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Man hands out Abercrombie clothes on skid row in bid to shame brand

May 15, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan

Anger has mounted online against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch due to comments made by its chief executive and its strategy of not making women’s clothing in any size above large.

The most recent high-profile criticism is a viral YouTube video posted by recent USC graduate Greg Karper.

Along with a friend, the 26-year-old made a two-minute film in which he distributed the company’s clothes to homeless people on Los Angeles' skid row in an attempt to affect the brand’s teeny-bopper image.

Karper was inspired to make the video after seeing media coverage of an interview Abercrombie Chief Executive Michael S. Jeffries had with Salon magazine in 2006 that resurfaced and went viral.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries said in the article. “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.”

Karper’s video follows him as he visits a Goodwilll store in search of used Abercrombie clothes. After picking up a carload Karper takes the clothes to skid row and distributes them among the people. At the end he encourages viewers to scour their closets for Abercrombie gear and donate it to local shelters.

The video has already drawn more than 1 million views. That is impressive, Karper said, considering that another of his recent YouTube videos received just 71 views.

“I’m really not equipped to deal with this kind of phenomenon,” he said. “When I made the video I thought it would maybe spark a conversation. I didn’t expect this.”

Karper said he spent about $70 or $80 on the second-hand clothing. But he hoped the “relatively small investment will lead to an outpouring of donations.”

He wants people who donate Abercrombie clothes to share the experience on social media and use #FitchTheHomeless as a hashtag.

While his effort has drawn some criticism, Karper said the public reaction has been “effusively positive.”

There’s more online backlash against Abercrombie & Fitch's policy of not making clothing in plus sizes. A petition that popped up on Change.org last week to pressure the company to change that policy has drawn 19,132 supporters and counting. Then, an open letter to Jeffries was published by Huffington Post blogger Andrea Neuser describing the reasons she won’t let her daughters buy Abercrombie & Fitch clothes anymore.

In midday trading, Abercrombie's stock was up 33 cents, or less than 1%, to $53.99.

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