The Dark Past of Abercrombie & Fitch: A Damaging History Haunts the Retailer

The Dark Past of Abercrombie & Fitch: A Damaging History Haunts the Retailer

Abercrombie & Fitch, once known for its sexually charged advertising and controversial CEO, is currently in the midst of a major comeback. However, the retailer is still haunted by the alleged sins of its former chief executive, Mike Jeffries. Recent lawsuits have brought to light shocking accusations against Jeffries, claiming that he ran a sprawling sex trafficking ring that exploited young men hoping to become models for the brand.

The lawsuit alleges that Jeffries sexually abused numerous men under the guise of offering them coveted modeling contracts. These allegations follow an investigation conducted by BBC, which also made similar accusations against Jeffries and Abercrombie. In response, the company expressed its “appalled and disgusted” reaction to Jeffries’ alleged behavior and initiated an independent investigation into the issues raised by BBC.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by David Bradberry, one of the victims, provides a disturbing insight into the alleged abuse. Bradberry claims that he was recruited for a modeling opportunity in 2010 and introduced to a scout working on behalf of Abercrombie. The scout then demanded that Bradberry perform oral sex on him in order to secure a meeting with Abercrombie’s CEO, Michael Jeffries. Bradberry was assaulted and paid by the scout as a result.

Bradberry was later invited to a casting event at Jeffries’ house in the Hamptons, where he expected a legitimate Abercrombie-sponsored function involving a meeting with the CEO. However, instead of a professional casting event, Bradberry alleges that he was raped by Jeffries and forced to take poppers, a drug that induced lightheadedness. The lawsuit also highlights the presence of physically fit men dressed in Abercrombie clothing, apparently serving as security guards, making Bradberry feel trapped and unable to resist Jeffries’ demands.

The lawsuit seeks class action status, with claims that similar events involving sexual abuse happened to over 100 other victims, all while Abercrombie turned a blind eye to these horrifying actions.

The recent allegations against Jeffries and Abercrombie are not isolated incidents. Throughout its history, the retailer has faced various controversies, including accusations of discrimination and exclusivity.

In 2004, Abercrombie paid a hefty $40 million to settle a class action lawsuit that accused the company of racial discrimination against its Black, Hispanic, and Asian employees. Additionally, in 2012, the company settled a case brought by a former pilot who claimed age discrimination.

During Jeffries’ tenure, Abercrombie’s success was overshadowed by numerous claims that its clothes were only meant for attractive people, leading to accusations of body shaming. The brand’s provocative advertisements, featuring shirtless male models positioned outside their stores, further fueled its controversial image.

As a result, Abercrombie developed a reputation for racism and exclusivity, losing relevancy among American consumers. Jeffries eventually left the company in 2014, and under the leadership of CEO Fran Horowitz since 2017, Abercrombie has attempted to rebrand itself as an inclusive retailer.

Despite its dark past, Abercrombie has shown signs of revival in recent years. The company has surprised Wall Street with earnings and profits that exceeded expectations, and it has even opened new stores while other retailers face closures in a challenging economic environment. Abercrombie’s shares have more than doubled this year, indicating a positive response from investors.

However, the emergence of the recent lawsuit brings back disturbing memories of Abercrombie’s past, reminding consumers and investors of the deeply rooted issues within the company’s history. While it is crucial to acknowledge the progress made under new leadership, Abercrombie must confront the allegations against its former CEO and take responsibility for any previous failures to prevent such systemic abuse.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s journey to redemption is marred by the alleged sexual abuse scandal involving its former CEO, Mike Jeffries. The recent lawsuit highlights the dark chapters in the retailer’s history and calls for a thorough investigation into the claims made by multiple victims. As Abercrombie continues its path towards recovery, it must confront its past and work towards creating a safe and inclusive environment for all employees and customers.

Business

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