Abercrombie & Fitch Chief Executive Michael S. Jeffries has finally addressed criticism regarding controversial comments he made during a 2006 interview that have resurfaced and gone viral over the last week.
The clothing retailer has avoided commenting on the issue. But anger continues to mount online against Jeffries and Abercrombie, particularly its strategy of not making women’s clothing in any size above large.
In a statement issued Thursday, Jeffries falls short of an apology, instead saying he regrets that his “choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.”
At issue is an interview that Jeffries, 68, had with Salon magazine in 2006 in which he described Abercrombie’s target market.
“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.”
Since the interview resurfaced, a petition popped up on Change.org last week to pressure the company to change that policy. Then, a Huffington Post blogger posted an open letter to Jeffries. A YouTube video appeared this week in which a man distributed the company’s clothes to homeless people on Los Angeles' skid row to change the brand's image.
In his statement, Jeffries said his “7-year-old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context,” but he reemphasized that Abercrombie “targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers.”
He added: “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."
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