'Black staff sent home early so CEO didn't see them'

An image from the Abercrombie & Fitch website.
An image from the Abercrombie & Fitch website.

AN Abercrombie & Fitch employee has claimed that black models were sent home early so they would not be seen during an executive's visit, while detailing "countless" alleged incidents of racism, sexism and discrimination at a store.

The woman, who wrote anonymously about her experiences forXojane, claims to have cut down her shifts as a model to a couple a month because of the "toxic and superficial environment" at the US store where she works.

She said she started the job as a university student after being approached by two of Abercrombie's male models while shopping.

Although the job was initially fun and relaxed, she claimed that visits from the then CEO, Mike Jeffries, prompted managers to send staff away until they had only the "thinnest, tallest and whitest models" visible.

Mr Jeffries, who resigned aged 70 in December, infamously described why his brand only stocked small sizes for women by saying: "Good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people… a lot of people don't belong (in our clothes), and they can't belong."

"On one particularly horrifying instance, most of the black models were sent home an hour early before their shifts ended and before Jeffries was scheduled to visit," the employee wrote.

"One of the models complained to the confidential company hotline of racism on the manager's part, and the security team conducted an investigation.

"The manager denied any racial bias and the investigation led nowhere, because there wasn't enough "substantial evidence" to prove that her actions were racially motivated."

She is employed as an in-store "model", who are infamously hired to walk around wearing the brand's clothes without working the tills.

Shop assistants who do the rest of the work are dubbed "impact team members" by the company.

The student described "countless incidents" around Mr Jeffries' visits where those employees were not allowed on the shop floor and anyone deemed not to be good looking enough was sent home.

There was only one black "greeter" in the large shop at the time, who was the first in five years, and another black model was told he did not get the job because he did not look "exotic" enough, she claimed.

Topics:  fashion racism

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