The new Netflix documentary White Hot follows the rise of Abercrombie & Fitch. The store was once a staple of Oughts malls and was infamous for its casting of models. Pop stars including Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston were often featured on the ad campaigns. The company was even known for promoting models by partnering with LFO, who released the hit song Summer Girls in 1999.
In the Netflix documentary, Anthony Ocampo exposes the racial bias that went on at Abercrombie & Fitch. The company was well-known for hiring people based upon their hotness. A recent survey found that one out of five of those employed at Abercrombie & Fitch was black. It hasn’t been clear whether this discrimination was deliberate or a response to social change.
The origins of Abercrombie & Fitch can be traced back as far as 1892, when David T. Abercrombie sold excursions goods to upper-crust athletes. It has been through many changes of ownership throughout its history. Les Wexner bought the company in the mid-1980s and hired ultra-private CEO Mike Jeffries to reposition it as a more inclusive brand.
Aside from the sex discrimination of minorities and the racial sex, Abercrombie’s corporate culture has also been challenged. After being exposed, the company’s hiring practices were questioned and several employees resigned. However, this has not stopped the company from putting out offensive t-shirts and ad campaigns.
While many women will probably not admit to the allegations against the company, the movie offers a glimpse into the company’s past and present. Although Abercrombie was once a notorious figure for racial discrimination it is also true that the company is largely a privilege elite. The company’s culture of exclusion is still very much alive.
In 2009, a young Muslim girl sued Abercrombie and Fitch, claiming she was discriminated against because of her religion. The company refused to hire her, comparing her head scarf to a baseball hat. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that Abercrombie had violated the Civil Rights Act. But this did not stop the lawsuit from proceeding.