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Featured Image Credit: Netflix
A new Netflix documentary exposes the ‘exclusionary marketing and discriminatory hiring’ behind popular fashion brand Abercrombie and Fitch, which was required to pay almost $50 million in a discrimination lawsuit. Watch the trailer here:
Directed by Alison Klayman, White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch explores how ‘selling exclusivity comes at a price’, with a synopsis from Netflix saying: “Abercrombie & Fitch conquered malls in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s with gorgeous models, pulsing dance beats and a fierce scent.
“But while the brand was running white hot, its popular ‘all-American’ image began burning out as controversy came to light surrounding its exclusionary marketing and discriminatory hiring.”
In 2004, the fashion giant found itself at the centre of a huge lawsuit after being accused of discriminating against women and ethnicities including African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans, having offered various positions on the shop floor and in management to white applicants.
As well as being forced to pay a settlement of almost $50 million after admitting no guilt, the company signed a consent decree and agreed to change the processes behind recruitment, hiring and marketing.
It was also made to bring in a Chief Diversity Officer, and had to report to a court-appointed monitor for six years.
In the new documentary, we hear from Anthony Ocampo, who said he was told he couldn’t be rehired by Abercrombie and Fitch because the company already had ‘two Filipinos working at this store’.
He recalled: “At no point did I say I was Filipino so that was a guess on the part of the person that worked there.
“I remember I told my parents and I told close friends and they very much agreed with me that it was f**ked up.”
Ocampo continued: “I’ve never seen racism that explicit. I was really p**sed off. I was in a rage that never went away.
“When I was invited to be a part of the lawsuit, I thought here’s an opportunity to call Abercrombie on their bulls**t of trying to say that they’re an all American brand, and yet, the way they’re maintaining this image of all American is to hire a bunch of white folks and fire a bunch of people of colour.”
Jennifer Sheahan also said that she was let go from her role after being told there were too many Asian people working at the store, having been told by her manager: "The real reason was because after the corporate blitz, one of the people from corporate went around and noticed a bunch of Asian people in the store."
The documentary claims that bosses had said they needed more staff that looked like a Caucasian model on an Abercrombie and Fitch promotional poster.
Carla Barrientos, who is Black woman, also said she requested to be put on more day shifts, and hadn't been scheduled in for many hours on the rota, but was told night shifts were only available.
She asked to switch hours with a colleague, but said the manager wouldn't let her, and Barrientos was removed from the rota.
Through a spokesperson, Abercrombie and Fitch said in the documentary that it has ‘evolved to become a place of belonging rather than fitting in’.
As the documentary was released, Abercrombie and Fitch also released a statement to say it is 'focused on inclusivity'.
CEO Fran Horowitz said: "At Abercrombie & Fitch Co., we live by our purpose and show up for our customers, associates and partners on their journeys to being and becoming exactly who they are.
"Our ongoing evolution has been so rewarding, and we want to be clear that the recently released documentary is not reflective of who we are now. We own and validate that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under former leadership. Since I became CEO in 2017, we’ve overhauled Abercrombie and transformed with intention into a place of belonging. We've evolved the organization, including making changes in management, prioritizing representation, implementing new policies, re-envisioning our store experiences and updating the ﬁt, size-range and style of our products.
"We’re focused on inclusivity - and continuing that transformation is our enduring promise to you, our community. Because without you, we wouldn’t be who we are now. Thank you for being on this journey with us."
Watch White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch on Netflix now.