Abercrombie's Push-Up Bikini For Girls Hits The Outraged Airwaves

It's been a while since Abercrombie & Fitch has been able to whip up a bona fide scandal. From nudity in the A&F Quarterly to those racist t-shirts (remember them?) the chain has always been able to raise someone's hackles, and the latest was all over the morning TV shows today: a padded bikini top for girls starting at age 7.

It hardly seems worth joining in the outrage over such a product at this point. The inappropriateness of it would seem to be staggeringly obvious, and yet thoughtful judgement has never appeared to be an important part of Abercrombie's merchandising decision-making process. In the past the chain has generally caved to the public's ire. The Quarterly, despite a brief reappearance last year, was discontinued, and those "humorous" Chinese-themed t-shirts were pulled from the shelves. In this case, however, they seem to be defiant as the Ashley Push-Up bikini top has merely been retitled a "triangle" top, and put on sale. Of course, as any swimsuit shopper knows, a triangle usually refers to an unstructured top with no support —a simple triangle of fabric— and this creepy little item is somewhat more than that. Expect this story to continue for a day or two, and dominate the 5 PM newscasts before it disappears into the vague memory of scandals past.

Abercrombie gets pushback over ‘push-up’ kiddie bikini (Today Show)
Abercrombie criticized for selling push-up tops to little girls (CNN)



Hollister's Open On Fifth Avenue
And Yes, There's A Line


Click all images for a larger view in a new window

Hey, who knew this was happening?

Hollister opened the doors of it's new Fifth Avenue store today, its second in Manhattan, and, as if corporately mandated, there is indeed a line of anxious customers outside waiting to get in.

Hollister5A-2 The shirtless models are safely tucked away behind plate glass at this location, which makes something of a window display of the Jason Stackhouse lookalike greeting customers as they walk through the door (Helpful hint: anyone without a shirt on will gladly pose for a picture. In fact, they'll start posing as soon as they see you pulling out the camera. Just so you know...). There are no real surprises at this branch of the chain. Corporate retail replication is in full effect here. You will be greeted with clouds of noxious Hollister fragrance and an endless yet cheery chorus of "Hey! Whatsup!" the minute you enter, and the store is even more dark and mazelike than its much larger SoHo counterpart. Hollister5A-3 The Shophound could barely round a corner in some of those cramped rooms without getting slapped in the face by a potted palm. We fully expect that the place will be completely impenetrable between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. One difference is that the store's signature live feed of the Pacific Ocean is shown on video screens that make up the storefront, a striking effect that gives the slack jawed tourists waiting in line something soothing to look at. Welcome to New York —Have a look at California.

Hollister 666 Fifth Avenue between 52nd & 53rd Streets, Midtown



The 2010 A&F Quarterly Naked Count


Last Saturday marked the return of the of the A&F Quarterly to Abercrombie & Fitch Stores all over America after a seven-year suspension. From 11 AM to 4 PM it was available only to those who had pre-reserved copied online at a selected Abercrombie branch, so The Shophound schlepped down to the now bedbug-free South Street Seaport branch to pick up our copy —what, you think we would try and plow through the tourists on Fifth Avenue on a Saturday?

Abercrombiewarning Since it was yet another sweltering day in New York, we took advantage of our air conditioning to thoroughly examine the new product, and after we freed it from its plastic wrapper —featuring a red label in three languages strictly prohibiting sales to anyone under 18 years of age— we discovered that the new A&F Quarterly is pretty much exactly like the old one featuring Bruce Weber's photos of gorgeous young men and a few token chicks in various states of playful undress. If you didn't know it was from 2010, it could easily have been from 2003, or 1998 or whenever, which, depending on your point of view is either comforting  or disappointing. Conceptually, however, it represents the roots of Abercrombie's current business woes as the store remains mired in outdated aesthetic concepts that it refused to abandon.

But on to the pictures! After all, there are hardly any clothes in the book anyway, and with the whole afternoon at our disposal, we decided to do the Concerned Parents of America a favor and count the instances of nudity that necessitated that bossy warning sticker.

It's hardly hard-core porn, but at $10 a copy it's certainly priced like it, and while there is no actual full frontal nudity, there is plenty that without a strategically placed hand, leg or even a big black dot, would easily qualify. Note that if the same bottom was bared in multiple photos on the same page, we only counted it once, and, as the publication is from a chain of gay bars masquerading as clothing stores, the photos of guys vastly outnumber those of the gals —but then you probably knew that.

Male- 15
Female- 6

Female- 9
Male- pretty much all of them

Male- 16
Female - 8

Additionally, the book's "A&F Screen Test" theme includes two separate photo sequences of guys either cuddling or wrestling depending on your level of denial —one pair clad in jeans and another wearing only the aforementioned large black dot. Also, there is a three-page Female-Male-Female threesome story, and two pages featuring a couple of fully clothed chicks making out —for equal time, we suppose.

Are we providing scans? Hell, no! Go buy your own $10 copy, but we'll leave a few NSFW teaser shots (by way of Fashionista) after the jump.

Resurrection Du Jour: A&F Quarterly Returns! Can It Save Abercrombie & Fitch?
What, No Drink Tickets?: Abercrombie & Fitch


The 2010 A&F Quarterly Naked Count" »


Bedbugs vs. Abercrombie Round 2
South Street Seaport Store Shut

We like to think of Abercrombie & Fitch as a gift that keeps on giving, but to a bedbug, apparently, they are just lunch.

After having closed its Hollister Epic Flagship on Wednesday for a persistent bedbug infestation, the chain had to turn around and shut the Abercrombie & Fitch location at the South Street Seaport on Friday for the same reason! Is there a connection? The stores are miles apart, so it would seem unlikely, but it certainly is kind of funny, especially since the company appears to be handling the situation by following the leading life rule of one Suzanne Sugarbaker: "The man should kill the bug!" The man, in this case, would be the Mayor Bloomberg.

According to The Wall Street Journal, A&F Chairman and CEO Michael S. Jeffries has actually contacted the Mayor for "leadership and guidance" on how best to address the problem of "the growing infestation of bedbugs in New York City." As any New Yorker can guess, the the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene responded by basically saying, "Not my problem, dude."

We know, HILARIOUS, right? As if the Mayor has time to offer suggestions to every building that has been hit by bedbugs. Truly, such an infestation is a miserable trial that The Shophound wouldn't wish on our worst enemy (okay, maybe our second-worst enemy), but there's something appropriately karmic about a company that gleefully flouts all kinds of workplace safety and fair hiring practices having to turn to the city to help them out of an embarrassing situation. Abercrombie says that the Hollister store should have been ready to be reopened by Saturday, which sounds like wishful thinking for a building that size, especially one filled with clothes and overstuffed furniture.

As always, we wish the folks at Abercrombie the best of luck with their problem, and thank them for the material.

Retailer Asks Mayor for Help in Bedbug Battle (Wall Street Journal)
Schadednfreude Du Jour: Bedbug Infestation Closes Hollister


Bedbug Infestation Closes Hollister

HollisterBEDBUGS Now, bedbugs, as any self respecting NYC apartment dweller knows, are no laughing matter...except maybe in this case.

Apparently, the giant "Epic" Hollister in SoHo has been closed to rid the building and its contents of a particularly severe bedbug infestation. It had gotten so bad that employees (who are typically expected to wear flip flops this time of year) were getting bitten, and finding bedbugs and their exoskeletons on their clothes!

We are told that the three shirtless models who normally stand outside and welcome customers are currently informing them that the store will be closed for a few days.

According to Gothamist, workers have been complaining about the bugs for weeks, and were brushed off by management until today. Evidently, nobody at Hollister HQ fully understood exactly what a scourge bedbugs can be, and probably only figured out yesterday that having a store infested by bedbugs meant that customers buying clothing there could easily transfer the infestation to their own homes —leading to the inevitable lawsuits.

Of course, knowing their priorities, those folks at Abercrombie & Fitch also probably realized that their fresh faced Hollister sales staff wouldn't look so cute covered with bug bites, and since bedbugs feed only at night, you can imagine how much fun they were having in a store that is kept as dark as a vampire's lair at all times. Oh, the stupidity is mind boggling.

The store is reportedly expected to re-open in a few days, which sounds like wishful thinking, but we are willing to bet that more than a few businesses on that block of Broadway are taking a good look around to make sure that the infestation has remained contained.

Bedbugs Shut Down Hollister Store in SoHo (Gothamist)
Bedbugs Close Store (Wall Street Journal) all via The Cut


A&F Quarterly Returns!
Can It Save Abercrombie & Fitch?

Last week Abercrombie & Fitch announced the return of the A&F Quarterly, the chain's infamous "magalog" featuring lots of attractive, young models with not enough clothes to go around, that helped to reposition the once venerable sporting and travel outfitter as a wildly successful youth-oriented sportswear retailer.

Fans may remember that the lavishly produced publication was sadly suspended in the U.S in 2003 when the constant protests against the racy content and sexy Bruce Weber photographs became too overwhelming to ignore, and producing the book became more trouble than it was worth.

Now that the chain's sales have stagnated at a dangerously low point, however, it seems that measures must be taken to correct it's wealened condition, and rather than rethinking and updating the stores' merchandise, advertising and interiors, the folks at Abercrombie have decided (apparently in the spirit of their unchanging merchandise) to bring back something people used to like around seven years ago... because that always works. Also, after years of stories about how dreadful their stores are to work in and settling numerous lawsuits regarding discrimination and hiring practices, they probably remembered that they really don't care if they offend anyone.

The relaunched 176-page quarterly will be released on Saturday, July 17th at a return engagement bonus price of $10 (that's a bonus for A&F, not you), and can be pre-reserved (online HERE) to pick up at your nearest Abercombie & Fitch location for a limited few hours only on that afternoon. One minute late, and you'll have to fight with the masses for your copy. It promises the familiar mix of humor, product and soft-core porn that its subscribers had come to love so.... sign us up!

Listen, Abercrombie & Fitch has given us hours of laughter and a considerable amount of material over the years. It, and its little brother Hollister, have become, without question, ridiculous stores, but one thing we had never complained about was the Quarterly. It gives us all the sexy Bruce Weber pictures without our having to actually go into an Abercrombie store and endure the noxious colognes they pump into the air or the ridiculously loud soundtrack of circuit music too cheesy for even the tackiest of gay bars. We don't for a minute think that resuming its publication will help turn around the chain's fortunes. In fact, its return simply proves that the company as it is being run right now is totally allergic to new ideas. That, however, won't stop us from enjoying it while it lasts. See you on the 17th!

A&F Quarterly (via Towleroad)

Fifth Avenue Switches:

Little abercrombie Gets Switched To A Hollister

Here's another excuse to run this very popular photo again.
Expect to see these guys hanging out on Fifth Avenue sometime next year. Instead of turning the former Hickey Freeman shop at 668 Fifth between 52nd and 53rd Streets into an abercrombie kids store, another Hollister for the uptown tourists will be opened in its place. Considering the strong response to the SoHo "Epic" flagship, this isn't too much of a surprise. We will be curious to see how the steel and glass building will be transformed into the kind of dark stage set they so love at Hollister. Will they recreate another California pier in the two-level 15,500 square foot space, or will it become a more humble surf shack like most of the other Hollister mall stores? We'll find out soon enough, but the folks on Fifth should brace themselves for a steady chorus of "Hey, What'sup?" and clouds of stinky perfume pumped onto the sidewalk.
Hollister To Open On Fifth Avenue (WWD)
Hey, What'sup? It's Hollister, Dude!

Mike Albo Goes Shopping:

Psychic Brothel Edition

20critic.span Mike Albo's visit this week as the Thursday Styles' Critical Shopper to SoHo's Hollister flagship seems far less likely to spark another firestorm of anger than Cintra Wilson's visit to JC Penney last week did, and yet it also concerns the role of physical appearance in contemporary retailing in an even more central way. We knew it wouldn't take to long for him to make his way there there, but Mike doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know about SoHo's immense, bizarre Hollister. He, like everyone else, has become captivated by the young, ripped, carefully cast and coached staff.

In this four-floor space, gorgeous youth are in every room, behind every doorway, on every stairway landing, saying hello to you, gazing at you, confusing your grasp of reality.

Step into the aggressively alluring world of Hollister and it’s as if you are finally the popular person you always wished you were in high school, or Justin Timberlake and everyone wants you. Except they don’t, because these people are hired to flirt with you.

We all know it's fake, and yet while you're in there, it seems so real. Having found ourselves in a suburban mall over this past weekend, we can report that a Hollister branch store's staff members, while still attractive, are nowhere near as assertively chummy as their SoHo counterparts.
Interestingly, Hollister is one of the few (possibly only) stores that has not allowed The New York Times to photograph its interior for the column. They want to "preserve the customer’s experience", perhaps because there's not much else to the store. While, as we well know, it's hard to tear oneself away from the enthralling staff, Mike does find a flaw or two in the "psychic brothel" that is Hollister.

On the way down I stopped in the fragrance room and sampled the Laguna Beach body mist. It smelled like Jolly Ranchers being breathed on my face by Hayden Panettiere. Here the store also sells its California fragrance, which is spritzed on the mannequins every hour; it’s a noxious concoction that, I assume, is distilled from mink sex glands and the tears of broken-hearted teenage girls.

Yeah, that stuff is truly gross, but it does ease the pain of departure as one lands on the sidewalk outside.
Critical Shopper | Hollister: A Long, Lusty Walk on a Short Pier by Mike Albo (NYTimes)
Hollister 600 Broadway at Houston Street, SoHo
Hey, What'sup? It's Hollister, Dude!

From The Comments:

Hollister Follow-Up

A Shophound commenter, Ryan, clarified our report that Hollister had hired "customers" to fill its new SoHo Flagship on opening day. He writes:

Um those 'paid customers' as you called them, are actually managers of Hollisters/Abercrombies from the east coast, there to see the store on it's opening day.
They weren't paid, they were there to support the opening of this really great flagship store.

Gee, Ryan, shill much?
So all those madras shirted folks carrying Hollister shopping bags, were really Abercrombie employees from up and down the East Coast invited to come and fill the store and "support" it, apparently by making it look busy —but they weren't paid.
Except they are employees of the parent company.
And they apparently took the trouble to come to Manhattan on opening day out of the goodness of their own hearts. Such devotion.
So, how is that different from what we said before?
Previously: Hey, What'sup? It's Hollister Dude!

Hey, What'sup?

It's Hollister, Dude!

Well, there are worse things to experience than being greeted with cheery smiles by one gorgeous person after another. That's what happened to The Shophound at the new Hollister "Epic" Flagship (Manhattan's first unit from the chain) that opened today at Broadway and Houston Street in SoHo. We almost burst into guffaws when a matched of pair polo shirted models flanking a doorway chimed "Hey, What'sup?" in perfect unison on the top floor. Another genetically gifted shirtless dude high-fived us. Seriously. We are not kidding.
"Hey What'sup?" is the prescribed greeting of choice at Hollister, and we easily heard it 50 times or more as we wandered through the massive new store. It would be annoying in the extreme if it weren't delivered with such breezy charm by the fetching staff members who are strategically placed at every available nook and niche throughout the store. They, after all, are just doing their jobs. If there isn't an obvious standing place, they simply congregate in chatty groups stopping to "What'sup" any passersby. There's a shirtless surfer on each staircase landing with a beach babe in tow, and, of course, there are the lifeguard/doormen we shared with you a few days ago, who get their own special greeting: "Hey, welcome to the pier!" We did see the one bikini clad girl at the door who made The Cut so uncomfortable, but truthfully, the ratio of girls in swimsuits to shirtless guys here is about one to a zillion.
Hollisterlivebeachfeed The store's design conceit is that it is a vintage California pier, and a look below the railing at the entrance finds piles of sand, approximating a beach while the "windows" throughout the store are really a crafty live feed from Huntington Beach, California. Hollister is an astonishing feat of art direction and casting. In lieu of any actual original product design, the folks at this division of Abercrombie & Fitch have put all their resources in creating an interactive performance piece masquerading as a retail store. Any clothes you might buy are merely a souvenir of your time hanging with the sexy kids at Hollister. It outdoes even the huge Abercrombie Flagship on Fifth Avenue. The store is divided into a confusing, mazelike series of interconnected small rooms, seemingly designed to get you lost in the immense four-level store. Unlike it's brother store's earsplitting dance mix soundtrack uptown, Hollister's background music is a less oppressive beachy pop, and the lighting, kept at cocktail lounge levels at Abercrombie, is spookhouse dark in places here. Brighter spots are provided by large crystal chandeliers hung at eye level, a whimsical trope we have seen before. The décor is the vintag-ey hypercluttered look we have seen in so many places that even Ralph Lauren, its originator, seems to be moving away from. It hardly seems possible that the brand has the breadth of merchandise to fill a small department store sized space, so they instead have filled it with beautiful employees, and not just the salesmodels we have come to expect. As The Shophound meandered through the crowded store, it seemed hard to believe that on its first day, it had attracted so many shopping bag carrying customers dressed head to toe in Hollister gear, and yet there they were, ambling through the store in excited groups with their purses and backpacks like typical lower Broadway shoppers. But wait, could they really all have coincidentally decided to put on madras shirts this morning?
No. No they could not, and by the time we had made it through the store it seemed clear that Hollister had not only hired a blindingly gorgeous staff, but also a bunch of damned good-looking (but not quite model-stunning) customers to roam through the store and mill about on the sidewalk as well!
Nothing pleases us more than having our expectations exceeded. Not content to cast the store's staff, Hollister has also handpicked our fellow shoppers as well. Any product for sale seems so beside the point.
HolistercustomersBut who cares? Let's go downstairs again to see how many different ways the kids can say, "Hey, What'sup?". "HEY What'sup?" "Hey, WHAT'sup?" "Hey, What'sUP?"
Hollister 600 Broadway at Houston Street, SoHo
Hollister Update: Hunks Installed
Abercrombie Under Pressue: A First Look At Hollister