The brand pushed the boundaries in all the wrong ways by choosing to hire a team of attractive in-store greeters who were known as ‘models’ to stand shirtless at the door and welcome customers.
This hiring policy was slammed by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) for being discriminatory by placing a premium on good looks.
This negative pushback has led to a revision in staffing policies. A spokesperson from Abercrombie & Fitch, Carlene Benz, told The Straits Times
, “Store associates will not be hired based on body type or physical attractiveness”. She also mentioned that their title would also be changed from ‘model’ to ‘brand representative’.
Roslyn Ten, TAFEP’s general manager, applauded the company for adapting their policies to fit in with the appropriate guidelines and “for adopting a more inclusive hiring and advertising practice, beyond just physical appearance”.
“Employers should recruit and select employees based on merit. Factors that do not affect the individual's ability to perform the job should not be considered as part of selection criteria,” she said.
This isn’t the company’s first brush with controversy in Singapore. At the opening of their Orchard Street branch in 2011, they erected a large billboard displaying a topless man with chiselled abs in a pair of low-slung jeans. The ad was found to breach the Singapore Advertising Code of Decency and was suspended by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS).
Talking about the ad, Dr Ang Peng Hwa, legal advisor for ASAS said, “ASAS wants advertising to be edgy, but does not approve of advertising that is distasteful.”
Abercrombie & Fitch’s advertising and hiring policies were created as part of an over-arching brand initiative that, coincidentally or otherwise, fit with the ideology of Mike Jeffries who was then CEO.
“That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people,” he said in an interview with Salon
Jeffries stepped down as CEO in December 2014 and the company has yet to find a replacement.
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The American casual-wear brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, has undergone a drastic revamp of their Singapore staffing policies after a long string of negative feedback.