Monday, May 20, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Karma is a BITCH Mr. Jeffries

I just had the pleasure of reading "An Open Letter from a “Fat Chick” to Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie + Fitch"  A skillfully written piece by a beautiful woman whom I do not know. Yet, it moved me to write. Actually, it moved me to drive over to the A&F campus (only 20 minutes from my home) and throttle Mr. Jeffries myself, but writing seemed less likely to get me arrested.  

In terms of size alone, I could wear A&F's clothes and so could my 9 and 6 year old daughters. BUT, WE NEVER WILL. Not just because they are expensive, sometimes offensive and overtly sexy. But, because I don't want any of us to be that cool. Not the kind of cool Mr. Jeffries describes of course. He can have that kind of cool. I know my one woman boycott will not start a revolution, or put A&F out of business, but it takes a village and my village starts with me.

So Mr. Jeffries...let's talk about "cool". You've been quoted as saying  “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."  I assume you are the epitome of this "cool". Yet in 2006 Salon author Benoit Denizet-Lewis pointed out that your "biggest obsession, is realizing his singular vision of idealized all-American youth. He wants desperately to look like his target customer (the casually flawless college kid), and in that pursuit he has aggressively transformed himself from a classically handsome man into a cartoonish physical specimen: dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips." And of course there is your less than stellar track record and reputation. In in 1984, you founded Alcott & Andrews, a brand targeted at career woman, Just five short years later; in 1989 it fell into bankruptcy due to over-expansion, and closed. In 2008 The Corporate Library named you as the "Highest Paid Worst Performer." Those who have worked with you describe you: driven, demanding, smart, intense, obsessive-compulsive, eccentric, flamboyant and, depending on whom you talk to, either slightly or very odd. “He’s weird and probably insane, but he’s also unbelievably driven and brilliant,” says a former employee at Paul Harris.

Nothing can conjure up definitions of cool like high school. I grew up in an extremely affluent neighborhood on Long Island. At least 50% of my graduating class would have been Mr. Jeffries target and had the funds to buy as well. Back then it was not A&F. EG Smith socks, Il Bisonte purses. Umbro shorts, Champion sweatshirts, and Keds sneakers were "cool." I am on the planning committee for my 20th reunion and have spent the past several months communicating with my classmates. Finding some of these folks has been harder than you'd expect, leading to a lot of Google searches. What I have been struck by is where they have all landed and the leaders so many of them have become. There are doctors, researchers, politicians, CEO's, teachers, bankers, financial analysts reporting live from the floor of the stock exchange, stay-at-home parents, executives at Google and Ebay, small business owners, skydiving instructors in Hawaii etc. And guess what? Only a few of these people would have been "cool" by your definition.

You see, Mr. Jeffries that kind of cool is fleeting. In real life, people grow up and move on from high school and they live in the real world. They put on a few pounds from the cookies they bake with their children or the 3am pizza they eat while running one more trial to find a cure for diabetes. They wake up one morning and find wrinkles around their eyes from laughing so hard and gray in their hair from worrying about bombers at Marathons. They watch their brilliant, hilarious, generous and successful 34 year old friend die from a brain tumor. They sit at the kitchen table and help their 3rd graders with homework and are reminded of the teachers who taught them long division. They struggle to help their awkward, short, flat chested, over a size 10 or gay child who is being tormented at school to find peace instead of considering suicide. They marvel at their quiet child always tinkering with code instead of their tube top and wonder if she might be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey. They watch their son play with dolls and smile at the knowledge of the father he will be one day.

So, Mr. Jeffries, may you never get sick or old or ugly or heavy and need the assistance of nurse, doctor or scientist who was too busy studying to worry about being a size two. May you never wish the brilliant politicians in far from stylish suits are fighting for the right for you to marry your partner in the state of Ohio. May the corporate jet you fly in or the yacht you sail in never be operated by a war vet who spent 6 months straight in fatigues covered in dirt dreaming of coming home and putting on a clean pair of Levi's. Because Mr. Jeffries, you know what they say about Karma...