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Consumer Corner: Abercrombie & Fitch's ex-CEO - guilty of more than fashion crimes  

Retail Concept
By Abbey Crawford
03 October 2023
Consumer Industries
Fashion & Retail

Fashion retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch has traditionally held a reputation for its preppy, quintessentially American persona. However, recent revelations have brought to light a troubling underbelly characterised by exploitation and abuse linked to the former CEO, Mike Jeffries, and his associate, Matthew Smith.  

This startling revelation, unveiled by a thorough BBC investigation, goes beyond the narrative of a fashion industry titan and serves as a stark reminder of the critical significance of corporate accountability and ethical behaviour.  

The extensive two-year investigation unveiled a distressing pattern of behaviour spanning more than two decades. It alleged that Mike Jefferies, who once led Abercrombie & Fitch, engaged in the exploitation of young men for sexual activities and favours during gatherings hosted at his residences and upscale hotels, all in exchange for potential modelling opportunities. 

Upon exposing the deeply concerning network responsible for recruiting these young men, it took the courage of eight individuals to step forward and share their unsettling encounters. 

This incident powerfully underscores the enduring significance of the #MeToo movement and its ongoing impact on individuals, businesses, and brands, particularly in the context of how Generation Z perceives its importance

Generation Z, now entering the workforce, represents the first cohort to begin their careers in the post-#MeToo era. They possess a remarkably low tolerance for inappropriate workplace conduct or brand behaviours, displaying a reluctance to tolerate toxic workplace cultures or brands that condone such behaviour. 

In fact, Gen Z is the first generation willing to sever ties with their favourite brands if they sense discomfort or insecurity, prioritizing well-being over long-standing business relationships, brand loyalty, and individual reputations. 

Additionally, Gen Z is more inclined to share their experiences and stories online, using social media to hold companies accountable for harassment at any level. While they are more aware of these issues and comfortable with speaking out, Gen Z remains steadfast in their commitment to advancing the #MeToo movement and actively seeks opportunities, as seen in the Abercrombie & Fitch case, to withdraw support from entities they feel aren't taking these concerns seriously. Above all, they view this as a moment to catalyse the #MeToo movement's expansion and impact, including its engagement with men.  

This generation recognises that the movement's principles are not confined to gender and are equally applicable to all individuals. Their dedication to this cause goes beyond their personal experiences and includes actively advocating for systemic change, even if it requires disassociating from some of their beloved brands and influencers.