Saturday, January 24, 2015

News Now! | Bloomberg Businessweek's Abercrombie Feature...

Compelling in a completely different way...
         TO SURE BE one of the most riveting covers ever in the publication's history (and certainly one of the most zeitgeist defining ever over developments in fashion retail), New York City-based national Bloomberg Businessweek magazine has released its latest issue featuring as lead story "The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch" with symbolic, strong photography as visual representative of the context of its piece – the decline of Abercrombie & Fitch from its vibrant zenith, the end of the Mike Jeffries Era, and the hard road ahead. An unprecedented, bold expression / interpretation over the current state of a once revolutionary, leading icon, it's the subject of high, widespread attention in the industry and beyond...

The feature (by Susan Berfield and Lindsey Rupp and accompanied by the specifically realized photography by Finlay MacKay; read here), while considering it rehashes – like any other article out there though, albeit, intriguingly – of the ups-and-downs and controversies of Abercrombie & Fitch and quirks of its CEO, is more of interest over its content shedding light on peculiar details yet hitherto publicly unknown surrounding the retirement of Mike:

"On Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Michael Jeffries called some of the senior executives at Abercrombie & Fitch to discuss the holiday season. That was typical Jeffries. [...] [Then, on] Monday, Dec. 8, Jeffries didn’t arrive at work in his black Range Rover. He never showed up. Early the next morning, Arthur Martinez, the former CEO of Sears and the chairman of the Abercrombie board since early 2014, called the senior executives into a meeting. He told them that Jeffries was leaving and the company was looking for a new chief executive. [...] No one saw Jeffries in the office again[.]"

Martinez has also been more particularly frank, freely vocal on the matter through other mediums than of what he went with through the Company news release. His statement in the article:

"The feeling was that it would be difficult, socially and interpersonally, to choose a new CEO with Mike in the chair [in the meanwhile]. He was the seminal person, he invested his whole life in the company, but he had to step aside. There is a certain sadness about it. It is the end of an era."
"The wonderful and terrible thing about retail is that occupying the peak is very perilous. Aspiring to and reaching that position puts you in a very vulnerable position. The world moved on, and the company has to move on."

He also furthered on merchandising, store management and general operations: that Mike rather overstated the downsizing of logoing, and there will remain logoing appropriately (this is very much evident even in the current Spring Preview releases) but more so internationally; ecommerce ("direct-to-consumer") could well make up around 40% of sales by 2018 (which naturally would partly result from factors such as the declining mall traffic and store closures while the DTC business continues to evolve); and that, in a turn of tables, customer service will be a primary focus in contrast to the past when Mike's interests in running the business placed his retail theater first as the key to the Company's success: "Mike was very focused on the stagecraft of our stores. I would say an inordinate amount of time was spent on shop keeping. We want customers to be first. We don’t have to turn the company and brands on their heads to do that." And the headhunt is still on for the next CEO with Christos Angelides (A&F and Kids brand president), Fran Horowitz (Hollister Co. brand president) and Jonathan Ramsden (Chief Operating Officer) as internal candidates. As reported when Mike's retirement was announced back in 9 December 2014, Martinez is currently head of the newly created Office of the Chairman which also includes Angelides, Horowitz, and Ramsden together running the Company interim until the top position is filled.

Ending with a note of uncertainty, the article reflects a perception in the industry that the Abercrombie & Fitch brand could no longer return to its once revolutionary stance. As written a year ago in the Letter from the Editor here at The Sitch on Fitch, history does not repeat, but it does echo. Regardless of perceptions, regardless of the uncertainty, fate is in A&F's favor for a return to glory however it may newly come in time.

Strikingly conceptualized within the context of its subject matter, the photography for the article reinterprets the aesthetics of the iconic imagery, developed by renowned Bruce Weber markedly during-and-of the Mike Jeffries Era, which was globally synonymous as Abercrombie & Fitch:

The cover and, right, the globally iconic chiseled torso
with suggestively slow-tugged jeans.

Truth be told, however, with an alleviation of humor: the individuals who've come to be featured in A&F Marketing – those faces and bodies idolized – will eventually be old in the future. We all will. ("That's not funny!" some of y'all can be heard). As a quote goes on Businessweek's making-of article, "Cover Trail: The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch": "We all age; it's natural. We can only hope that when we're 80 we can still be fabulous enough to model for the cover of a magazine." And for all you hardcore fans, here's, too, an amusing look as to how you'll look in the future with your Abercrombie! It's just joshing around.

If you can get your hands on it, despite the content not being all about A&F in sunshine, the print issue itself nevertheless makes for a rather history collectible as a notable print piece from the industry over the state of Abercrombie & Fitch by the mid-2010s. Of course, it's only on stands in the U.S. for a week.

But, you know, you're only as old as you feel. And A&F just proves to transcend across time once-and-again...


P.S. The feature has one minor oops: the billboard captioned as from 2012 is actually the hoarding wall while the A&F Fifth Avenue flagship was underconstruction in 2005.