Monday lunchtime I was listening to a fascinating programme on Abercrombie and Fitch and its sister company Hollister. It was brand consciousness raised to a new level and how brain-dead teenagers are conned into parting with their money for a fabricated image, how easily they are manipulated. [see You and Yours, BBC Radio 4, 9 November 2009]
Appropriately enough, the programme started off with a couple of teenagers outside one of the stores. Asked why they were there, why they wished to enter the store and be parted from their money, the answer was: Duh, don’t know? Which could not have summed it up better. The interviewer was then asked to move on.
The interviewer then walked into a store, but was very quickly asked to leave by a store manager.
Abercrombie and Fitch is a very old, 19th century outdoors store established by its founders. Or was, it went bust in the 1970s. The name exists, and its myth is part of the sales pitch.
Hollister on the other hand is a mere decade old, a fabricated urban myth of the great outdoors, founded in 1912, a man called Hollister doing all sorts of daring do.
Those who work inside the store are the body beautiful. They are given a manual on how they must look, down to the hairstyle, length of fingernails, colour of nail polish. The body beautiful are the top of the hierarchy, those who work the night shift and not seen by the customers at the bottom.
Recruiters scour the streets looking for more body beautiful to populate the stores. The body beautiful are given free tickets to nightclubs to help spread the message.
A disabled shop worker who did not fit the body beautiful image was bullied and left. She received £9,000 compensation at an employment tribunal.
Many have described the the organisation as a cult, everyone has to think the group corporate mindset. A designer for the company described the CEO as a control freak.
One got the impression of a nightmare version of The Devil Wears Prada!
And where are the clothes made?
Listening to the programme it was a case of life imitating art, the manipulation of the young, the fashionistas described by Paulo Coelho in his novel The Winner Stands Alone.
No Logo by Naomi Klein
Darshan by Irene Black
The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho