Abercrombie & Fitch is in trouble again. On the heels of several controversies as of late, a French rights watchdog said it is set to launch an investigation of the retailer's recruitment methods, namely, whether A&F is involved in discriminatory hiring practices (aka whether A&F is employing its sales staff based on their looks). The investigation stems from the Ohio-based retailer's flagship store on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, which is far more well-attended than those in the U.S, and more often than not, there is a line in order to enter the store.
Dominique Baudis, the head of the Defender of Rights watchdog, an independent organization that aims to protect the rights and freedoms of French citizens, recently said that Abercrombie seems "to base its recruitment methods on discriminatory criteria and particularly on physical appearance." In fact, on the recruitment section of Abercrombie's website, the retailer refers to its sales staff as "models." (Classifying them as "models," however, may be the retailer's out of a charge of discrimination, as most U.S. companies are permitted to take an individual's looks into account when he or she is being hired in the capacity of being a model).
The watchdog says that models recruited by the brand, whose target market is mainly teenagers, appear "to be models and vendors at the same time. While essential and decisive professional requirements can justify taking physical appearance into account when recruiting models, it is different for vendor positions," Baudis said. He pointed to comments made in 2006 by Mike Jeffries, A&F's CEO, in which he justified hiring only "good-looking people because we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that," he said in an interview.
So, another day, another A&F scandal. As for whether the brand's repeated publicity stunts are making the once very sought-after brand relevant again, I'm not so sure that's the case.