White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch Director Wants Consumers to ‘Look Beyond the Marketing’

By Margeaux Sippell • May 04, 2022

The smell of strong perfume. The loud, thumping music. The walls plastered with the torsos of shirtless men. For the millennials who once considered it the epitome of cool, these are the hallmarks of teen clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch — the subject of a new Netflix documentary by Alison Klayman.

Klayman wants viewers of White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch to remember that although the early 2000s feel like ancient history, what happened with Abercrombie & Fitch was “not so long ago.”

The documentary, which is now streaming on Netflix, tells the story of how the once-popular mall destination that was, at one time, synonymous with the in-crowd of America’s high schools and colleges, managed to fall so far from the 90s to the mid-2000s amid allegations of discrimination based on appearance and race. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who was refused a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because her head covering didn’t match the company’s dress code.

Alison Klayman hopes that events like that supreme court case stick in the minds of consumers longer than the documentary’s hour and 28 minutes.

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“I wanted so many things to take away. The main thing is just this awareness that this is not that far in the past,” Klayman told MovieMaker. “This is very recent history, much more recent and really much more shameful than you might have thought before… I think [it’s] just a reminder that that, alone, should tell you that we shouldn’t be comfortable being like, ‘Well, all that was fixed, right?’ Like, how could it be? How could it be? It was so not long ago.”

She says the best thing for young consumers to do is to “look beyond the marketing” when it comes to brands.

“We should understand the history of this country and institutions for better or worse. It’s a capitalist society and brands have a big role, just like institutions do, just like government does,” she said. “It’s useful for consumers — young consumers, new consumers, all of us — to look beyond just the marketing. Of course, it’s important that the marketing isn’t as discriminatory and exclusionary as it was in the past. But also, marketing is on the surface, and then there’s marketing and corporate spin, and there’s what’s really going on at companies. So I feel like it’s not just about the history, but the bigger picture — looking at what companies are doing, not just how they’re presenting themselves.”

Alison Klayman says what made the Abercrombie story work as a documentary was the fact that it’s wrapped up in the identities of so many millennials.

“Everyone like has a story of, ‘I loved it. I hated it. This is how it made me feel about my body. This is who was cool. This is where I shopped, this is how much money my family had,” she said. “Immediately, you’re talking about identity-related, formative memories, and I think that’s always a really good indication not just that there’s an audience for a film, but that there’s something really personal that cuts to the core with the story.”

Main Image: Art from Netflix’s White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

The post White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch Director Wants Consumers to ‘Look Beyond the Marketing’ appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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