December 10, 2023

Abercrombie & Fitch’s former CEO is going through accusations he sexually exploited younger males.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Photographs


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Michael M. Santiago/Getty Photographs


Abercrombie & Fitch’s former CEO is going through accusations he sexually exploited younger males.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Photographs

Clothes retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has launched an investigation into claims that its former CEO Mike Jeffries sexually exploited males at lavish events hosted world wide.

The accusations, which had been first reported by the BBC, place Jeffries on the helm of a number of intercourse occasions, for which he employed a intermediary to recruit contributors with the prospect of changing into a mannequin for what was as soon as certainly one of America’s prime teen outfitters.

This is an outline of what we all know.

What are the accusations in opposition to Jeffries?

The BBC says it spoke with eight males who engaged in or witnessed intercourse acts at events hosted by Jeffries and his associate, Matthew Smith, from the years 2009 to 2015. Every of the lads was paid 1000’s of {dollars} in money after the events, the BBC reported.

The recruitment for the occasions was dealt with by the intermediary, recognized by the BBC as James Jacobson.

One of many recruits informed the BBC that Jacobson “made it clear to me that until I let him carry out oral intercourse on me, that I’d not be assembly with Abercrombie & Fitch or Mike Jeffries.”

The person carried out the act, receiving first $500 in fee from Jacobson, and, later, an invite to Jeffries’ then-home within the Hamptons. There, the person was given poppers — a sort of drug generally used to reinforce sexual experiences — and finally had intercourse with the then-CEO.

One other man, a former mannequin, informed the BBC he had oral intercourse carried out on him by one other recruited man as Jeffries and Smith watched.

“This expertise, I feel it broke me,” the previous mannequin informed the BBC. “I feel that this stole any ounce of innocence that I had left. It mentally messed me up. However with the language I now have as we speak, I can sit right here and inform you that I used to be taken benefit of.”

NPR referred to as a number of cellphone numbers listed for Jeffries in public databases however couldn’t efficiently attain the previous CEO to request remark.

Is Jeffries the explanation A&F fell from reputation?

Jeffries headed A&F from 1992 and 2014 and is credited with reworking the shop from a flailing heritage model identified for safari put on to a top-selling teen clothing store synonymous with preppy cuts, pungent cologne and provocative advertisements with semi-nude fashions.

From the beginning, Jeffries had a transparent, if elitist, imaginative and prescient for what the shop might be.

“In each faculty there are the cool and fashionable youngsters, and there are the not-so-cool youngsters. Candidly, we go after the cool youngsters. We go after the engaging, all-American child with a fantastic angle and numerous pals,” he stated in a 2006 interview with Salon.

“Lots of people do not belong [in our clothes] they usually cannot belong. Are we exclusionary? Completely.”

That angle struck success as a enterprise technique. By 2006, earnings had elevated for 52 straight quarters, with annual earnings topping $2 billion. The corporate had opened 800 brick-and-mortar shops and operated three further labels, together with Hollister, the wildly fashionable beach-inspired model.

However the advertising strategy that made A&F right into a monetary success additionally made it an HR and PR nightmare.


A person makes use of his cell phone to take pictures of topless male fashions waving to a crowd of onlookers from the quickly to open Abercrombie & Fitch flagship clothes retailer in Hong Kong in 2012.

Laurent Fievet/AFP through Getty Photographs


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Laurent Fievet/AFP through Getty Photographs


A person makes use of his cell phone to take pictures of topless male fashions waving to a crowd of onlookers from the quickly to open Abercrombie & Fitch flagship clothes retailer in Hong Kong in 2012.

Laurent Fievet/AFP through Getty Photographs

In 2003, Black, Latino and Asian American staff filed a category motion lawsuit in opposition to the corporate claiming that minority candidates had been discouraged from making use of or saved out of the general public eye in undesirable positions. The corporate denied wrongdoing and later settled for $40 million.

Across the identical time, it discontinued A&F Quarterly, its journal catalog that famously ran pictures of (largely white) fashions cavorting half-clothed and even fully bare, alongside articles with not-so-subtle headlines, like “Group Intercourse.”

When requested in 2006 whether or not the quarterly was akin to soft-core pornography, Jeffries stated he thought the A&F remedy of intercourse was wholesome. “It is all depicting this excellent camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist on this era and, candidly, doesn’t exist within the older era,” he informed Salon.

The American Decency Affiliation referred to as for a boycott of A&F, promoting T-shirts studying “Ditch Fitch.” A couple of years later, a bunch of Pennsylvania excessive schoolers referred to as for a “girlcott” of the model, arguing that its T-shirts studying “Who wants a mind when you have got these?” and “Gents desire tig ol’ bitties” had been outright offensive. (The corporate finally pulled the 2 shirts however saved others, together with one which learn “Do I make you look fats?”)

Jeffries’ popularity continued to sink after he was accused of elevating his romantic associate’s position within the firm, overspending on enterprise journeys and mandating the male fashions who labored aboard the corporate airplane put on branded underwear.

However he managed to stay round till 2014, when faltering gross sales refused to bounce again post-recession. He acquired a retirement bundle of $25 million, in accordance with the BBC.

As an indication of how far the model was prepared to go to guard the beliefs he instilled, A&F legal professionals appeared earlier than the Supreme Courtroom the next yr, arguing the corporate was proper to disclaim a Muslim lady a job as a result of her scarf violated its “look coverage.” The Supreme Courtroom dominated in opposition to A&F 8-1.

How is A&F responding to the accusations?

A&F carried its exclusionary popularity into America’s period of racial reckoning, prompting media takedowns just like the 2022 Netflix documentary White Scorching: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch.

However someplace alongside this reckoning — perhaps even due to it — A&F began to remake its picture. The model has shed its iconic dark-shuttered storefronts, moose logos and sexualized advertisements. It expanded its measurement choices and began advertising with a various forged of 20-something influencers, who reward its non-descript fundamentals like bodysuits and trousers.

“We’re a constructive, inclusive model, with a pleasant sensibility, very totally different from what they encountered prior to now,” stated the corporate’s chief merchandising officer, Fran Horowitz, in 2016. Horowitz would go on to change into CEO of the corporate in 2017.

Media retailers have taken latest discover of the transformation, calling it a “rebound,” a “rebrand” and a “main revival” second. Now that nascent comeback is going through its first main take a look at.

Because the BBC’s investigation aired on Monday, the corporate shared a press release on its social media channels saying it had employed an outdoor regulation agency to conduct an impartial investigation.

“The corporate’s present govt management staff and board of administrators weren’t conscious of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Jeffries,” the assertion provides. “Now we have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any sort.”


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