Over-Sexed, Over-Paid, Over-Here
My darling Lulu,
Young men, fit and naked from the waist up, have landed for the first time on European shores - more specifically in central London, more specifically in Savile Row - famed for bespoke tailoring and assiduous service since the days of dandies in the 19th century. The obvious irony lost on the Americans.
Block-filling billboards, big adverts on buses announced the invasion with an absurdly attractive specimen revealing quite a bit of his picture perfect bum. Abercrombie & Fitch have arrived with the subtlety of a flying brick.
All the members of my family who shopped there in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s would have expired on the spot, if they weren't dead already. As are, thankfully, Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, JFK and of course Hemingway ' who purchased the gun there that he used to shoot himself, instead of the hundreds of animals gunned down by President Teddy Roosevelt, to name but a few who sought British-inspired quality.
Abercrombie & Fitch began in America in 1892 outfitting the rich in high-quality camping, fishing, hunting gear. Today it fills its shops with homo-erotic images, jeans, cargo pants, baseball caps and those surely sought after leather flip flops, T-shirts stacked to the ceiling ' with brand-delusional slogans such as: 'Who need brains when you have these?' Their product design team? Wincing' cringing here.
And their target audience is? Gay men? Gay models? Girls who love gay men? Girls who love gay models? Sad lonely men? Sad lonely women? Envious ad agencies? This sort of advertising may be titillating, if you will, in America, but in Britain it won't raise an eyebrow, blood pressure or any other physical aspect of the anatomy. Dear me. All a bit desperate and daft.
Could it be that these 500 recruited stunningly fit and handsome 'models', who are referred to not as sales assistants, but greeters and 'brand representatives', aren't wearing A&F T-shirts because of a lawsuit in 2002? The micro-managed company was boycotted by Asian-American students and coerced into apologizing after these 'brand representatives' wore T-shirts caricaturing ethnic minorities. One example depicted smiling figures in conical hats with 'Wong Brothers Laundry Service ' Two Wongs Can Make It White.' Quite.
Yet for all we know these 'brand representatives' may still be wearing the now removed from the shelves tiny pre-teen thongs that featured phrases such as 'Eye Candy'. 'Wink wink' is still selling nonetheless. Lovely.
And lovelier still was their once legendary magazine that had to meet its demise after complaints of pedalling soft porn to children through their now infamous T-shirts.
Brains behind the brand CEO Mike Jeffries asserts: 'Targeting people anywhere between 92 and death had to change. We decided [to] go for the younger customer, using the heritage of the outdoors, quality and privilege.'
Despite out of court settlements for discrimination against minority employees, lost lawsuits, constant customer complaints, profits have increased by 20%, to '100m. Massive global expansion to follow the 944 stores already in existence: Spain, Italy, France, Tokyo. Ah. Sales through sex. Now I get it.
Those 8% of Americans who have passports and the 5% who actually use them can now stay home to shop.
Starbucks, the Gap, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, Victoria's Secret, Donna Karan have all landed and taken over by stealth. Why pay exorbitantly priced London taxis, restaurants, tiny hotel rooms when they can merely make a short journey to their local mall? June 6 we have the dreaded and decidedly sick-makingly- slick, preciously organic behemoth Whole Foods opening in a 80,000 sq ft space that once housed a lovely department store. I can't wait ' to boycott it. It's all a bit strange in that the American aesthetic is antithetical to the British. London is becoming Little America faster than I can type.
'We're shaking up the neighbourhood. It's going to be an extension of the irreverence of the brand in London. It's going to be fun.' Spewed spokesperson for A&F, Tom Lennox. Bespoke Savile Row tailor, Thomas Mahon said he didn't want to be 'driven out by crappy retail stores selling poor quality clothes.' So there you go, Tom.
I'm afraid to go to sleep for fear that when I wake up, the take-over will be complete. My advice? Yankees. Go home.
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, from where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.
You can also read more of Maggie's letters to Lulu at Letters from London on this site.