Abercrombie Apologizes for ‘Any Offense Caused’ by Controversial Comments

May 23, 2013 Updated: May 30, 2013

Abercrombie apologizes: The clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch has come under fire recently for only catering to “thin and beautiful people.”

It all started when comments from the CEO, Mike Jeffries, were reported widely after Business Insider interviewed Robin Lewis, a co-author of a book with Jeffries. 

Lewis said that Jeffries doesn’t want “larger people” shopping at the chain of stores. 

“He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing,” Lewis said. “People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’” 

The clothing company doesn’t have XL or XXL women’s clothing, and only stocks these sizes for men because of larger football players and wrestlers, according to Lewis.

After that interview was published, comments by Jeffries from 2006 came back into the light.

He told Salon that the “emotional experience” he creates for customers of Abercrombie is important. 

“It’s almost everything,” he said. “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.”

After some people started condemning this focus, Jeffries took to the company Facebook to address the situation.

He said the comments from 2006 were “taken out of context,” but he also “sincerely regret[s] that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.”

“A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers,” he continued. “However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. We are completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics.”

People had different views on his comments, including some in support and some saying it wasn’t a real apology. 

Now a group of teen activists met with executives with the company on May 22, including Benjiman O’Keefe, who created a Change.org petition that asks the company to offer bigger clothes.

“Mr. Jeffries owes young people an apology, because contrary to what he may believe, whether you can fit into Abercrombie or not, you are beautiful,” writes O’Keefe on the petition page, which has 71,779 signees as of this writing. “It’s time Abercrombie & Fitch to embrace that beauty! Please join me in this fight by adding your name to this petition and asking Abercrombie and Fitch to embrace the beauty in all sizes by offering XL and XXL sizes for women and men!”

After the meeting, the company issued a statement, obtained by the National Eating Disorders Association:

“We look forward to continuing this dialogue and taking concrete steps to demonstrate our commitment to anti-bullying in addition to our ongoing support of diversity and inclusion. We want to reiterate that we sincerely regret and apologize for any offense caused by comments we have made in the past which are contrary to these values.”

O’Keefe, who once suffered from an eating disorder, told the website that he sees the power of people trying to change things.

” I believe that the most powerful story we have is our own and I used mine today to appeal to the company to change their ways,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic that it has done just that and I think their reissuing of an actual apology today represents that notion.” He delivered 2,000 double side pages of the petition to the executives. 

“Our voices matter,” he said. “When people come together to fight for something they believe in, change does come! We are proof of that. I am excited to continue open dialogue with Abercrombie & Fitch and work towards creating a nation and world of young people who are proud to be themselves and embrace all the things that make them beautiful!”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber