Greg Karber -- a self-described "writer, performer, video-maker, cultural critic and entrepreneur" based in L.A. -- doesn't mince words. His YouTube video titled "Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless," starts with the words "Abercrombie & Fitch is a terrible company," and things only get more harsh from there. Scroll down below the video for the back story.
Though Abercrombie-bashing has been in fashion for years now, Karber appears to have struck a nerve with the media stunt his video outlines: He's started a campaign to get people to donate Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to homeless people to punish the teen and collegiate clothier for its elitist attitudes.
Karber's video shows a screenshot of a headline, "Abercrombie Says It Would Rather Burn Clothes Than Give Them To Poor People," from a site called Elite Daily ("The Voice of Generation-Y"), which cites a two-year-old interview with an unnamed A&F district manager who said the chain declines to donate its damaged and defective clothing to the needy because, well, Abercrombie is an aspirational brand that doesn't belong on the poors.
Karber also cites quotes from A&F CEO Mike Jeffries that appeared in a 2006 Salon.com interview, including "A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
Other recent bad buzz for Abercrombie factors into Karber's campaign -- see, for example, "Abercrombie & Fitch Refuses To Make Clothes For Large Women" -- but his #FitchTheHomeless stunt ("Together, we can make Abercrombie & Fitch the world's number-one brand of homeless apparel," he intones in voiceover) is getting all the attention. And his use of Mike Jeffries' words even prompted a response from man himself. Abercrombie posted this on its Facebook page on Wednesday evening:
A note from Mike, our CEO:
I want to address some of my comments that have been circulating from a 2006 interview. While I believe this 7 year old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values. 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.
As of this writing, 3,592 people "like" that post on Facebook. Meanwhile, Karber's video continues to explode. I first watched his video on Monday, the day Karber posted it, when it had a view count in the low five figures. Last night I checked in on it again and was amazed to see it closing in on 5 million views; this morning it's closing in on 6 million views.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.