trunks. If there is one men's clothing lesson to be learned this season, it's that droopy, culotte-like board shorts are finally O-V-E-R. Please burn yours immediately, and re-introduce your lower thighs to the beach.
That is all.


Abercrombie & Fitch Sends
101 Hunks To Paris

Here in New York we have all become so jaded in regards to Abercrombie & Fitch's usual stunts. The swimwear-clad models standing in front of Hollister have become such a Summer fixture that we hardly notice them anymore (well, maybe we notice them a little). In Paris, however, things are a bit different.

While Abercrombie's stores are fixtures in nearly every mall in America, the brand is far less saturated in Europe, and the cachet that has long since worn off on these shores remains in full effect overseas. To build up excitement over its new Paris flagship store, the company has hired 101 models to do what Abercrombie models do best, stand around, smile and look generally toned and worked out while underdressed. The folks at Stylerumor have gone to great efforts to document this event with copious photos and video.

It would be a shame not to share their hard work with the American public.

Abercrombie & Fitch Invades Paris with 101 Shirtless Models (Stylerumor)