The Cold Hard Truth About Fashion Marketing

STORY BY Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk

Published: May 16, 2013

In case you haven’t heard, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries has gotten himself in big trouble, particularly with the big community. 

Robin Lewis, the author of The New Rules of Retail, divulged the CEO’s distasteful branding strategy, which is founded on “limited sizing options” that ensure the exclusion of “fat women” from shopping at the popular store.

According to several articles on the web, Jeffries wants to exclude “uncool fatties.” The probability of Jeffries actually saying and believing this is quite high, considering he once said the following in an interview:

"That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that."

Jeffries went on to explain that companies that target everyone, including the “young, old, fat, and skinny” are “in trouble” because they “become totally vanilla.”

In other words, alienation of a certain group is necessary in order to make a business cool and successful. In the case of Abercrombie & Fitch, the excluded consumers are plus-sized females.

Did you notice that I only said females in that last sentence?

Plus-sized males are accepted by A&F, where tee sizes range from S to XXL. Apparently, Jeffries reasons that “overweight” males are more acceptable since they may be heavy due to an athletic, muscular build.

Interestingly, women’s tee sizes are much different, and only range from XS to L.

For the record, the company’s website equates their size large to a U.S. size 10… And according to a recent Daily Mail article ( 67 percent of America’s purchasing population is U.S. size 14 or above.

Obviously, Jeffries has reinvented what it means to be a plus-sized American woman by defining “fat” as being greater than a size 10, when in reality size 10 is well below the American size average.

Overall, I for one am thankful (yes, thankful!) that Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries opened his mouth and candidly spoke about his fashion marketing strategy and distaste for “uncool fatties.”


Although his remarks were incredibly inappropriate and hurtful, Jeffries has opened the door for an industry-wide discussion of consumer discrimination. More importantly, Jeffries now has the fashion world seriously questioning the modern definition of “beauty.”

I can only hope that other popular clothing stores will take a step back and reflect upon their own sizing policies and marketing strategies. If a store such as Express is disgusted by Jeffries’s marketing philosophy, it must first acknowledge that it too only carries sizes XS to L for women. Then, it must dig deep and ask itself the hardest question of all: What’s so bad about size XL?

Hopefully after some reflection, the answer will be clear: Nothing. Nothing is bad about being XL, XXL, or XXXL because as the saying goes, “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.”

Jeffries, did you hear that? If you want Abercrombie & Fitch to get its stellar, “popular kid” reputation back, I’d recommend you take this adage to heart. 

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