[photo: image of a Black homeless man wearing a white t shirt and holding a white Abercrombie and fitch branded t shirt in front of him.]
Why Fitch the Homeless is a Really Bad Idea
In response to some comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries about not wanting large people in A&F clothes because he prefers “attractive…cool kids” in A&F clothes, there’s been a pretty big backlash, which is understandable. Most recently, I’ve learned about some “activism” aimed at giving Abercrombie and Fitch a “brand readjustment’” by giving Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to the homeless.
Because wouldn’t it be so awful for Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to be associated with homelessness and homeless people, because homeless people are so gross and disgusting, amirite? The video above says that it is striving to make Abercrombie and Fitch “the #1 brand of homeless apparel”. Maybe you’re thinking there’s no issue here because at least homeless people are getting some new duds and they were purchased from Goodwill, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal comes in when homeless people are being exploited to prove a point. Many homeless people are already widely disenfranchised and lacking a platform to be heard or to get access to the resources they need. By attempting to make a brand look bad by associating it with homelessness, the message is that homeless people are so gross, dirty, shameful (insert negative attribute here) that by associating the brand with these types of people, we are really making the brand look shitty, because these people are so shitty! get it? It’s all such a laugh! This type of “activism” is a farce. It contributes to and propagates a culture wherein homeless people can be used as props to further an agenda. This isn’t how you treat people. This is how you treat disposable objects. It isn’t funny, noble, or helpful to try and stick it to Abercrombie and Fitch by using homeless people as the medium for your message. Would the American population at large be comfortable with any other minority group being used to make a brand look “bad” by associating their clothing with that group? Sub out “homeless” for any other minority group and see how that sounds and feels. Pretty shitty, right?
Giving clothing, food, needed sundries, time, and other resources to the homeless or people who are in need is an awesome thing. But this isn’t about giving to the homeless. I don’t see any real or actual concern for homeless people in this “movement”. I see homeless people being used as the butt of a joke. The punchline? “Hahaha Abercrombie! You want cool and attractive people in your clothes and you claim to be exclusionary, so we’re going to give your clothes to homeless people because you would hate that!” The implication here is that homeless people are not cool or attractive and the brand can’t be exclusionary when worn by an already excluded group. This only “works” because homeless people are already part of an othered and excluded group, often left out of mainstream society, denied access to basic resources and the ability to have their needs met. Can’t.Stop.Laughing.
People who want to give to the homeless can do so at any time. Do it today! But giving a certain brand of clothing to the homeless in an attempt to make that brand of clothing look bad or unsavory or less-than-desirable is only possible when the population or group receiving the clothing carries the stigma you are trying to attach to that label. This doesn’t make Abercrombie and Fitch look bad. This makes Greg Karber and everybody supporting this “activism” look like an insensitive douche canoe who thinks homeless people are disposable props to be used to further an agenda, and that’s pretty sad and disappointing. Wanna help the homeless? Try not furthering the stigma surrounding homelessness by insisting that a brand being associated with homelessness would surely be less desirable or wanted. Wanna stick it to Abercrombie and Fitch? Easy Peasy! Don’t give them your money! It’s a simple solution that doesn’t involve stepping on the backs of the homeless in place of a soapbox.
(click through the link to watch the youtube video)
if i never hear about this brand again, i would be thrilled.
Everything above. Throwing an already-marginalized group of people under the bus in the name of some distorted sense of social justice is not social justice.
I subscribe to a newsletter by life and career coach Jennifer Lee, whose business, ArtiZen Coaching, I learned about through Kimberly Wilson’s podcast a few years back. The most recent issue included the following advice for simplifying one’s life or business:
- Dial your effort down by 10% and notice what happens. Dial it down another 10% and then another. My guess is the world didn’t end from you not striving as hard.
- Look for the easiest step and just do it (no overthinking or second guessing it!)
- Remove at least 1 or 2 things. Strip whatever you’re working on down to the essentials.
- Rather than pushing hard to get the whole big project done,break it down to manageable pieces and take those pieces one at a time. You’ll be better able to manage your energy and stamina and you’ll have a better sense of where to adjust in the moment to be more nimble and responsive.
May you find more ease, elegance, simplicity, and flow!
If you’re a creative entrepreneur, I also recommend Lee’s The Right-Brain Business Plan Kit (a brief step-by-step PDF for turning an idea into a business), which she has now expanded into a full-length book.
[Trigger warning: racism.] I read BoF every morning and appreciate that it is one of the few fashion publications willing to admit to and explore the industry’s negative social impact.
The first issue is that many in the industry simply do not recognise this for what it actually is: racism. Remember, this is the same industry that dressed Karlie Kloss in a traditional native-American headdress to model lingerie in the Victoria’s Secret show and paints white models black. Discrimination based on the colour of a model’s skin is not uncommon. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Joan Smalls revealed that she was repeatedly told by agents that “there’s room for only one” model of colour. The outspoken Chanel Iman shared a similar strugglewith The Times: “Designers have told me, ‘We already found one black girl. We don’t need you any more.’” And earlier this month, Jourdan Dunn told British talk show host Jonathan Ross the story of how, during fashion week, a makeup artist simply refused to work with her because she was black.
As an early adopter of pretty much everything, one issue I have with a lot of social media/social commerce platforms is that once they get too big, the sheer volume of users and posts makes it really difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. There’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll be direct: More users = more users with terrible taste.
In particular, I’ve seen this phenomenon with two businesses I love: Etsy and Pinterest. As with other tech startups, these companies started with a base of users who knew what the hell they were doing. It was easy to use Etsy to find high-quality handmade or vintage goods unlike anything you’d see in stores. Pinterest offered a wealth of gorgeous style and entertaining ideas, alongside mere eye candy.
Now, things have changed. For every framed Thug Life needlepoint, there are 50 wall decals featuring tired inspirational phrases in an ugly cursive font. For every image of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s effortless Parisian glamour, there are eleventy user-generated e-cards that only someone utterly devoid of wit would find remotely humorous.
So, what’s the solution?
Wow! I just spent an hour sitting in on a fantastic online class offered by General Assembly featuring Dan Maccarone of Charming Robot, entitled “Why UX Matters.” I tend to approach business decisions from a consumer perspective instead of that of a marketer, something I’ve often felt is a “bug” rather than a “feature” of how I think relative to other MBAs. While Maccarone professed his love of data, it’s clear that his successes have been largely driven by consumer empathy. Here are some key takeaways from the session:
Creating a product means creating an experience, and that experience is the brand. Maccarone talked about his work with Hulu, Foursquare, and Rent the Runway — specifically, the need in each instance to create an experience users loved. He identified RTR as the most complex because of users’ need for rentals to not only be visually appealing as seen on the site, but also to fit and flatter.
Focus your product and do one thing right. For Hulu, Maccarone’s team focused on a simple strategy: being the easiest way to watch TV on the Internet. Any idea that got in the way of delivering on this strategy was tossed out. I think this is so simple, yet so brilliant. In practice, this meant that in Hulu’s early days, before it offered ABC programming on the site, the company had a choice to make. Users came looking for episodes of the ABC show Lost, and instead of showing “No results,” the site linked to ABC.com, where episodes were available for streaming. This helped generate loyalty even in situations where Hulu couldn’t immediately deliver on consumer desires, so people would come back to watch other shows (or find links in a centralized location), and eventually, Hulu grew to include ABC streaming.
I’m always looking for appropriate ways to flaunt my personal style in a professional environment, so I love this creative interview look from Who What Wear. A lot of it is out of my price range (that $400 burnt orange skirt from Sportmax makes me wish I’d saved a few more of my mom’s ’70s pieces), but could be recreated using affordable selections from F21, Zara, H&M, et al. And that Mango blazer needs to get in my closet, stat!
Yesterday, my number finally came up for the new Mailbox app, so I thought I’d celebrate by putting together a short list of the apps that best help me stay on track, starting with
I wasn’t sure this app would actually make a difference for me, given that I already handle and file nearly all of my emails immediately, but I downloaded it for a couple of reasons. One, I tend to download and/or sign up for everything I hear about as a means of figuring out what works and what doesn’t — and because I’m an information junkie who wants to know about everything that exists, even if it’s not something I personally get use out of (see also: the large number of social commerce apps clogging up my iPhone). Two, people tend to send me important emails at times when I’m out of the house, and on the rare occasion that I haven’t kept on top of my inbox (also known as “the weekend”), they get lost in the shuffle for a couple of days. Mailbox allows users to clear important messages temporarily and schedule their return to one’s inbox for later the same day, the next morning, or several days or weeks in the future, all with a swipe and a tap. As I said, I just downloaded Mailbox yesterday, and it’s already indispensible to me.
Free, mailboxapp.com for more information.
There are lots of plans in the works for NYC museums—MoMA, the Whitney and the Met, among them—to expand architecturally and initiate new exhibition and education programming. But there are also plans for the Culture Shed, a new exhibition and event complex (related to visual arts, media, performance and design) to be built by 2017 in the Hudson Yards. While discussions are ongoing about how to raise all of the money for the mega-project, it should be interesting to see how the art landscape in NYC will be changed by all of these institutions’ innovations.
I don’t have a decent sense of what needs to be displaced for this to happen, but these plans look beautiful. Reminds me of the new construction at Lincoln Center.