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Fifteen years ago, circa 2006, teenagers would crowd the mall with a singular destination — Abercrombie & Fitch. I know because I was one of them. When I look back on photos from that time, the uniform is clear: pleated denim micro-mini skirts and endless tees bearing the brand’s name. I have positive memories of that time, I felt so cool when I actually convinced my parents to bring me to those extremely dark and fragranced stores. But for many, Abercrombie represented exclusion — clothes that didn’t fit and a store experience that made them feel like they didn’t belong. In fact, that was kind of the point. Between 1992 and 2014, Abercrombie’s CEO was Mike Jeffries. Jeffries famously said things like “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.”
As the world changed, the body positivity movement grew, and fashion came to a (slightly) more accepting place. Naturally, the brand fell out of favor. Then, in 2017, that all began to change, rather drastically, with the appointment of Fran Horowitz to CEO. Horowitz immediately “ushered in this ethos of belonging and balance with our employees, that permeates through the entire culture of our organization,” said Carey Krug, svp of marketing at the brand.
The mission of the brand now is the polar opposite of what it once was. “We’re very focused on making sure it’s an incredibly inclusive place where everybody belongs. In the past, it was a lot about fitting in and having a certain look to fit in. And now, everybody has a seat at the Abercrombie table,” Krug said. These days, exclusivity comes not from a limited size range, but from limited production runs. “We keep the inventory scarce,” Corey Robinson, svp of merchandising and design said — it’s now a question of “Can you get your hands on it?” In fact, getting ahold of the brand’s vegan leather pants has become a sort of TikTok challenge unto itself — they are often mentioned as a ‘dupe’ for Aritizia’s, which are more expensive.
Customers echo the sentiment. “The brand had a total evolution from being the ‘cool girl,’ status symbol, like everything emblazoned with the logo, but stupidly expensive and not inclusive at all. I couldn’t wear much of it as a kid, to being an affordable option, compared to other brands making similar pieces,” said Lisa DeSantis, 29, deputy beauty director at Health and Real Simple. Now, DeSantis is a “VIP Rewards Member.”
Today, Abercrombie makes jeans in sizes 23-37, and also has its CurveLove collection, for which the brand “bumped out the hips,” because “a size 28 doesn’t fit, or look the same on every size 28,” said Robinson.
The logos are also gone.
”I noticed a few years back that they had gotten rid of their obvious branding, covered in moose and ‘Abercrombie,’” Kaelie Kelleher, 27, pr manager at Benefit Cosmetics said. “They have really learned to nail the trends at an affordable price point, plus they have amazing sales, which is what drew me in. They had great dresses and skirts for a similar price as Zara, but less recognizable. In the last two years, it’s been my go-to for swimwear; they have the best bathing suits at the best prices and good quality. Everyone is always shocked when I say it’s from Abercrombie.”
Before writing this story, I polled my 3,300 followers on Instagram, asking if anyone had recently shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch. I expected four or five responses. Instead, in just a few hours I got 31 young women in their late 20s to late 30s praising the brand’s inclusivity, affordability and on-trend pieces.
Of course, social media — and influencers — are key to the brand’s successful reinvention. Curve model and influencer Remi Bader was featured in a recent denim campaign, which also featured model Julian Gavino, also known as @thedisabledhippie.
“People used to buy Abercrombie because it was called Abercrombie, and now they buy the product because it’s just really good, comfortable, quality, on-trend items. And that’s what works — that authentic goodness of the product,” Krug said. On TikTok, the hashtag #abercrombie has racked up 128.5 million views. There are countless videos where people (with followings of all sizes) talk about rediscovering the brand, model their online shopping hauls and talk about its expanded sizing.
She stressed that the brand is truly listening to its customers and having two-way conversations. Robinson noted that the brand’s ‘90s styles are particularly popular, and their ‘90s Ultra High Rise Straight Jean was the first they saw go viral on TikTok. A recent collaboration with The Knot, called Best Dressed Guest came about when “we were talking to all these young millennials, they were saying ‘We go to lots of our friends’ weddings, and we spend a lot of our money on being guests at weddings,’” Robinson said. “If you look back to like our best-selling items 10 years ago, it was all hoodies, sweat pants, sweatshirts, graphic tees, and now, you’ve got dresses, jeans, seamless bodysuits — it’s just it’s a totally different vibe,” Robinson said.
In one August video, influencer Bria Jones, (over 396,000 followers on TikTok) expresses her surprise at the brand’s new vibe. “Lo and behold, I am welcomed by people of color, on the homepage, who have normal bodies…” Jones said as she perused the website for the first time since her teen years. TikToker Tyler Tippett (101,000+ followers) posted a June video praising the brand’s Pride collection. User Celesta (@itscelesta, 191,000 followers) posted a September video about the “Items you didn’t know you needed from Abercrombie,” which she captioned, “This is not sponsored but @abercrombie, lmk if you wanna collab.” Just two days ago, plus-size fashion TikToker Aysia B. (@callmeaysiab, 39,000 followers) showed off the Abercrombie & Fitch outfit she wore on a birthday date with her boyfriend.
“TikTok is bananas for us right now,” Krug said. “The new customers that we are reaching — it’s far exceeding our benchmarks. It’s far exceeding TikTok’s benchmarks.”
What you missed on TikTok this week
Prada tapped TikTok’s megastars for its viral #buckethatchallenge
“What a difference a hat makes,” Prada said on the TikTok landing page for the hashtag #pradabucketchallenge. The hashtag has been so popular it’s been co-opted (as is oft the case on the platform) for totally unrelated videos and has racked up a mindblowing 2.9 billion views. It continues: “Show us how your personal style can turn your day around.” To demonstrate, Prada tapped mega influencers like Bella Poarch (84.5 M followers), Avani (37.5 M followers), Lexi Rivera (19.2 M followers), and Lucas and Marcus, aka The Dobre Twins (31.3 M followers). In each video, the creators show as their days — and their outfits make the ultimate high-fashion drab-to-fab transition, with the simple addition of a Prada bucket hat (…and a full-on Prada outfit).
Is blonde hair…‘cheugy’?
Citing celebrity/model/cool girls like Gigi Hadid and Hailey Bieber’s current dark hair, TikToker Robyn Del Monte, aka @girlbosstown (140,000+ followers) recently wondered if blonde hair is now (gasp) cheugy. Responses were split. i-D deep-dived into the pressing question, speaking to a colorist who noted the growing desire for hair that looks more lived-in and less just-left-the-salon.
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Philip Lim is dressing up Aveda’s holiday kits
The designer partnered with the hair care brand to create four-holiday gift sets, with a focus on sustainability. The kits pair Aveda hair care products with special, limited-edition Philip Lim hair accessories like a hair towel wrap and carrying bag, both made from 100% organic cotton.
Charlotte Tilbury’s pink highlighting wand is back in stock
When Madison Beer (28.4 M followers on Instagram, 16.5 M on TikTok) shared her “Beauty Secrets” in a February Vogue video, she proclaimed her love for Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Light Wand, a creamy highlighter dispensed via tube for an easy application. It instantly sold out. Then, it racked up a waitlist of over 50,000. It’s now back in stock for those who have been waiting or those who just want it now.