Monday, April 20, 2015

Letter from the Editor! | On Accounts of Discrimination, on Authenticity of Diversity...

A&F Fifth Avenue flagship store as captured summer 2013 and where
the anonymous store model may come from.   |  Image, photographer Charles Marion
         PRECISELY TWO YEARS ago, international condemnation over resurfaced 2006 statements, made by Mike Jeffries, over the targeted and preferred individuals, as consumers and associates for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., brought on a public relations nightmare nastily untimely amid a then just-developing declining performance and an elevating bandwagon-shitstorm against the Company. Fast-forward to two years, and we've found ourselves in a new era, post-Jeffries, though with echoes of the controversial side associated with his tenure ringing on. Now in 2015 (at exactly the same time of the year in 2013 that shit hit the fan), an anonymous store model has had her exposé - on what she purports she witnessed of unethical behavior fostered by the A&F environment - published. And unlike that 2013 incident, I am not going to ignore it and address it: both this and why I never said anything two years ago...

To start off, I need to address what has been lingering in my mind, and probably always will: the fact that I never publicly said anything in the international online discussion over the 2013 controversy of Mike's statements. I have a profound sense of responsibility and duty to The Sitch on Fitch and you, the reader: let me just make that very clear. Okay, now, the spring and summer of 2013 were not a good time for me: I was not in a great emotional and mental personal circumstance, really, in the whole year. But particularly during that time, in the spring-summer, it was so not great. I was raised very practically Victorian, and I keep a lot bottled inside - which is already saying something considering how open I can be regardless - and, if I'm being honest with myself, I concern myself a lot with putting up Face and Duty. With that being said, when it came to the blog, I continued on as I could - basically fuck-my-feelings, and I made sure to strive on upholding the blog and without my personal shit having any affect. The most important and relevant subject matter continued to be delivered, though posts-publishing did begin a noticeable decline (fans did email me asking why posting had been dropping). Then, the controversy arose.

"Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely." - Cited 2006 comment by Mike

Honestly, the whole 2013 thing over Mike's lost-past remark annoyed the fuck out of me; it irritated and annoyed me so much: I found it irrelevant (why the fuck now?), pathetic, ignorant and wholly hypocritical, and, considering the way I was feeling personally beginning at that time, I did not have the head for it to get into it...and I made the choice to ignore it and carry on with the blog with already set plans. People got pissed. I received, for the first time, heated - some practically even angered - remarks by fans on why I was not weighing in on what was developing as a very powerful, widespread discussion on the issue. Why The Sitch on Fitch, considering what it is, was not weighing in. I did respond to fans apologetically and in reason, and, in that meantime, I did reconsider, just thinking about it, but I ultimately decided not to. And I did so for more than just it irking me. I'll tell you this much, I strongly believe, with deep and firmly-grounded reason, that the majority - not all, but the majority - of Mike's greater philosophy isn't wrong (practically benign, really, getting into it philosophically in my unique way, but not unflawed in certain respects, too), and I would have explained things out in a way that would have been complex, strong and completely polarizing (to put it one way). I would have said some things which are wholly true, and it would have stepped on a lot of people's toes (those shitting against Mike), and a whole 'nother shitstorm would have risen out of it. Again, I was already not in a good place, and I did not have the head to sit down and place this all out, nevermind deal with people in the aftermath, when my mind was already heavily weighed.

It would have been a very bold manifesto, and, by the Fall, I did begin to strongly regret not having summed up the strength to push aside what was personally going on and just devote my mind to it. I would talk to friends about it by the Fall and they'd state I should have, the importance it would have been and the attention that it would have caused. And it's become just so - almost funnily now - legendarily enigmatic, That-Post-That-Never-Was, in the way that it should have been composed and published but it was not and what it would have been and what it would have done at the time. I also just didn't want to cause a rift between me and certain readers out there and, most importantly, some people I personally know. I don't know [figure of speech]. It's just something that has been lingering since and forever will be. Maybe I will sit down and write it out one day. I think so. But there is no hurry now, really. There's more to the story, but that's an appropriate nutshell, tip-of-the-iceberg, without delving full on into everything involved with that. God, I was so glad to move on from 2013 bullshit in general in my life. And I have been thinking since of a way to finally give a public explanation for it, and it felt like now was the perfect opportunity. So that's that. And even now at the end of the paragraph, I feel like I there's more to be said and done but I'm just going to leave it as is until the time I do get around to writing out my private stance as in That-Post-That-Never-Was. Sometimes, in a time, and in a place, and in a circumstance, fatefully, it's just best to keep your mouth shut until a greater and more important moment meant comes along.

Now going into the matter at hand, the accusations of racism and sexual harassment as detailed by this anonymous store model (whom, one can suppose is American, though, while mentioning her store was a flagship, it's unclear if she speaks from experience at A&F Fifth Avenue or The Grove; most likely Fifth Avenue, and The Grove furthermore closed this past February; she furthered that "I am still in the system, and while I’m on the lookout for another retail job, I do come in for one or two shifts a month"). Honestly, it's nothing new nor shocking to hear. It's like, oh, another one...and you go right-on read, listen, whatever, naturally. They're pretty much like a genre of tales now, personal stories of experiencing unethical behavior in this other dimension/territory/setting entered that is Abercrombie & Fitch. Like something to hear around the campfire or some shit. Literally. Like, I don't wanna call it entertaining, but it's like when people get a story told with shit in it and they're just staring with eyeballs fixated taking it in and then getting to an ending in which the protagonist gets out of a nasty situation and learns a lesson / undergoes a personal transformation and/or what not else. They give some type of feeling. They've become a staple of A&F Culture.

Truth be told, one can not be for certain the degree of validity in this girl's anonymously submitted mini tell-all. However, peoples' personal experiences and knowledge of what has gone on and happened here-and-there across the chain wouldn't really throw it aside...nor is it unheard off at all or unfamiliar in the nature of infamy of the clandestine occurrences which have come to be and exposed (though hardly ever explicitly proven and just based on associate word). Nevertheless, on an unbiased ground, it's important to bring to light whatever unethical issues may be existing (still): there is nothing wrong with that, and it will be addressed.

However, whenever something like this comes out, people just like to always shit on A&F as if it were the very sole core establishment of discrimination in the industry. And it bothers me. It angers me. It annoys me. And so it is something I wanted to talk about. Like, are you joking? Abercrombie & Fitch seems like an affirmative action headquarters/powerhouse compared to the rest of the industry. (Discover diversity efforts at A&F Cares). Dior recently announced Rihanna would become a face for the House...the first black individual to ever represent - in anything marketing, period - the 1947-founded establishment - and this only just happening 15 years into the 21st century; let that sink in for a minute - which happens to be among the most valued of fashion brands in the world and the most renowned of French fashion labels alongside Chanel (and it's not like they have an outstanding trackrecord for authentic diversity either). Why is Abercrombie & Fitch different. Because it's always been candid about its penchant for general natural physical ideals it gets hammered at, yet those other labels which do not say it, though still practice it (and very selectively), get no bitch-fest. Now who's more fake. Other major, renowned labels have shitter diversity trackrecords, don't really do much to make a difference at all, and go about like nothing with no strong complaints or attention deserved. Do others, and particularly luxury houses, get a hallpass? It seems so! It's a disgusting, disturbing double-standard. Turn around and bitch at them. Have a discussion about that, and make a stand for a greater difference instead of bandwagon-shitting on one brand. I'm just really fed up and don't wanna hear about it anymore when it comes to sole-crapping A&F.

Diversity is a naturally inherent, organic, vital aspect - like the heart organ - of the greater natural world. To work against it and attempt to impede it is toxic, unnatural, and, no overstatement, stagnating and deathly. Abercrombie & Fitch continues to uphold ethos of diversity and inclusion which were fine-tuned by former head of D&I office, Todd Corley (2004-2014), and it remains markedly unique worldwide in the industry - to the great awe, contentment, and inspiration of associates around the world - in its attention and care on the matter.